If you are anywhere in or around Amsterdam next week, carve out some time to visit the Klik! Amsterdam Animation Festival. Every year, they program the festival around a central theme, and this year they’ve chosen to focus on the Cartoon Modern aesthetic with their “Fabulous Fifties” theme.
The six-day festival will next Tuesday, November 12, at the EYE Film Institute, which opened a beautiful new film and museum space last year:
For the past year, I’ve been working with Klik!, and especially their head programmer Tünde Vollenbroek, on the “Fabulous Fifties” theme, and we’ve managed to put together an extensive and wide-ranging survey of mid-century animation design. Here are the programs we’ve come up with:
Cartoon Modern: The Nuclear Family — KLIK! takes you back to that perfect moment in time, the fifties, when the air was clean, the grass was green, and a root beer float was still the swellest treat. The Nuclear Family provides an animated overview of a decade when everything was better, when everything seemed possible: thrilling technological developments went hand in hand with the feeling society was perfectible, the family was the cornerstone of society and your future was bright. As long as you didn’t stand out, that is.
Cartoon Modern: East Meets West — America wasn’t the only continent captured by the Cartoon Modern movement; in Europe, especially on the other side of the Iron Curtain, exciting changes in style and theme were also taking place. Throughout the 1950s and 60s these two very different parts of the world were connected through a worldwide animation movement. In East Meets West, the American Amid Amidi and the Croatian Vanja Hraste offer insights into the similarities as well as the differences in their respective regions’ Cartoon Modern movement.
Dutch Cartoon Modern — In the 1950s the Cartoon Modern movement also hit the Netherlands, where artists at the Toonder and Geesink Studios had a great admiration for the works of the American UPA Studios. Toonder expert Jan-Willem de Vries will be present to put this drastic, though temporary, change in Dutch animation style in context. Furthermore, Englishman Alan Standen will join us, exactly 60 years after he set foot on Dutch grounds to paint backgrounds at the Toonder Studios. Standen was strongly influenced by Cartoon Modern, already during his time at the English Halas & Batchelor studios. He’ll bring back memories about that groundbreaking time back in the 1950s and 60s.
Contemporary Cartoon Modern — Cartoon Modern may have reached its zenith in the 1950s, but its style is still very much alive. Contemporary creators are very much inspired by the work made then and continue to explore the possibilities of this versatile movement. Check out these present-day animations inspired by those glorious films from half a century ago.
Gay Purr-ee — When you think of Cartoon Modern, Gay Purr-ee may not be the first film that pops into your head. Yet this gorgeous film, the second and last feature-length animation by the legendary UPA Studios, is a vital part of the movement‘s history. Made in the early 1960s, its style is best described as Cartoon Modern meets Van Gogh. Gay Purr-ee features the vocal talent of Judy Garland in her first and only animated role, as well as the debut of one Robert Goulet.
- Cartoon Modern: The Essentials — Amid Amidi takes you on a journey through time and space, showcasing the absolute essentials that gave 1950s animation the look and feel it is known for today. “Cartoon Modern: The Essentials” encompasses films by animation legends such as John Hubley and Tex Avery. You’ll be able to see the Academy Award Winning animation Gerald McBoing Boing on the silver screen. Essential viewing, not to miss!
The festival’s guest headliner is contemporary Cartoon Modern master Paul Rudish. He will present a lecture about his latest project—Disney’s new batch of super-entertaining Mickey Mouse shorts—for which he serves as supervising director and executive producer. In separate presentations, Rudish will discuss working on early Cartoon Network series like Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls, and do a Q&A after a screening of the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.
There will also be talks by Danish animation studio Tumblehead about the making of their stylized CG short Rob ‘n’ Ron and a talk by Ryan Honey who is the creative director of the commercial studio Buck. The festival has a full slate of short film competition programs and special screenings, including Ari Folman’s feature The Congress and Kevin Schrek’s fantastic Thief and the Cobbler documentary Persistence of Vision, followed by a screening of Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut. Check out KLIK!’s film program and their special guests.
The crew at KLIK! like to have fun, and not only do they have a “Fabulous Fifties”-themed party planned, they even made a new animated piece that riffs on the classic “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” theatrical ad. The spot was created by Dutch animation students at HKU: Nicole Derksen, Rogier Henkelman, Mark Bastiaan, Rose Zhang, Merel van den Broek, Laurens van Walbeek and Jurgen Hofman: