Annecy Film Festival Review by Bill Plympton


Bill Plympton with Chris Landreth

BILL PLYMPTON is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of seven animated features and more than thirty animated shorts. His new feature Cheatin’ will premiere this fall. Learn more about his work at Plymptoons.com.


I went to Annecy with mixed emotions this year—after all, it was a year of major changes.

The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theater complex will be finished next year and some say in two years—who knows, with French construction workers.

The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after fifteen wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.

My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short Blue Umbrella. The latter six-minute short by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year’s Oscar winner, Paperman.

Monsters University was a bit disappointing—for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon-bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters.

The next morning I had a panel about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Like a similar panel I hosted at Stuttgart, it was a packed house. After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic, and perhaps hassle-free, way for raising money to make films.


Bill Plympton with his son Lucas Plympton

Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts creening #2, and my film Drunker Than a Skunk was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough—meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came Remi Vandenitte’s Betty’s Blues, a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style. Then Drunker came on and we received a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.

But, later in the program, came Chris Landreth’s unmemorably named Subconscious Password, a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Then and there, I knew our awards chances flew out the window. Oh well, once I knew I didn’t have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.

My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, Cheatin’. There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.

I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch, which took about an hour.

For the past seven years, I’ve been presenting the “Annecy Plus” show, first with Pat Smith, and now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It’s been a smashing success. This year, we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!

Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to “borrow” two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem: the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, a drunk Indian animator volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony—a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.

Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had received permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus, we had to turn the sound off at 10p.m., and the problem with that was that it didn’t get dark until 9:30. As a result, the audience only heard one out of the four programs—the last three were silent. Quel dommage.


Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski

However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was Super by Johan Klungel. As for the main Annecy awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth. He gave a fantastic speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I visited with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod (the president of the festival), Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year’s winner with Tram.

The best news was that everyone was talking about Cheatin’, so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!


Dominique Puthod (Annecy Festival President), his wife Catherine, Bill and
Sandrine Plympton


  • Toonio

    Plympton has “owned” Annecy for so long that they should hand him the keys to it.

    BTW is he still signing his book for you when you buy it?

  • James Madison

    Great review. Wish I could have seen the films..and ‘Jackie Chan” balcony leap.

  • Ant G

    That was a fun read, the anecdotal events were more intriguing than what screened at the festival itself so Im glad he wrote that. Question, do you really have to be at the festival that you submit your film to? Submitting it to multiple festivals and having to buy airplane/hostels sound pretty expensive on top of the submission fee.

    • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com ElliotCowan

      No, you are not required to attend the festivals at which your films are screened.

  • Jen Hurler

    Loved reading this recap. Hope to see more of Bill’s writing on the site in the future. :)

  • kenmora

    Bill that was so well detailed that I almost feel I was there. The heroic Indian’s stunt reminded me of your Will Keenan story. If I make it next year I’ll have to remember to bring several cameras to capture the flying antics in the wake of Cheatin’.

  • Steve Henderson

    The Jackie Chan balcony leap was a bit death defying I think we caught it on film. Annecy + is always a good laugh Bill and Nancy put on a great show with or without the music and no matter how poor the films in competition panned out (although there were some great films in competition too) you’ll always see something good at Annecy +. Even if it is just a drunk man nearly killing himself duct taping a bed sheet to a balcony

  • MangoGN

    I went to Annecy simply as a huge fan of animation, but I still had so much fun there and it all encouraged me to pursue my dream. Hopefully I’ll return as a professional!

  • Johnny Boulgour

    “who knows, with French construction workers”

    I don’t get it…