Annecy Report #1

annecy 04I’d originally planned to write daily reports from Annecy, but there’s so much to see and do here that I’m not exactly finding a whole lot of free time to post daily. What I’ll try to do is post odds and ends about the films I see and people I meet while I’m over in France.

Annecy: I’ve really enjoyed walking around the “old town” area of Annecy, a wonderful maze of narrow streets and perfectly “aged” buildings, perhaps a bit Disney-fied (it seems they construct the facades of the new buildings to look weathered), but nevertheless quite pretty. I’d post photos, but I opted at the last moment to leave my digital camera back home. Photos from my throwaway camera will be posted upon my return to LA. I also inadvertently got lost in the residential areas of the city (Annecy and its surrounding areas have a population of over 100,000 so it’s not exactly a tiny town), and it ended up being a nice way of seeing parts of Annecy that I otherwise may not have had an opportunity to see. I’m planning on getting lost again sometime later in the week to see more of the city.

On Sunday evening, my first night in town, I had a pleasant dinner with Ed Hooks, author of ACTING FOR ANIMATORS. Ed, an actor himself, told me about his next book which he’s just finishing up and it sounds wonderful. For this second volume on animation acting, he’s selected around a dozen animated features, both classic Disney and modern features (including CG and anime), and he’s writing an in-depth analysis of the acting in each of these films. Should be a valuable book for animators.

TOKYO GODFATHER: Like Satoshi Kon’s earlier film MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, this opening night film of the festival also whisked me away into a deep slumber. But that’s not the surprise. Following the film, I ran into animation legend Ray Harryhausen at the opening night party, and we chatted for a bit. He asked me what I had thought of TOKYO GODFATHERS and I admitted that I fell asleep during the film. Ray then gave his review of the film, and in the process showed me why he’s a legend: because he has great taste. Ray said there was absolutely no reason to produce GODFATHERS in animation because it didn’t take advantage of the medium. He also pondered why the filmmakers had designed all the characters to be so unappealing and ugly. I didn’t think there was any way I could have more respect for Ray Harryhausen than I already did, but he showed me a way.

Films: Watching animated shorts is of course one of the main reasons for attending any animation festival and I’ve already seen a handful of good ones. Two highlights have been the impressive CG film RYAN by Chris Landreth (about the life of NFB animator Ryan Larkin) and Mike Gabriel’s LORENZO, which artfully shows the undiscovered potential of blending hand-drawn and digital animation. (For more on these films, check out Mark Mayerson’s comments on RYAN, and Jerry Beck’s thoughts on LORENZO). Roy Disney was in the house for one of the screenings of LORENZO and he received thunderous and lengthy applause. I’ve also enjoyed CALPYSO LIKE SO by Bruno Collet (France) which is a stop motion piece about Robert Mitchum’s quest for an Oscar. Fellow Annecy attendee Will Ryan pointed out that the storytelling in the film was a bit confused, and I agree, but any fan of Mitchum films like NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE LONGEST DAY and CAPE FEAR will get a kick out of the film. I’ve laughed hardest at PLASTICAT by Simon Bogojevic-Narath (Croatia). The film’s CG characters are fairly crude, but they are well animated and the concept is great. It takes the cliche of good and evil fairies, which appear above character’s shoulders in countless cartoons and live-action films, and skewers the idea to its ultimate extreme. FRANK AND WENDY HUNGERBURGER from David Snowman (Estonia) was also quite bizarre and funny – something about an evil plan to implant electronic chips into hamburgers to make people want to eat more burgers, the “axis of evil,” and a fly that saves the day. I’m still trying to figure it out.

More to come…