Annecy, the yearly event where thousands of animation lovers converge on a storybook alpine village in southeastern France, begins tomorrow. It’s a magical experience where for one week out of the year, you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by thousands of people from every corner of the planet who are equally appreciative of the art of animated filmmaking. It’s an exhilarating experience, which is why so many attendees return to the event over and over.

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Annecy this year, here are five items you might consider bringing along to enhance the festival experience:

1. Paper Airplane Book

Why do you need a book of paper airplanes for an animation festival? Well, one of the festival’s quirkier traditions happens before each screening starts in the main Bonlieu theater. Attendees create paper airplanes from whatever paper scraps they have with them (usually advertisements from the lobby) and launch the planes in the theater with the goal of reaching the stage. Lengthy flights usually receive a round of applause, but most of the planes end up crashing into other audience members.

2. Umbrella

Annecy can be scorching-hot in June, and sunscreen is always a good idea if you’re on the lake, but this year’s forecast is downright dreary:


Looking at that forecast convinced me not to pack my sad broken umbrella, and to pick up a new umbrella for the trip. Here’s the one I got:

3. Protein bars

The Annecy dream is to while away the days in cafes and bistros, sketching and chatting with friends. The reality is that you’re often rushing from screening to meeting to workshop, and it’s suddenly 5 p.m. in the afternoon, and you still haven’t eaten lunch. Last year I started carrying around protein bars, which proved useful when I didn’t have time to grab breakfast or lunch. This year I’ve got quite a few Ohyeah One bars stuffed into my suitcase.

4. Business cards

I’m conflicted about recommending this one since I personally got rid of mine, but despite my reservations about business cards, it’s even more annoying when I meet great young artists who don’t have their contact info prepared and end up having to jot down their website or email on a scrap of paper, which will inevitably get lost. Remember, Annecy is as much a networking event as it is a film festival; nowhere else in the world can you meet 8,000+ other people who are involved in the animation community. If you want someone to remember you from among the hundreds of people they’ll meet during the festival, a business card is a solid investment.

If you really want to impress, pull your card out of a fancy business card holder. I attribute this trick to legendary film title designer Pablo Ferro, who once pulled out a beautiful case to present me with his ironically primitive business card, which was a photocopy of his scribbled name and number. Most people can’t get away with that, but Pablo Ferro’s earned that privilege.

5. Comfortable Shoes

Even though it’s an animation festival, there’s lots of walking and activity involved at Annecy—on cobblestone streets in the old town, up the hill to the castle, and sports in the grassy areas alongside the lake. Dressy shoes are fine for some festivals, but you’ll have a better time at Annecy if you’re comfortable all week long.