Typically, airports are places that sensible people want to get in and out of as quickly as possible. But not this time. I’ve been staying at the New Chitose Airport on Japan’s Hokkaido Island since Thursday and I’ll remain here for an entire week to take part in the world’s only airport animation festival.

Now in its second year, the New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival officially begins tomorrow, October 31, and runs through Tuesday, November 3. All the screenings take place inside the airport’s three-screen theater, while festival guests will make use of the airport’s hotel, dozens of restaurants (including an on-site chocolate factory), and even its onsen.

Organized by festival director — and tireless promoter of indie Japanese animation– Nobuaki Doi, New Chitose offers a full slate of seven competition screenings, with filmmaker prizes totaling over US$17,000. I’m honored to be a part of the festival’s international jury alongside Holland Animation Film Festival director Gerben Schermer, Japanese indie filmmaker and comic artist Ryo Hirano, and Korean feature film director Chang Hyung-yun (The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow).

Additionally, the festival will welcome over 50 filmmakers and guests this year including Koji Yamamura (Mt. Head) and Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet, Mary and Max). Among New Chitose’s most unique program offerings is a series of “Bakuon screenings,” an experimental way of screening films that dispenses with movie theater speakers, replacing them with live concert audio systems. The screenings are an “attempt to find out where the core of the sound exists, so that the essence of the film can be revealed with dynamics that cannot be achieved in normal audio settings.” The films that will be screened in the Bakuon (explosive sound) format are Yellow Submarine, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Steamboy, and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Personally, I curated a program for the festival called “American Anarchy, 1932-1946.” The program, which includes shorts from Iwerks, Mintz, Fleischer, MGM, Lantz, Disney, and Warner Bros., is basically everything that I love about the Golden Age of American animation in one tidy package. It’ll screen on Monday at 6:30pm.

It’s a wonderful and kooky feeling to see an animation festival take over a huge commercial airport, and if you’re anywhere in the Sapporo area this weekend, you should make plans to check it out. For a complete list of programs and ticket info, visit the festival website.


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