Two of the most awaited European animation films of the year – Alberto Vázquez’s “Unicorn Wars” and Pierre Foldes’ “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” – look set to world premiere in competition at France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the biggest animation festival in the world.
Sneak peeks at Annecy’s Work in Progress strand, its industry cornerstone, include Apple Original and Skydance title “Luck,” from Peggy Holmes, Cartoon Network’s “Unicorn: Warriors Eternal,” from legendary U.S. director Genndy Tartakovsky (“Samurai Jack”) and the latest works from directors whose prior animated features have scored Oscar nominations: Spain’s Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal and France’s Alain Gagnol.
Announced Monday evening in Paris’ CNC state film agency by Annecy director Mickaël Marin and artistic director Michel Jean, this year’s festival is deigned as fully-fledged return to the on-site encounters and in-person discovery which is the soul of Annecy, Marin emphasized, picturing the festival as “composed of encounters and sharing, to once again spark that movie theater throb.”
2022’s Annecy Festival, which runs June 13-18, also reflects “the vitality of animation and the outstanding development of worldwide production over the course of the past few years,” Jean maintained at the Paris press conference.
Hollywood looks set to be out in force, Annecy featuring first footage unveils of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” from DreamWorks Animation, and “Ernest and Celestine, a Trip to Gibberitia,” from Didier and Damien Brunner’s famed Paris-based Studio Folivari.
Walt Disney Animation Studios will present what is described as a “look ahead” to “Strange World,” its fantastical land-set action adventure from Don Hall (“Big Hero 6”) as Jennifer Lee, the Oscar-winning director-writer of “Frozen,” receives Annecy’s Honorary Cristal.
Pixar Animation Studios will host a special screening of “Lightyear” on June 17, day and date with its U.S. premiere with director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman attending the Annecy bow in person.
Netflix Animation will unveil one of its biggest animated bets for 2022, “The Sea Beast,” an uncharted seas monster adventure from Chris Williams glimpsed this February in a Netflix 2022 Movie Preview sizzle reel.
It is unclear the extent to which the first footage from “Across the Spider-Verse” will differ, if at all, from the never-before-seen first 15 minutes dropped by Sony at CinemaCon last week.
Directed by Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng, “A Trip to Gibberitia” marks a follow-up to 2012’s Oscar-nominated “Ernest & Celestine.”
As already announced, Annecy opens on June 13 with Steve Carell starrer “Minions: The Rise of Gru” from Universal-owned Illumination headed by Chris Meledandri, also an executive producer on “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and a firm fan of Annecy.
Also announced, produced by Amblin Television in association with Warner Bros. Animation, animated serial prequel “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai,” will world premiere at Annecy with executive producers Tze Chun and Brendan Hay attending, along with Joe Dante, director of the “Gremlins” films.
Annecy Main Competition
“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” Pierre Földes, (Canada, France, Luxembourg)
Also showcased at Annecy’s WIP showcase in 2021, a feature which mixes rotoscoping, 2D and 3D freely blending short stories from Haruki Murakami in the tale of an aimless bank employee, his frustrated wife and a schizophrenic accountant saving Tokyo from earthquake. Cinéma Defacto, Miyu Productions produce. The Match Factory handles international sales. “This may very well be the most eagerly-awaited animation feature of the year!” said Jane.
“Charlotte,” (Eric Warin, Tahir Rana, Belgium, Canada, France)
Grabbing attention when Keira Knightley signed up to voice the lead, a biopic of extraordinary German-Jewish artist Charlotte Solomon who produced a series of 769 paintings in the early-1940s while in hiding in southern France, before dying in Auschwitz at the age of 26. World premiered at Toronto last September. January Films (Canada), Walking the Dog (Belgium) and Les Production Balthazar (France) produce.
“Goodbye, DonGlees,” (Atsuko Ishizuka, Japan)
Produced by Japan’s Madhouse (“Okko’s Inn”) and distributed by Kadokawa Pictures, the first original feature from Ishizuka (“A Place Further Than the Universe”) , a tale of dorky adolescent male friendship which takes a globe-trotting turn. “Funny, moving, close to nature, a film which will delight anime fans,” said Jean.
“The Island,” (Anca Damian, Romania, France, Belgium)
Damian’s first film after 2019’s “Marona’s Fantastic Tale,” the Romanian animator’s psychedelic, musical take on the Robinson Crusoe’s story, which premiered at the early 2022’s Rotterdam Film Festival.
“No Dogs Nor Italians Allowed,” (Alain Ughetto, Les Films du Tambour de Soie, Foliascope, Vivement Lundi!, Nadasdy Film, Graffiti)
Presented at Annecy’s 2022 WIP strand, from Alain Ughetto, director of the singular ‘70s Iran-set claymation love story “Jasmine.” Another stop-motion tale, this time about his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy’s Piedmont to the U.S. but only got as far as France. “A too-rare auteur,” said Jean, noting that Jasmine was the “revelation” of Annecy’s 2013 fest.
“Little Nicholas – Happy as Can Be,” (Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre, France, Luxembourg)
Slated for a Cannes Festival special screening, from French animation powerhouses On Entertainment, which produced, and Charades, which sells. An adaptation of the children’s book series from Massoubre, an editor on “I Lost My Body,” and Fredon, an animator on “A Cat in Paris,” using a Chinese ink-wash animation style, to imitate legendary illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé’s style.
“Misaki no Mayoiga,” (Shinya Kawatsura, Japan)
A big screen makeover of Sachiko Kashiwaba’s novel of the same title, with a little girl moving to an abandoned house on a cape to begin a new life. But nothing is quite what it seems. Part of the Zutto Ōen Project 2011 + 10, in remembrance of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami 10 years ago. “A meticulous adaptation with scenes “definitely full of surprises with segments on the cusp of experimental,” said Jean.
“My Love Affair With Marriage,” (Signe Baumane, U.S., Latvia, Luxembourg)
Set for Tribeca, which this year runs parallel to Annecy, Baumane’s follow-up to 2014 “Rocks in My Pockets,” picked up for international by New Europa Film Sales, the story of Zelma who gradually rebels against her childhood conception that love will solve all her problems. “Equally intimate and drole,” from “one of the great forces of contemporary feminist animation,” said Jean.
“Nayola,” (José Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, France)
The long-awaited solo feature debut of distinguished Portuguese animated short director-producer Ribeiro (“Sunday Drive,” “A Journey to Cape Verde”), portraying the fate of three women from the same family in the aftermath of civil war. Portugal’s Praça Filmes lead produces.
“Unicorn Wars,” (Alberto Vázquez, Spain, France)
Another long awaited European world premiere, from Vázquez, director of “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children,” a Gkids pickup for North America. An involved apocalyptic anti-war parable narrating the fight to the death between religious zealot teddy bears and environmentalist unicorns. “So striking in its visual opulence, its generous staging and its originality,” said Jean.
Annecy Work in Progress
“My Father’s Dragon,” (Nora Twoomey, Ireland, U.S. )
One of Netflix’s high-quality animated plays, a 2D animated family feature film adapting an 1948 American children’s novel. Produced by Cartoon Saloon, a five-time Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Emmy nominated animation studio and Mockingbird Pictures (“Terminator; Dark Fate”) with a script from “Inside Out’s” Meg LeFauve and a powerful voice cast.
“Luck,” (Peggy Holmes, U.S.)
Early fruit from the Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation production alliance, the story of Sam Greenfield, ostensibly the unluckiest person alive. Scheduled for an Aug. 5 bow on Apple TV Plus.
“The Most Precious of Cargoes,” (Michel Hazanavicius, France)
The animated feature debut of the Oscar winning director of “The Artist,” adapting Jean-Claude Grumberg’s story of a poor woodcutter and his wife who find an abandoned Jewish baby during WWII. Produced by Ex Nihilo, Florence Gastaud, La Classe Américaine and Les Films du Fleuve.
“Unicorn: Warriors Eternal,” (Genndy Tartakovsky, U.S.)
From the director of not only “Samurai Jack” but “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” “Sym-Bionic Titan,” and three Hotel Transylvania movies. In it, ancient superheroes re-awake in the bodies of adolescents, their powers debilitated.
Produced by Cartoon Network Studios, and set to air sometime this year on Cartoon Network and HBO Max.
“The Grand Getaway,” (Finbar Hawkins, Bram Ttwheam, U.K., )
Following on mobile AR experience “The Big Fix Up,” a new Wallace and Gromit VR work, with the two attempting calamitously to go on vacation. Funded by Meta, Aardman and immersive storytelling experts Atlas V (“Spheres,” “Gloomy Eyes”) produce for viewing on Meta Quest 2 VR headsets.
“Aurora’s Sunrise,” Inna Sahakyan, Germany, Armenia, Lituania)
An animated doc feature in which Aurora Mardiganian, star of 1919 silent film “Auction of Souls,” is brought to live by by Sahakyan to recount the 1915-1918 Armenian Genocide, which she experienced first hand as a 15-year-old girl. Gebrüder Beetz Filmproduktion, Bars Media, Artbox Laisvalaikio Klubas, Vs! produce.
“Home Is Somewhere Else,” (Carlos Hagerman, Jorge Villalobos, Mexico, U.S.)
A second Contrachamps animated doc feature, a 2D “animentary” featuring three personal stories of young Mexican immigrants to the U.S. voiced by themselves, woven together by the Spanglish of spoken word poet Lalo “El Deportee.
“Khamsa – The Well of Oblivion,” (Khaled Chiheb, Algeria)
First seen back in 2015 in an exquisite 2D trailer for a short film, about a child hero discovering a desert fantasy land, and now a feature. “Leisurely, contemplative, almost esoteric and eminently personal,” says Jean.
“The Other Shape,” (Diego Guzmán, Colombia)
The latest from Colombia’s burgeoning animation scene, “a dialogue-free futuristic film, and intriguing trip through a hallucinatory world,” Jean said.
“My Grandfather’s Demons,” (Nuno Beato, Spain, France, Portugal)
A La Liga Feature Project Awardee, the anticipated animated first feature from Beato, director of the series “Emma & Gui” and short “Mi Vida en Tus Manos,” about Rosa who retreats from big city life to her home village, to discover a sense of community, place in the world, and grandad’s demons: Fantastic clay creatures. Shot in drab 2D (the big city) and colourful stop-motion (the countryside).
“Dozens of Norths,” (Koji Yamamura, Japan)
A mix of texts and hand drawn illustrations made by Yamamura, director of the Oscar-nominated “Mt. Head” (2002), in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and reflecting his hallmark bleak but humoured worldview.
“Quantum Cowboys,” (Geoff Marslett, U.S.)
A welcome Annecy showcase for Geoff Marslett, seen at Sundance in 2019 with animated short “The Phantom 52,” now in France with “Quantum Cowboys,” described by Jean as an “eye-opener,” “a very strange Western in which the director uses rotoscoping and adds elements of time travel.”
“Silver Bird and Rainbow Fish,” (Lei Lei, U.S., Netherlands)
Combining audio narration with animation and archive footage, Chinese artist Lei Lei explores identity through his family past. Word premiered at 2022’s Rotterdam Festival.
“Chun Tae-il: A Flame That Lives On,” (Jun-pyo Hong, South Korea)
A biopic of Jeon Tae-il, an emblematic figure in the Seoul tailors’ labor movement. “Of classic composition, a moving social drama,” said Jean.
“Yaya e Lennie – The Walking Liberty,” (Alessandro Rak, Italy)
The third feature from Naple’s Rak and Mad Entertainment (The Art of Happiness,” “Cinderella and the Cat”), an ecological sci-fi fable,” said Jean. “At times ‘Yaya e Lennie’ seems as if it is transposing ‘Of Mice and Men’ into a post-apocalyptic scene,” he added.