‘Ninja Turtles,’ ‘Spider-Verse,’ ‘Nimona,’ and Growing Anime Influence Mark Boisterous Annecy Animation Festival Lineup

Celebrating six decades as the animation industry’s premier international showcase and cementing a growing position as Hollywood’s preferred French getaway, the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival revealed its 2023 program in Paris on Thursday, unveiling a formidable selection of world premieres and industry debuts.

If only for the breadth of this year’s official selection, Annecy looks set to for its most fulsome and abundant edition.

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Among the 11 titles competing for this year’s Cristal – Annecy’s top prize –  Jérémie Périn’s sci-fi drama “Mars Express” and Jim Capobianco & Pierre-Luc Granjon stop-motion Leonardo da Vinci epic “The Inventor” will make their world premieres. Other eagerly anticipated titles include “Chicken for Linda!” from Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach, “Four Souls of Coyote” from by Áron Gauder, and “The Inseparables” by Jérémie Degruson.

Titles like Liu Jian’s “Art College 1994” and Sepideh Farsi’s “The Siren” will arrive in the idyllic French town with critical acclaim from this past Berlinale in tow. Another 12 projects will screen as part of Annecy’s Contrechamp competition.

“As for programming, it is certainly the biggest festival in history,” said Annecy Artistic Director Marcel Jean, referencing this year’s 23 titles in official competitions, one more TV competition program, and Work in Progress session and masterclass numbers.

Accreditations are tracking to date above 2022, driven in part by “industry dynamics worldwide,” including the bund of animation industries inputs of Africa, Asia and Latin America, said Annecy Director Mikael Marin.

‘The Inventor’
‘The Inventor’

2023 also marks “clearly the most important U.S. presence ever at Annecy, in terms of the number of players – taking in historical players such as Disney, DreamWorks and Pixar who will still come, as will global platforms such as Netflix, Paramount, and Warner Bros. Discovery – and also in the number of big titles,” said Jean.

He cited sneak peeks of Warner Bros. Animation’s “The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim,” a first look at Universal Pictures/Illumination’s “Migration,” and a screening of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” from Paramount Pictures Nickelodeon Animation Studio. “It’s a gorgeous, very beautiful film,” said Jean. “I insisted that we saw an almost completed film, not just a work in progress of 25 minutes, and they’ve said ‘yes.’”  “Plus we have important U.S. independents such as Bill Plympton [with “Slide”],” he added.

As previously reported, Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks will world premiere the brand new short, “The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story,” while Netflix will peek the action, Y.A.-tinged “Nimona” in full, and with cast and crew on site.

Long a stalwart of Annecy, the Walt Disney Company will fête its 100th anniversary with a surprise short for the festival’s opening ceremony, followed in the days to come with a first look at the animated music “Wish,” featuring the voices of Ariane Debose and Chris Pine, and a repeat screening of “Fantasia 2000,” which the late Roy Disney brought to the Alpine showcase some 23 years ago.

‘Mars Express’
‘Mars Express’

Two other fixtures in Annecy – as common a sight as the mountains and the lake – filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Genndy Tartakovsky will both be on-hand, the latter to preview his R-rated comedy “Fixed,” and the former to offer a rousing salute to this year’s Tribute to Mexican Animation. Award-winning “The Book of Life” director Jorge R. Gutierrez will also herald that tribute.

“In the trends we noticed recently, I would say that one of the most important things is the influence and, I say this in a very positive way, of animé in Western animation,” said Jean, citing “Sirocco, et le Royaume des courants d’air,” which opens the Festival and “Mars Express.”

Alongside competitor titles “The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes,” from Tomohisa Taguchi, and “Lonely Castle in the Mirror,” from Keiichi Hara, a similar anime inspiration is found in a lot of this year’s shorts, as well as in the TV competition, and a TV show in Work in Progress, Jean added. “It’s not a question of copying, but of having some inspiration and a cultural background that you use in your own creation,” he said. “You will begin to notice less and less differences between anime and Western animation.”

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