I returned home from the Annecy 2012 animation festival yesterday. I survived it. What a fantastic few days. A beautiful location filled with people who love animation, love films, love cartoons, love art… filled with people who love. Could you ask for anything better?
One of the things that makes Annecy special is that it attracts people at all stages in their careers – students just getting started, veterans of the industry who have been making films for over 50 years and everyone in between, all mixing together and sharing enthusiasm and information. The old-timers can offer wisdom, stories and advice in both business and creativity. The new generations can invigorate with passion, fresh eyes and a new approach untainted by cynicism or even just bad habits.
For those of us doing this animation thing for any length of time, that passion can be hard to hold on to sometimes.
I was wandering around the book shop in the Bonlieu in Annecy, a great shop filled full of art books and comics, and just leafing through the pages I found myself taken right back to why I was drawn to this medium so many years ago – the variety, the lack of restrictions, the strength, the artistry. Of course, I love much more than just the medium when making children’s entertainment. For me, it’s about giving something meaningful to children. Nevertheless, it is with animation that I choose to do that and for very good reasons. Animation really is a wonderful medium. It truly is. It creates life.
Annecy is a celebration of that.
Sometimes, whether through a festival like Annecy or other ways, it’s important to take ourselves back a bit. Important to remind ourselves why we love particular elements of what we do. It is too easy to lose sight of our passions when it all becomes a business or career.
So how was my Annecy?
Well, really interesting and varied. The Irish were out in force and it was great hanging out with everyone from the different studios, something all too rare at home. I got to spend a lot of time with a veteran I have huge respect for, Jimmy Murakami, director of When The Wind Blows. I love hearing Jimmy’s stories. He’s a unique treasure. I finally met some people in person for the first time who I know through twitter or have known and loved their work. Found myself inspired by students and really enjoyed their company – the next generation of animators. I got to meet Peter Lord (yay!). I had some meetings over at the MIFA market end which went really well. Met some really interesting people there with some new, different ideas. Looking forward to building on some business relationships from that. I ate cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. And while having lunch with the Brown Bag Films crew (who are fantastic by the way), I got to eat the biggest burger I have ever seen:
And the Irish celebration, well that was far bigger and more successful than I could have imagined. The Bonlieu was decorated with the Irish flag colours and the 40 Frames of Green programmes went down really well and had people talking about so many Irish short films. The networking wine reception was a success and, introduced by James Hickey of the Irish Film Board, Tomm Moore gave a beautiful speech about story which brought us all right back to our childhoods and inspired us all. Tomm rocks.
And then there was the Irish party. Organised by us at the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland along with Animation Ireland, we got set up before 8pm and wondered if anyone would turn up. Well we didn’t just get anyone. We got everyone. It was jammed full of animation folk from all over the world and some real heavy hitters. Top people, animators, directors, producers, broadcasters, distributors all just enjoying the company and getting to know each other. It couldn’t have gone better.
I’m hoping it will become an annual event.
So well done to everyone at the SDGI and Animation Ireland for making that happen, especially Steve Woods, Birch Hamilton and Gary Timpson who worked so hard on it. Thanks to everyone who spread the word and everyone who attended. I really hope you enjoyed it. I know I did. Even that nightclub after…
Lastly, I took part in the pedalo boat race with some students from IADT. We came third last and I got soaked when the boat was bumped right under a fountain but this is the important part – it was fun. It was fun and I almost didn’t have a go. I was reluctant but was nudged by Steve Woods (thanks Steve!) and it was great fun. Of course it would be. It left me wondering where the reluctance came from… maybe I’ve been feeling old recently.
This is the week of Annecy, the world’s largest animation festival, and it’s a special one for us this time as Annecy shines a creative spotlight on Irish animation. If you’re heading to Annecy, here are some things to look out for:
40 Frames of Green – an extensive programme of Irish animation including short films, TV shows and more, curated by Steve Woods, with the assistance of the SDGI and IFI. Among the programme, one of my favourite episodes of Fluffy Gardens will be showing along with an old short of mine, Not There Yet, that is sadly as relevant today as it was when it was made.
Animation Industry Panel – a Territory Focus panel discussion on what Irish Animation has to offer in co-productions, taking place on Wednesday 6th.
Irish Film Board Networking Event – on Thursday, there is a wine reception hosted by the Irish Film Board and Enterprise Ireland with keynote speech by director, Tomm Moore. A great place to make introductions.
SDGI and Animation Ireland’s Green Night – this is going to be a big one! A night out at Finn Kelly’s Pub on Friday 8th to celebrate with Irish directors, producers and animators and, of course, all are welcome from every corner of the world. It promises to be a fun night out for everyone where you’ll build relationships, meet people from all ends of the industry and, most of all, just have a good time. It’s the no-pressure ‘just enjoy it’ night, so come along. And if you see me there and we haven’t met yet, introduce yourself.
With Cosmo being so incredibly busy right now, I won’t be there for the full week but I’m flying in on Thursday and will be there until Sunday representing the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, Cosmo and Monster Animation so I’m looking forward to seeing you there if you’re going.
One other thing to look out for, whether in Annecy or not – the latest issue of Film Ireland magazine has an excellent focus on animation. You’ll find a great article by Anna Rodgers on the state of Irish animation right now, which includes plenty of my own views on where we are right now and what we need to focus on. There’s also a really good interview with fantastic Irish director, Tomm Moore. Tomm is a wonderful talent and this issue is well worth checking out for his insights.
I’ll leave you with just a little something from me in that animation article…
An old story from back in 2009 here. I didn’t have this site up then so here it is, a few years late…
As Chairman of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland’s Animation Alliance, I had to address the Guild at the 2009 AGM. Just an update on what our group of directors was doing and how things were in our end of the entertainment world. I mentioned at the time that, after a meeting with the Irish Film Board’s then Chief Executive, I came away concerned by what I felt was a dismissal of television for young children.
At which point, someone chimed in that it possibly had something to do with children’s television just existing to sell plastic and that the IFB shouldn’t be supporting it.
How does one react to that?
Well, if I’m anything to go by, one initially gets flustered and then explains that television for young children is the most important television of all and cannot be dismissed. Children are learning, they do watch television and the television we make for them can affect their whole world view. And more eyes are seeing our shows each week across the world than probably any other content from Ireland.
As for selling plastic?
What likely rubbed me up the wrong way most about this accusation is that, for portions of the global industry, it is true. It often has to be true because the economics of making a children’s show rarely work on their own.
All the more reasonwhy public funding bodies must get involved in supporting GOOD children’s television. Television that exists to provide children with good quality, enriching age-appropriate entertainment. Culturally-relevant, even better. Educational, better still.
The more support that’s there for local content, the less children’s shows are bought in from elsewhere. The less those shows have to rely on licensing and merchandise to justify their production costs. The less anyone needs to think about selling plastic. Children’s shows selling plastic is precisely why local funding bodies can’t dismiss one of the most important areas in programming.
Today, several years after that little AGM incident, we have a new animation team starting on COSMO. It is going to be a busy day and an exciting one. Because we’re all working together on a show that exists for one reason: to give children the absolute best. We are very fortunate that it can exist for that one reason and, as it happens, we have the Irish Film Board to thank for that, especially Emma Scott and Andrew Meehan. The IFB were so supportive of COSMO and put so much faith and funding into the show that it simply would not have happened without them and it is why we get to make a show right here in Ireland, with an Irish creator, writer, director, all the top-line creative processes being done here in Ireland, the animation team being right here and, from a business perspective, all ownership remaining right here. For all the right reasons, it matters to Ireland and yet it’s a show that can give to children all over the world. If Fluffy Gardens is anything to go by, it will travel.
Right now, our little area of children’s TV is the poster child for Irish production in many circles.
The support makes all the difference. It makes a difference to sustainability, to the types of shows we can make and the reasons we make them. It makes a difference to children here and, hopefully, to children everywhere.