The AIF fest opens with “Wendell & Wild” on October 21, running through October 23 and closing with a special surprise screening on October 29. Programming highlights also include “My Father’s Dragon” from Oscar-nominated Nora Twomey and Annecy Cristal winner “Little Nicolas.”
“I’m delighted my new film ‘Wendell & Wild,’ co-written and produced with Jordan Peele, will have its U.S. premiere at Animation Is Film, a festival that celebrates the nontraditional and groundbreaking in animated movies,” director Selick, who will also be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A, said. “Our made-in-the-USA stop-motion feature is many things: scary, funny, creepy, sad, and empowering, but most of all, it’s very very original so I can’t think of a better place for its U.S. premiere than Animation Is Film. Hope you enjoy the show.”
AIF’s mission is to champion animation as a cinematic art form on par with live action. Screening for this year’s festival will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood. For the first time in its history, the festival will be expanding to a second weekend. On Saturday, October 29, the festival will close with its awards ceremony followed by a surprise screening of a film directed by a multi-award-winning director.
Recipients of awards will be winners of Competition Jury and Audience prizes for Best features and shorts. Animation Is Film will also bestow a Special Prize in recognition of the career of Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, producer of “Wendell & Wild” and Founder/CEO of the Gotham Group, for her impact on the animation industry.
This year, AIF continues to recognize and acknowledge the importance of animation by curating successful and critically-acclaimed films around the world. The festival will host three world premieres altogether — including “Titina,” “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom,” and the theatrical premiere of all four chapters of Tonko House’s “Oni: Thunder God’s Tale.”
Additionally, AIF will bring back special sections including the popular shorts showcase presented in partnership with Annecy and Women In Animation that highlights the best of female-directed animated films as well as a special student shorts showcase.
“Animation continues to redefine the scope of what cinema is capable of offering,” AIF director Matt Kaszanek said. “With this, our fifth iteration, we submit to you a list of not only some of the most essential animated films of the year, but the most essential films period. The world has changed in the last five years, but the festival’s mission has not: Animation is film, and we are proud to continue screaming it from every rooftop.”
Marcel Jean, Artistic Director of Annecy Festival, added, “As one of the festival’s co-founders, Annecy is proud to support the fifth edition of Animation Is Film. Every year, this event brings an exceptional lineup of features and short films to the Los Angeles audience. Many of the films were screened in Annecy last June, including Le petit Nicolas, which was awarded with the Cristal du long métrage Award for feature film. It is the ideal time in film, to take the pulse of the state of the animation nation.”
Special events and studio screenings include “Work in Progress” features with sneak peeks at Disney’s “Strange World” and Dreamworks Animations’ “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” AIF will present special screenings of the Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation’s “Luck,” Pixar’s “Turning Red,” plus “GKIDS’ Summer Ghost.”
The festival, founded by GKIDS and the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, presents a selection of new animated feature films from Asia, Europe, South America and North America, with both juried and audience prizes.
Online panels include “Designing Storytelling” with a specific focus on 2D animation and independent production, and “(Almost) On Their Own,” featuring a panel of filmmakers.
See below for the full AIF lineup. Synopses courtesy of the festival.
WENDELL & WILD (USA / USA Premiere)
Two scheming demons (Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele) strike a deal with a punk rock-loving teen so they can leave the Underworld and live out their dreams in the Land of the Living. A Netflix release.
* Director Henry Selick attending
GOLD KINGDOM AND WATER KINGDOM – (JAPAN / World Premiere) – Kotono Watanabe’s feature debut tells the story of two warring kingdoms who have constructed a literal wall between them – and a promise to re-unite a century hence with the marriage of two of their citizens. 100 years later, when the designated bride and groom find each other, through unexpected means, they take fate into their own hands and redefine the Kingdoms’ (and their own) expectations.
TITINA– (NORWAY | BELGIUM / World Premiere)
Italian airship engineer, Umberto Nobile, enjoys a quiet life with his beloved dog Titina, who charmed him into rescuing her from the streets of Rome. One day, Norwegian explorer superstar Roald Amundsen contacts him and orders an airship to conquer The North Pole. Nobile seizes the opportunity to go down in history. He brings Titina along, and the unlikely trio sets out on an expedition to the last undiscovered place on Earth. Their quest is successful but, in the aftermath, the two men start to quarrel over the glory … Through the eyes of the four-legged celebrity Titina, (re)discover a true story of triumph and defeat.
* Director Kajsa Næss attending
AURORA’S SUNRISE – (ARMENIA | GERMANY | LITHUANIA | North American Premiere)
A teenage girl goes from genocide survivor to Hollywood star. Losing her family, escaping slavery, enduring trauma and Hollywood greed, Aurora travels a very long way to tell the world about her people’s tragedy. Her courage long forgotten, Aurora’s odyssey is revived through this unique testimony, archive footage, and the magic of animation.
* Director Inna Sahakyan attending
MY FATHER’S DRAGON – (IRELAND | FRANCE / North American premiere)
The newest film from Oscar-nominated Nora Twomey and Cartoon Saloon, based on the Newbery-winning children’s book, this animated film follows a young boy who runs away to an island to rescue and befriend a young dragon. A Netflix release.
* Director Nora Twomey attending
LITTLE NICOLAS – (FRANCE | LUXEMBOURG / US Premiere)
Winner of the Cristal Award at Annecy, this animated adaptation of the beloved children’s series by Rene Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe, this magical film follows the adventures of a mischievous boy and his schoolmates, teacher, and parents in Paris in the 1960s.
OINK – (THE NETHERLANDS | BELGIUM / West Coast premiere)
When 9-year-old Babs receives a pig named Oink as a present from her grandfather, she convinces her parents to keep it under the condition that Oink follows a puppy training. But her parents are not the biggest threat to Oink because actually her grandfather is secretly taking part in the sausage competition organized by The Society for Meat Products from Fresh Pigs…
* Director Mascha Halberstad attending
PERLIMPS – (BRAZIL / West Coast premiere)
The newest film from Academy Award nominated Alê Abreu. Claé and Bruô, secret agents from enemy Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, must overcome their differences and combine forces to find the Perlimps and infiltrate into a world controlled by Giants where war is imminent. Presented in collaboration with the Latino Film Institute, LALIFF, and LatinX in Animation.
* Director Alê Abreu attending
UNICORN WARS – (SPAIN | FRANCE / West Coast premiere)
In Unicorn Wars, filmmaker Alberto Vázquez resorts to animated fantasy to ponder over the origin of evil. Two brothers – Azulín and Gordi – along with a group of new recruits without experience, are sent on a dangerous mission to save the Magic Forest from the unicorns that represent a threat for the security of their people. Will the little bears be up to the challenge? Presented in collaboration with the Latino Film Institute, LALIFF, and LatinX in Animation.
*Director Alberto Vázquez attending
SPECIAL EVENTS & STUDIO SCREENINGS:
LUCK – (Apple Original Films & Skydance Animation): The story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world! Suddenly finding herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck, she must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around. An Apple Original Films release.
*Director Peggy Holmes attending
NEW GODS: YANG JIAN – (GKIDS)
As Yang Jian confronts the actions of his past, he must face a host of dangerous vigilantes seeking the same treasure with the power to alter the balance of their worlds. This latest entry in the New Gods universe from Light Chaser Animation (White Snake, New Gods: Nezha Reborn) features awe-inspiring action sequences set against breathtaking and wildly imaginative environments. Combining ancient lore with dazzling animation, New Gods: Yang Jian is a timeless adventure of epic proportions featuring one of China’s legendary mythic figures..
ONI: THUNDER GOD’S TALE (Tonko House / Netflix Anime) – In a world filled with Japanese mythological oddball gods and monsters, one of the creatures’ free-spirited daughters, Onari, is determined to follow in the footsteps of the mighty heroes of lore, but her unique powers are yet to be revealed. Does she have what it takes to fight to protect her peaceful village from the encroaching threat of the gods’ mysterious enemies, the “Oni”?
* Dice Tsutsumi (Director/Creator), Sara K. Sampson (Producer), Robert Kondo (Executive Producer/Production Designer), and Kane Lee (Executive Producer) attending
WORK IN PROGRESS: PUSS-IN-BOOTS: THE LAST WISH – (Dreamworks Animation): Director Joel Crawford takes us on a visual tour of the upcoming release, featuring never-before-seen footage and commentary.
WORK IN PROGRESS: STRANGE WORLD – (Walt Disney): The filmmakers, via new footage previously unseen, chart a course with the legendary Clade family to provide a sneak peak into Walt Disney Animation’s 61st feature film.
SUMMER GHOST – (GKIDS): A local urban legend claims that lighting fireworks at an abandoned airfield will call the “summer ghost,” a spirit that can answer any question. Three troubled teenagers – Tomoya, Aoi, and Ryo – do not know each other yet, but each has their own reasons to show up one day. When a sparkler is lit, a ghost named Ayane appears, and she reveals she is only visible to those “who are about to touch their death.” The three teens return home, but Tomoya soon begins visiting the airfield alone, as he becomes obsessed with the mystery surrounding Ayane and the true purpose of her visits. A GKIDS release.
*Director loundraw attending
TURNING RED – (PIXAR): Young actress Rosalie Chiang lends her voice to Mei Lee, a 13-year-old who suddenly “poofs” into a giant red panda when she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS). Sandra Oh voices Mei Lee’s protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, who is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. A Pixar release.
*Director Domee Shi and producer Lindsey Collins attending.
SHORTS #1 – A collection of short animated films from around the world, curated by a prestigious panel of programmers. Free to the public.
SHORTS #2: STUDENT SHOWCASE – A vibrant and diverse collection of student short films from some of the most highly regarded animation schools in the country. Free to the public.
SHORTS #3: – Returning for its 4th straight year, this jewel of the Animation Is Film program highlights a collection of female-directed short films. Programmed in partnership with the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and Women in Animation.
AIF ONLINE PANELS:
Storytelling is the expressive foundation that has evolved with and transcended artforms for millenia. In a discussion featuring a variety of artists within the broader media and gaming worlds we explore how design affects the storytelling (and vise-versa) within video games. With a specific focus on 2D and independent production, the conversation will explore how individual artists use their skills to enhance and affect the story and gameplay within this unique form of animated storytelling.
(Almost) On Their Own
Making an animated feature film is akin to scaling a mountain, it’s a painstaking, long and difficult process, even with a large crew and all the necessary tools. Attempting to create an animated feature with a skeleton crew and a shoestring, independent budget feels like an impossible task and yet a few filmmakers are doing just that with fantastic results. Any type of independent filmmaking requires grit, determination and creative resilience, but what are the unique challenges (or freedoms) that animation brings to the process? This panel of filmmakers who have all successfully produced a feature (or, shockingly, more than one!) discuss the nuances, horror stories and surprisingly delights that came from making the film (almost) all on their own.