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I recently got to go to the third annual Animation is Film Festival in Hollywood, California. Like last year, they had 10 or so animated films that competed in the main competition, and the winners were I Lost My Body, which won the Grand Prize, Weathering With You and The Swallows of Kabul, which won the Audience Award, and Marona's Fantastic Tale, which won the Special Jury Prize. The festival not only had films to watch, but behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming films, specials, and popular shorts like Klaus and Hair Love. The variety of content to buy tickets for, and to support was mesmerizing, and I can't wait to go back next year. So, what did I take away from the festival concerning the commentary on foreign and US animation? Well, let's dive right in, and find out!
China is stepping up its animation game
Here is a story from my screening of White Snake. One of the directors that I got to meet was the co-director, Ji Zhao. He talked about how in China, animation has a skewed reputation as only being for kids, and of not of high quality. Well, to me, I think this festival showed that China is ready to step up to the plate, and I think it's true! All four films from China I saw at the festival had something for everyone. Ne Zha was for the overall family crowd. S/He is for the indie experimental crowd. No. 7 Cherry Lane was for the adult filmgoer crowd. White Snake was for the teen and young adult crowd. Say what you will about the films in your individual opinions, but they are doing something American animation is lacking, and that's variety in audience experience. I can't wait to see what happens next for this country.
Female directors are making an impression!
One of the biggest issues we are seeing right now in animation is a lack of non-white/non-male directors in the industry. The change is happening, but it's one step at a time. Luckily, including the special screenings, five films had female directors behind them. I hope the critical acclaim for all of the films at this festival tells Hollywood and the entire animation scene that there are super talented women who can make good movies. Seriously, two of the main prize winners were female-directed films. Get with the times' theatrical animation industry!
2D is making a comeback, but...
This year, I went to a behind-the-scenes event at the festival for a look at the upcoming Netflix animated feature, Klaus by Sergio Pablos. First off, any issues people have with the trailer for Klaus need to not be swayed by it. I got to see 30+ minutes of clips from the film, and it looks incredible and charming. It's way more interesting than the trailer made it out to be. However, one take-away was that 2D traditional animation is a dying trend. I remember this being said last year with Mamoru Hosoda, and that's a real shame. Sure, there are still plenty of 2D films and shows, but Klaus is an example of 2D animation that is not happening as much anymore, and there are barely any jobs for creating 2D. It would be nice if Klaus put the interest of 2D animation back into the limelight, and if you see that Klaus is playing in theaters during its limited release, then you better go see it then. Netflix is giving you the chance to see it early in theaters, take that chance and make sure more people get back into 2D animation!
Seeing more behind-the-scenes opens your eyes to the production side of things
Listen, if you go to an animation festival, and see that they are having an extensive behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming animated film, or they are just doing this as a special event somewhere, make the effort to go see it! Most of the time, we barely see what goes on behind-the-scenes until a Blu-ray release happens, and we get deleted scenes, and commentary from the directors about what went into making a film. Seeing a behind-the-scenes look at Klaus was a last-minute decision before I got to Hollywood, and boy howdy, seeing what went into making the film was delightful. It showed the craft and hard work that went into it. You get a better understanding of what is going on in production, and I think that would help out more animation fans if they knew what was going on behind the scenes.
Overall, I really loved my time at the festival. I still wish they had individual posters of the films they were showing, but at the same time, getting a signed poster from Hair Love by the director himself, Matthew Cherry, was pretty tight as well! I think if people can, I highly recommend they try coming to this festival. I can't wait to go back next year!