Well, Annecy 2020 Online has come and gone, and for the first time since I have been covering Annecy, I have been able to participate in it due to them moving the event online. Well, they moved a chunk of it online, but we will get to that when we get to it.
Overall, I had a great time, since I can’t afford to fly to France and partake in the full event there. Plus, it going online means it was more widely available to the mass public! So, what was my takeaway from Annecy 2020 Online? What would I say were the pros and cons of the overall online experience? Well, I have made a list of thoughts in no particular order.
PRO: Making it more approachable and accessible to the public.
I mean, it’s not like this wasn’t possible, but unless you lived in France, you had to pay out the wazoo to get a ticket to there, buy a pass, and then hotel and food budgets as well. It’s a little disappointing that it took a deadly pandemic for them to finally make it available online. I know there were probably some major legal and distribution issues to take care of to make it possible, but film festivals like Annecy should be open to anyone who wants to get into animation, and moving it online helps! Anyone who wants to check out what the foreign animation side has going on can now get a sneak peek or viewing of what might come over to the states and everywhere else.
CON: The Extracts
Listen, I get it. Moving the festival online must have had a giant stack of legal and distribution papers to go through to make it possible, but I think there is something crummy when a lot of the films that most animation fans and critics wanted to see in full, were not widely available! Yeah, unless you were the Jury and Judges of the festival, not every feature film was available to watch in full. What also makes this a fumble is that the films people wanted to see, only had either behind-the-scenes production videos or up to 13 minutes of footage. Okay, so the rest of the films were fully watchable, yes? Well, yeah they were, but they were probably the films you weren’t interested in, and are now a Russian roulette of quality.
Sure, sometimes going into the unknown is exciting and can result in some great experiences, but if you were someone hoping to see the new CGI Lupin the 3rd film, would you rather watch that or some slow personal pet project by an artist that you are not going to gel with? It’s like why bother opening it up to the public when the public isn’t allowed to watch all of the films. It also makes it frustrating since one of the films in the main category, Jungle Beat: The Movie was going to be widely available during the second week of the festival! That means its placement here feels cynical and more of a marketing stunt. If this was a price thing, I would have been happy to pay more than $16 to see the full films!
Also, as a side note, Beauty Water had the worst extract, because it was a supercut of the entire plot! Why should I see the movie now?
PRO: Work-in-Progress section
Honestly, the reason why I don’t look at the animation fandom with much praise is that a lot of the loudest individuals tend to be fairly unintelligent individuals who don’t care or want to learn about the behind-the-scenes, or the actual work, and the number of people that goes into making animated movies. They like to trade education for unintelligible snark and ignorance. This one category was probably my favorite part of the entire festival. Getting to see what went into making an animated film or TV show was wildly educational! I mean, you can’t get much more educated about an upcoming animated film than by the creators that are working on it! Granted, I wish some had more footage to look at, but, well, they are works in progress for a reason.
CON: Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds‘ release date.
This one isn’t that big of a deal, but it was disheartening to hear that films like Sirocco and the Kingdoms of the Winds would not be out by this point in time. It’s just me being greedy, because you see the trailer, and it looks amazing, and then become disappointed when its release is two years from now in 2022.
Real CON: Some Work-in-Progress videos were lacking
The real issue I had with this category of the festival was that there wasn’t much to see in some films. Some of them were even just the trailers that we saw a few months back. Like, they were a bit too early to show off for their own good, but even then, there was a lot of promise.
PRO: Old Man the Movie
In the end, I don’t know if I would consider this a great movie due to how all over the place the tone was, but man, did I enjoy it more than the more artful-driven films at the festival. I don’t think I laughed this hard at an animated film since The Willoughbys this year. It’s too adult for kids, and too juvenile for adults, but it’s an experience you will never forget.
Probably one of the biggest surprises of the festival was being able to watch this movie, and while I wasn’t able to fully watch it during the festival time, I caught it elsewhere, and it was way better than most of the fully viewable films at the festival. It feels like an 80s film pulled from the sands of time in terms of its tone, pacing, and themes. It’s not perfect, but I highly recommend people check this film out if it ever gets a proper US release.
PRO: Connected Preview
Being able to see a snippet of a highly anticipated animated film is just a delightful treat. I feel like people are sleeping on Connected as it’s coming off like a sleeper hit of 2020. It’s look into the animation process, the production, and learning about the inspiration for the story and characters, made for quite a delightful preview
Lava is a film I feel like could only be shown at a festival, and nowhere else. If it ended up on YouTube or had some theatrical release here in the states, it would get turned into the next punchline. Not that it didn’t have any real promising ideas, but on top of unlikeable characters, the animation was downright ugly. It looked like super early 2000s flash animation. If you want to be alongside the big kid animated films at the festival, then you are going to get judged like a big kid, and to be frank, Lava was not good.
CON: Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus
How the heck did this film count as animation? I know it’s the Contrechamp category, but it barely counts as animation with mostly filters and just enough rotoscope to be “animated”. It was also wildly boring and possibly the worst of the fully watchable films. If I can’t follow the plot, and I had to find some kind of plot summary online, then your movie failed in one of the most important aspects of storytelling. Again, just like Lava, how did this film get on here when there were supposedly 76 films that were submitted? What made this one stand out from the rest? Was it because it was more artistically driven? Well, okay, but it made for a slog of a film to sit through.
PRO: To: Gerard
Probably my favorite animated short of the bunch and one of the few US short films to be at Annecy this year was this new one by DreamWorks Animation. It showed a much more wholesome and heartfelt side of a studio mostly known for snarky comedies. It was a cute short about bringing magic to three different generations of people. I hope DreamWorks makes this short widely available to watch soon, because everyone should watch it, and I hope DreamWorks can bring the charm and heart from this short to their main film line-up.
PRO: The Town
Another highlight of the shorts was The Town, a Chinese short by a first-time director that was pretty much the premise of a Twilight Zone or Black Mirror episode about a city that’s population’s entire future is reliant on getting a certain surgery done. It’s a creepy and poignant short that warrants the commentary about living in a society and being an individual. I hope it can be made available soon, because it’s also one of the best-animated shorts that I could watch from the festival.
CON: Running on French time
Yeah, this is a real minor criticism, but due to the different time zones, the festival ended on the same day here as there, but I wish I could have gotten a few more hours to watch some of the other shorts, master classes, and making of sections.
CON: The site could have been better set up
While I think the site was well designed, there were some aspects that were a bit tedious to go through. For example, due to how many shorts there were, they were all put into sections of 8 or so shorts each. It made finding specific shorts, previews, and specials more cumbersome to get to and enjoy, because I had to dig through different sections to find them.
In general, as I said above, I did love my time with Annecy Online, and I hope that they can do this again with having both the live version and the online version. It pulled in over 15K people. You can’t tell me that isn’t some kind of positive incentive to do it again. Still, I hope more people get to try and enjoy Annecy Online in 2021