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Annecy Animation Film Festival 2023: Pixar, Aztec Batman, Lord of the Rings and Competition gems

The Annecy Animation Film Festival 2023 will take place from 11 to 17 June.
The Annecy Animation Film Festival 2023 will take place from 11 to 17 June. Copyright annecyfestival
Copyright annecyfestival
By David Mouriquand
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The Annecy Animation Film Festival runs from 11 - 17 June. Here's the full lowdown.

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The world’s leading event dedicated to animation, the Annecy Animation Film Festival, will open with a shadow looming over this year’s festivities, following a tragic knife attack in the lakeside town 22 miles south of Geneva. 

It's with heightened security that a record 14,000 animation experts and enthusiasts will gather alongside the industry’s leading professionals to celebrate the creativity and diversity of animation styles and techniques. 

The 47th edition’s exceptional and diverse programme, which showcases animated films from all over the world, through a selection of short and feature-length films, will have Mexico in the spotlight. 

To mark the occasion, award-winning The Book of Life director and animator Jorge R. Gutierrez was asked to design the official poster for the event, and Mexican animation will be the subject of several masterclasses, including the eagerly anticipated one from filmmaking pioneer and Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, Pinocchio). 

Warner Bros. HBO Max
Batman Azteca: Choque de ImperiosWarner Bros. HBO Max

The history of Mexican animation will be discussed, and within the Work in Progress category, the first Mexican film devoted to Batman, Batman Azteca: Choque de Imperios, will be screened, showing the Caped Crusader leave Gotham City behind and thrown into Aztec culture.

The theme of "Animation, Pride and Diversity" will also be at the heart of the 2023 edition "with programmes dedicated to this theme", said artistic delegate Marcel Jean, stressing "the importance of appealing to a wider range of sensibilities" in the field of animated cinema.

Of the 11 films in the Official Competition this year, here are our 4 must-see picks (scroll down for the full line-up) for this year’s Crystal – Annecy's top prize:

Mars Express (D: Jérémie Périn - France)

Fresh from its Cannes debut, Mars Express is an ambitious sci-fi adventure thriller. In the year 2220, Aline Ruby, a stubborn private detective, and Carlos Rivera, an android replica of her deceased partner, embark on a race against time across Mars. Their goal? To find Jun Chow, a missing cybernetics student who holds the secret about the robots that threaten to change the face of the universe. This is a Chinatown-reminiscent neo-noir gem that will scratch any Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell itches; and while the narrative will not surprise hardened sci-fi fans, the animation is glorious and the attention to detail is mesmerizing.

The Inventor (D: Jim Capobianco and Pierre-Luc Granjon - United States / France / Ireland)

We can’t wait to see the world premiere of this stop motion animated biographical film about Leonardo da Vinci. It includes the voice cast of Marion Cotillard, Daisy Ridley, Matt Berry and Stephen Fry as the insatiably curious inventor. The Inventor follows da Vinci leaving Italy and Pope Leo X to join the French court, where he can experiment freely, with the help of French princess Marguerite de Navarre. KMBO will release the film theatrically in January 2024, so file the Annecy screening under ‘unmissable’.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror (D: Keiichi Hara - Japan)

The new film by acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai, Colorful) is based on the bestselling novel by Mizuki Tsujimura. It follows Kokoro, a young girl in her first year of secondary school, who discovers a portal in her bedroom mirror. She reaches through and finds herself transported to an enchanting castle where she is joined by six other students. When a girl in a wolf mask explains that they have been invited to play a game, the teens must work together to uncover the mysterious connection that unites them. However, anyone who breaks the rules will be eaten by a wolf. It looks like a heartfelt coming-of-age story which once again showcases Hara’s stunning drawings. We’ve already had Makoto Shinkai’sSuzume this year, which so far stands as our favourite animation film of 2023 - Lonely Castle in the Mirror could shake things up.  

Art College 1994 (D: Liu Jian - China)

Having premiered in Competition at this year’s Berlinale, Liu Jian’s follow up to his deliriously entertaining crime animation Have a Nice Day, is a much calmer affair. Set in Chinese Academy of Arts campus in 1994, as the country opens up to the Western world, we follow a group of students discovering adult life, where love and friendship clash with high ideals and personal ambitions. The loosely autobiographical drama is a fascinating exploration of the clash between tradition and modernity, seen through the eyes of a directionless generation having to decide who they want to become as artists and people. Liu’s style continues to impress, especially with his intricate backgrounds, and the visuals more than make up for some frequently punishing chats about art theory.

Disney Pixar
ElementalDisney Pixar

Aside from these competition picks, there are a dizzying amount of events on our radar, including the festival’s celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary with the unveiling, at the opening ceremony, the first images of a never-before-seen short film and the preview of the next Pixar film Elementary. There'll also be a first look at the animated musical 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 23 years ago.

Elsewhere, there will be a screening of a working version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem from Paramount Pictures Nickelodeon Animation Studio, a Rick and Morty: 10 Years of Intergalactic Adventures showing, and Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Hotel Transylvania, will be on hand to present his new film Fixed, which according to Marcel Jean, is a story of a dog who is about to be castrated and is this year's "least child-friendly" film. Sounds promising.

Netflix
NimonaNetflix

And as if that wasn’t enough, attendees will be treated to the first images of The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, by Japanese director Kenji Kamiyama, an animated film which takes place 250 years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as Netflix’s much-anticipated feature film Nimona, adapted from the New York Times best-selling graphic novel. Featuring the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed, this animated film about a teenage shape-shifter will be presented in a special screening. We can’t wait.

Official Competition

Sirocco et le Royaume des courants d’air - Benoît Chieux (Belgium/France) (opening film)
Art College 1994 - Liu Jian (China)
Four Souls of Coyote - Áron Gauder (Hungary)
Kensuke's Kingdom - Neil Boyle and Kirk Hendry (UK/Luxembourg/France)
The Siren - Sepideh Farsi (Germany/Belgium/France/Luxembourg)
Chicken for Linda! - Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach (France/Italy)
Lonely Castle in the Mirror - Keiichi Hara (Japan)
Mars Express - Jérémie Périn (France)
The Inventor - Jim Capobianco and Pierre-Luc Granjon (United States/France/Ireland)
The Inseparables - Jérémie Degruson (Belgium/Spain/France)
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes - Tomohisa Taguchi (Japan)

Contrechamp Competition

Adam change lentement - Joël Vaudreuil (Canada)
Heavies Tendres - Carlos Perez-Reche and Tomas Joan (Spain)
Johnny & Me (Eine Zeitreise mit John Heartfield) - Katrin Rothe (Austria/Switzerland/Germany)
Komada - A Whisky Family - Masayuki Yoshihara (Japan)
La Grotte sacrée - Daniel Minlo and Cyrille Masso (Cameroon)
Robot Dreams - Pablo Berger (Spain/France)
Rosa and the Stone Troll - Karla Nor Holmbäck (Denmark)
Saleem - Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha (Jordan)
Slide - Bill Plympton (United States)
Toldi - Marcell Jankovics and Csakovics Lajos (Hungary)
Tonda, Slávka a Génius - Filip Posivac (Hungary/Czech Republic/Slovakia)
White Plastic Sky - Tibor Banoczki and Sarolta Szabo (Hungary/Slovakia)

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The Annecy Festival 2023 will take place from 11 to 17 June.

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