Once per year, an eclectic group gathers in Annecy, a small town in the French Alps, to discuss the art of animation. They are illustrators, auteurs, critics, students, cinephiles, cartoonists – in short, creatives who share a peculiar passion for bringing things to life.

These wizardly folk are treated at the Annecy Animation Film Festival to a comprehensive celebration of their craft, a pillar of the entertainment industry.

The 2023 festival attendance was massive – over 15,000 people came from around the world, and hundreds of films were screened. We can’t possibly tell you everything that you might want to know. Therefore, we’re going to pepper this blog with sly references to films or other festival details.

Here are some nuggets about Annecy 2023.

Festival Events

As in previous years, the 2023 program included master classes, screenings of works in progress, and sneak peaks at finished films. These illuminating events took place concurrently with a market, where animators could search for likeminded distributors. Paramount attended the market for the very first time, a promising sign of growth for animators worldwide.

In honor of Mexico’s selection as this year’s spotlighted country (next year’s is Portugal), one of animation’s greatest magicians, Guillermo del Toro, traveled to Annecy and gave a master class. Just months before, the celebrated Mexican director won an Academy Award® for Pinocchio, his stop-motion masterpiece.

Memorably, del Toro gave some sage advice: “All animators are weirdos, but stop-motion animators are the weirdest of them all.” He encouraged animators to embrace their weirdness, an elemental source of creativity. He concluded with, “My entire career has been about not giving a fuck.” (Variety judiciously censored the expletive, but we don’t give a fuck, either.)

Among the works in progress, one of the most thrilling was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

Director Jeff Rowe spoke – at a panel on Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – about the power of “taking a well-known IP and using that to break artistic boundaries and move the medium [animation] forward.”

We had similar thoughts about Across the Spider-Verse, and we share Rowe’s hope of seeing what the next inventor might do with a completely original story – as well as with a familiar one like Mutant Mayhem, scheduled for an August release.

Award Winners

The festival culminated, of course, in announcements of awards for the best feature films, shorts, and projects from art college.

Since 22 prizes were awarded at Annecy 2023, plus 9 special prizes, we can’t cover the complete list. Instead, we’ll discuss winners of the Cristal, Annecy’s top prize, awarded in 6 categories.

The Cristal for a Feature Film went to Linda veut du poulet! (Chicken for Linda!), which also won the Gan Foundation Award for Distribution. With jaunty lines and bold, monochromatic figures, the film tells the story of a mother’s quest for dinner ingredients in a town where everybody has gone on strike.

The Cristal for a Short Film went to 27, which also won the Best Original Music Award for a Short Film. This film’s brooding, gray cityscape and lurid, red lighting mirror the main character’s depression on her 27th birthday.

The Cristal for a Commissioned Film went to November Ultra “Come Into My Arms,” a very sweet music video for an equally sweet lullaby. It might send you off to a restful sleep, so please don’t watch it at work – unless you, too, enjoy afternoon naps as part of your official benefits package.

The Cristal for a TV Production went to La Colline aux cailloux (Pebble Hill). Its story of forlorn shrews resembles Watership Down, while its riverside setting recalls another animal classic, The Wind in the Willows.

The Cristal for a Graduation Film went to La notte, an animated short based on Antonio Vivaldi’s flute concerto of the same name. In an interview about the creative process, the directors explained how their original tale about an Italian folk figure, Pulcinella, was inspired by Vivaldi’s evocative music.

The Cristal for Best VR Work went to Red Tail. In this Claymation short, a boy’s journey through a strange world leads to an exploration of his own past.

Triumph of the Handmade

In an age of ubiquitous computer graphics, many films at Annecy stood out because of their handmade origins. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, “Every one of the 2023 Annecy award winners was a traditional 2D feature, a celebration of the old-school craft of hand-drawn cartoons and hand-crafted animation.”

This observation about the war of the pencils versus pixels dovetailed beautifully with del Toro’s masterclass, where he confided, “I love things that look handmade. I fucking hate perfection.” (Once again, we restored the revered animator’s expletives.)

While we do demand perfection, we’re happy to agree that beauty is often found in the handmade. And, certainly, beauty was on abundant display this June, thanks to talented animators from around the world, and to the festival organizers at Annecy.