Bill with his son Lucas at Lac D'Annecy
I departed for Annecy with mixed emotions this year – after all, it was a year of major changes.
The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theatre complex will be finished next year and some say in two years – who knows, with French construction workers?
The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after 15 wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.
My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel "Monsters University", directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short "Blue Umbrella". The 6-minute film by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year's Oscar winner, "Paperman".
"Monsters University" was a bit disappointing – for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters.
The next morning was my panel on crowd funding and Kickstarter – once again it was a packed house (I hosted a similar panel in Stuttgart). After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic and perhaps hassle-free way to raise money to make films.
Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts screening #2, and my film "Drunker Than a Skunk" was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough – meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came "Betty's Blues", a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style – then "Drunker" came on and we got a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.
Then came Chris Landreth's unmemorably named "Subconscious Password", a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Well, then I knew our awards chances just flew out the window. Oh, well, once I knew I didn't have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.
My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, "Cheatin'". There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were very hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.
I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch – which took about an hour.
For the past seven years, I've been presenting the "Annecy Plus" show, first with Pat Smith, but now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It's been a smashing success, and this year we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect – so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!
Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to "borrow" two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem – the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, two drunk Indian animators volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony – a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.
So Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had gotten permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus we had to turn the sound off at 10 pm, and the problem with that was that it didn't get dark until 9:30. So the audience only heard 1 out of the 4 programs – the last three were silent. Quel dommage.
Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski
However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was "Super" by Johan Klungel. As for the Annecy Animation Festival awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was "Subconscious Password" by Chris Landreth. He gave a great speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I got to visit with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod, the president of the festival, Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year's winner with "Tram".
The good news was that everyone was talking about "Cheatin'", so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!