by Marineta MAK Kritikou*
It was in 2010’s AnimaSyros Festival 3.0 that Coraline, of the just 5-year-old American animation studio LAIKA, had its premiere screening, launching what would be Oscar-winning career for LAIKA, following up Coraline with nominations for all of movies to succeed it: ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings, also having their premiere screenings at the AnimaSyros Festival.
Studio representatives such as Alice Munson, LAIKA/House Brand Manager, and Gesine Kratzner, LAIKA/House Director, as well as Mark Shapiro, head of the studio’s promotional strategy and marketing initiatives for both its corporate identity and feature length films, an honorary guest of AnimaSyros 7.0, are some of the international key players in what is a huge list of animation professionals who in all the years of the festival have participated in lectures, workshops and master classes.
The list goes on with animator, screenwriter and director Jim Capobianco, whose name is attached to such beloved films like Lion King, UP, Wall-E, and of course the adorable Ratatouille. In 2011’s AnimaSyros 4.0, this Pixar Wizard’s speech introduced us to the secrets of the academy-award winning little mouse.
In similar fashion, Dreamworks’ Cassidy Curtis talked about the story of animation and the everyday difficulties that animators face, stressing that only collaboration can be productive towards making a movie like How to Train Your Dragon, which was also featured at the Festival.
A year later, in 2013, AnimaSyros 5.0 hosted a special tribute to TinTin, where, in addition to the screening of Steven Spielberg’s film “The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn”, we also had the pleasure of meeting TinTin’s creator’s associate and personal secretary, Alain Baran, who spoke about the life and work of the amazing Hergé.
Across the Atlantic, that same year we got to meet director, animator, and University of New York Tisch School of Arts Asia, Patrick Smith, who explained in his presentation what the subtext of the animation film “Masks” was, and how an animator can be guided by sound, letting the music tell the story. The film is promoted as a musical interpretation, a modern version of Disney’s Fantasia.
At AnimaSyros 7.0-2014, we had the honor of making Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s acquaintance. In addition to being the writer, director and producer of 2010’s Oscar-nominated animated feature film “Une vie de chat” by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, Girerd, is also a songwriter, founder of the La Poudrière animation school, founder of the Festival d ‘un Jour Animation Festival, and Folimage Studio’s Artists’ Residence -all in all an amazing personality with dozens of published novels and albums in France.
That same year, we were also honored with Ülo Pikkov’s presence. Coming from Estonia, a country with an amazing tradition in animation production, Pikkov is the director of award-winning animation films (ADA + OTTO, Body memory, The End, Dialogos), who in 2006 founded and was made associate professor of the Department of Animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts.
Nina Paley, an energetic and imaginative animator, also from America, creator of the “Sita Sings the Blues” animated motion picture, which was screened at over 150 festivals around the world, and won more than 35 international awards, including the Annecy’s Grand Crystal, was one more artist that fascinated us at the festival.
In 2015’s AnimaSyros 8.0, we met with and enjoyed the master class of Aliki Theophilopoulos, director and executive producer of the Disney series “Descendants Wicked World”; a writer, EMMY nominee, DreamWorks supervising producer, storyboard artist and active member of Women for Animation, Theophilopoulos became a friend and fan of the Festival, visiting it for its next two events.
At the same time, we were enchanted by Ari Folman, the director of the exquisite animation film “Waltz with Bashir”, nominated for the best foreign-language film Academy Award in 2009, who drew on the traumatic experiences of his involvement in the war against Lebanon as a soldier in the Israeli armed forces to submit a stirring documentary on lost memory.
In 2016’s AnimaSyros 9.0, Vivian Vanfleteren, the Belgian producer of the wonderful film “The Secret of Kells”, which won the Annecy Festival’s grand prize, as well as of the ever so delightful and humorous “The Triplets of Belleville” -both pictures nominated for best animated film Oscars- advised
producers and directors on how to present their projects for funding within the framework of the Pitching forum and the Agora, a new division launched in 2015 by AnimaSyros with great success.
All this brings us to 2017’s AnimaSyros 10.0, in which Irish director, animator and founder of the award-winning studio animation Cartoon Saloon, Tomm Moore, twice nominated for an Academy Award, for “The Secret of Kells” (2009) and “Song of the Sea” (2014), and also director of the wonderful Puffin Rock series that will soon be broadcast by ERT, shared with us his personal story as a parallel to the course of his famous studio.
Meanwhile, Stephane Roelants, producer, founder of Melusine Productions and Studio 352 in Luxembourg, co-producer of “Song of the Sea”, and co-producer, along with Angelina Jolie, of “The Breadwinner” -slated for a November 2018 release- highlighted the special role of animation film producers in children’s education.
A member of the festival’s 2017 jury, Nancy Denney-Phelps, a journalist and member of the ASIFA International Animated Film Society, renowned for her AWN blog (Animation World Network) -a uniquely pleasant, curious and enthusiastic lady who goes from festival to festival, covering in the best possible way everything all that is happening in the European cartoon scene.
These were just a few of the hundreds of great foreign animation creators who have attended the festival over the last decade.
I would like to end with the wonderful, unique and amazingly talented Dan Richards. Founder and animator of the Animate & Create studio, Richards has been a naturalized citizen of Syros, having been visiting the festival since 2010. In every year since, Dan has been running an animation workshop teaching stop motion technique to students, creating masterful pictures, always about the island of Syros and its inhabitants, and always presented at the Festival’s closing ceremony, alongside the films of the other workshops. It is from this workshop in Syros, that young children now working with Dan in Britain started.
In the end, AnimaSyros+Agora is more than just an animation film festival.
It is culture, art, knowledge, meeting, friendship, volunteerism, creative Cyclades, United Europe, United Hollywood, United Planet…
…it is indeed the other Greece.
*Marineta MAK Kritikou is a multimedia director, a partner of AnimaSyros Festival+Agora, coordinator of the Agora Pitching Forum, and a collaborator of ERT’s New Media.This article is part of a greater work, written by Marineta MAK Kritikou for the Greek edition of the ERT website, and has been translated for this platform. It is published in two parts, with the first one available here.
The original, complete version, in Greek, can be found here.