Animation Is Film Festival Celebrates Top Toons From Around the World

The Animation Is Film Festival, in its fifth in-person edition, once again champions the jewels of the hand-drawn, CGI and stop-motion world.  

This year’s festival kicks off Oct. 21 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood with the U.S. premiere of Henry Selick’s stop-motion “Wendell & Wild.” Selick will also be there to conduct a Q&A after the screening. The festival will close with Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” with a Q&A with del Toro after the screening.  

“To repurpose a line from Tolstoy, every special festival is special in its own way. Most obviously, when a bona fide master of the craft comes out with his first film in over a decade — as is the case with Henry Selick’s ‘Wendell & Wild’ — that’s special. When an Oscar-winning ‘live-action’ director comes out with his first animated feature, a passion project many years in the making — as is the case with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio — that’s special too,” says Matt Kaszanek, managing director of Animation Is Film.

“Our Centerpiece screening, ‘One Piece Film Red,’ is the No. 1 film in Japan this year (it’s sold more tickets than ‘Top Gun: Maverick!’) and is currently the No. 11 film of all-time (it’s sold more tickets than ‘Avatar’!) That’s special. But look closer! This year’s Animation Is Film Festival has nine films in Competition and two-thirds of them are directed by women. That’s special,” he adds, noting: “Has there ever been a year where there’s been two animated studio films, both solely directed by women, released in the same year? That’s not just special, it’s historic — Domee Shi’s ‘Turning Red’ and Peggy Holmes’ ‘Luck’ — we’re screening both of them, by the way. I remember, in the wake of COVID, saying to a colleague that I was worried we were going to have a weak festival in 2022 due to production delays. It’s comical how wrong I was. This year’s lineup is stacked.”

 Animation Is Film runs Oct. 21-23 and closes Oct 29, expanding to a second weekend for the first time, where its juried competition and audience awards will be handed out in the feature film and shorts categories. Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, “Wendell & Wild” producer and founder/CEO of the Gotham Group, will be given a special prize by AIF for her impact on the animation industry.  

The competition lineup features offerings illustrating the breadth of global animation including: Kotono Watanabe’s “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom,” Kajsa Næss’ “Titina,” Inna Sahakyan’s “Aurora’s Sunrise,” Nora Twomey’s “My Father’s Dragon” (pictured), Mascha Halberstad’s “Oink,” Alê Abreu’s “Perlimps,” Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s “Little Nicholas” and Alberto Vázquez’s “Unicorn Wars.” 

Also on the festival docket are Work-in-Progress features: Disney’s “Strange World” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” — both films look to be top contenders in the Oscar animation race. 

Anime fans get to see the latest entry in the “New Gods” universe from Light Chaser Animation,  “New Gods: Yang Jian” from GKids, and Tonko House/Netflix Anime’s “Oni: Thunder Gods Tale,” with creator-director Dice Tsutsumi, producer Sara K. Sampson, exec producer/production designer Robert Kondo and exec producer Kane Lee attending.

“While animation, like all great art, is constantly evolving, our perception of it has as well,” notes Kaszanek. “More cinephiles are coming around to the idea that animation is every bit as Important (capital I!) as the other, live-action films that we’ve historically designated as such. And that’s the overriding idea of Animation Is Film.”  

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