Animation in the U.K. tops Annecy honors


PARIS -- Toons from the U.K. swept the awards at the 31st Annecy Animated Film Festival Saturday night, which wrapped along with the parallel 17th International Mifa animated film market.

The Fest's top prize, the Cristal for best feature, went to Christopher Nielsen's "Free Jimmy," a U.K.-Norway co-production. Samuel and Frederic Guillaume's "Max & Co," another U.K. co-production with Switzerland, Belgium and France, took the audience award for best feature. Japanese Mamoru Hosoda's "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" received a special distinction in the feature category.

The U.K. also took home every Cristal award in the television category. Christopher Sadler's "Still Life" from the "Shaun the Sheep" series won best TV production, Kitty Taylor took the special award for a TV series for "I Will Be Especially Very Careful" from "Charlie and Lola," and Kez Margrie's "The Wrong Trainers" won the best TV special prize.

The U.K.'s Tom Brown and Daniel Benjamin Gray won the award for best graduation film and Kez Margrie, also from the U.K., took home the Unicef Prize for "The Wrong Trainers." Other winners include Andreas Hykade's "The Runt" from Germany (Fipresci Award), Gregoire Sivan's "Premier Voyage" from France (Canal Plus Award) and Serge Elissalde's "The Man on the Moon" also from France (Sacem Award).

The Annecy Fest is becoming more and more indispensable for the international animation market, with top U.S. studios now making their way to the public and industry toon extravaganza.

This year, Disney premiered its "Meet the Robinsons" in 3-D during the opening ceremony, while Pixar was in town with the world premiere of its latest project "Lifted" in addition to "The Pixar Story," a documentary celebrating the animation powerhouse's 20 years of entertainment.

The fest also hosted making-of sessions for "Shrek the Third," "Surf's Up" and "Persepolis." Cartoon directors Michel Ocelot, helmer of 2006 French animated hit "Azur & Azmar," Guillaume Aretos ("Shrek the Third") and Carlos Saldanha ("Ice Age") also made special appearances. Retrospectives such as "Animation and Desire, " "Animation and Documentary," "Politically Incorrect" and "Animation with an Attitude" added color to the already vibrant lineup.

500 films were screened throughout the week, including 233 in official selection at the Festival, with 182 films in competition from 35 countries. The fest put feature films in the spotlight this year with nine competing for the Cristal Award and 16 shown out of competition, including several sneak previews for upcoming worldwide releases.

More than 115,000 tickets were issued during the Festival, which ran June 11-16.

The 6,130 delegates, including 170 international buyers and 280 exhibiting companies, attended the parallel Mifa market, marking a 10% jump from last year.

Mifa's conferences focused on the future of animation and new tools for improving studio productivity. 59 countries were represented, and organizers called the event "the place to be for the world of animation."