Animation Is Film (AIF), the renowned, Los Angeles-based film festival, revealed its special winners for its fifth year including animated features Little Nicholas, My Father’s Dragon, Aurora’s Sunshine, and Ice Merchants.
Judges of the festival included Chris Butler (ParaNorman, Missing Link), Peter Debruge (Variety), Bill Desowitz (Indiewire), Julie Lockhart (Locksmith Animation), Charles Solomon (critic/historian), Christina Steinberg (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and Ramin Zahed (Animation Magazine). The Shorts Jury consists of Maureen Fan (Baobab Studios), Frank Gladstone (ASIFA-Hollywood), and Jade Seaberry (DiverseToons).
Little Nicholas, directed by Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre, won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize and is also the 2022 winner of the prestigious Annecy’s Cristal award. Adapted by Anne Goscinny and Michel Fessler, this feature utilizes a hand-drawn, ink-wash world inspired by cartoonists René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé following the adventures of a mischievous boy and his schoolmates in a 1960s.
Dubrige stated, “Co-directors Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre have crafted a wonderful hand-drawn tribute to French cartoonists René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé. By adapting the duo’s distinctive style to animation, they have not only brought these beloved characters to life but also revealed the lesser-known lives of the artists responsible for their creation.” Charades currently handles international sales in hopes a U.S. release for the film comes.
My Father’s Dragon was directed by Oscar-nominated director Nora Twomey, whose 2017 debut in The Breadwinner won the Jury and Audience prizes as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, and won AIF’s Special Jury Prize. This feature, which releases on November 11 on Netflix, is based on the Newbery winning children’s book and follows a young boy who runs away to an island to rescue and befriend a young dragon. The animation style echoes that of Song of the Sea, another wondrous film from Cartoon Saloon.
“Director Nora Twomey and the talented team at Cartoon Saloon honor the look of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s classic children’s book while bringing their signature touch to this well-crafted and visually compelling kids’ movie, which seems ideally suited for the medium of animation,” added DeBruge.
Aurora’s Sunrise, directed by Inna Sahakyan, won the festival’s Audience Award and has an Armenian Oscar entry for Best International Feature. The animated documentary tells the story of real-life silent movie star, Aurora Mardiganian, who, as a young woman at 14, escaped the 1915 Armenian genocide and came to the United States. The film made its North American debut at the festival while making its world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. CAT&Docs is handling international sales in hopes a U.S. release for the documentary comes.
Ice Merchants, directed by João Gonzalez, won the festival’s Shorts Jury Prize and features a story focusing on a father-son dynamic whose cliff-dwelling lifestyles are captured in a terrifyingly majestic art style.
The acclaimed festival returned last weekend with big sneak peeks including upcoming projects like Henry Selick’s Wendell and Wild, Netflix and Tonko House’s Oni: Thunder God’s Tale, as well as Dreamworks’ Puss In Boots: The Last Wish. The event will conclude on Saturday (the 29th) with a presentation of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinnochio along with a Q&A with the director and filmmaker Phil Tippett (Mad God) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.