French Animation Gets a Festival in New York

Animated movies are not just for kids! In an effort to disprove the widely-held belief that they are, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) will be organizing the first U.S. festival for French animated cinema in New York on February 2 through 4, 2018.

As part of the upcoming event, the FIAF’s film curator, Delphine Selles-Alvarez, and the director of special projects, Catherine Lamairesse, explained how the festival was born and praised the success of French animation studios in America.

France-Amérique: Was your decision to organize the festival inspired by the success of French movies My Life as a Zucchini, nominated at the 2017 Oscars, and Garden Party, nominated this year?

Delphine Selles-Alvarez: In part, yes. The French animation scene has an excellent reputation in the United States, and French artists, animators, and programmers are snapped up by Hollywood studios as soon as they graduate. And French studios are also doing very well. The Minions — characters in the Despicable Me franchise — were created in the Paris region by the Illumination Mac Guff studio – a subsidiary of Universal since 2011. Many other cartoons with a big following in the U.S.A. were created in France, such as Raving Rabbids, Totally Spies!, and Martin Mystery.

What do you think sets French animators apart from the rest?

Catherine Lamairesse: There are different cinematic traditions in France and the United States, and the same goes for animation. The French government’s support of cultural projects also enables the creation of movies that would never have been made otherwise. France also has excellent animation schools, such as Les Gobelins in Paris, Supinfocom in Valenciennes, the MoPA in Arles, and the EMCA in Angoulême. This environment helps foster diversity in French productions and enables animation professionals to adopt highly artisanal and artistic approaches. American studios, on the other hand, tend to encourage large-scale movies that are easy to reproduce and serialize.

What can we expect from the festival’s line-up?

Delphine Selles-Alvarez: The festival aims to promote the diversity of French animated cinema, from the first images created in the 19th century to today’s virtual reality scene. We are going to open the festival with the screening of a 3D movie, Minuscule, which overlaps animation and real images filmed in the Ecrins National Park in the French Alps, followed by a selection of erotic animated short films made using watercolors, soft-lead pencils, grains of sand, and plastic dolls. We will also be showing René Laloux’s dreamlike Fantastic Planet released in 1973, and The Red Turtle, a Franco-Japanese production nominated at the 2016 Oscars. The director of the latter, Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, is the festival’s guest of honor and will also be presenting the movie’s making-of documentary — the work took him nine years to make! And alongside the various screenings, visitors can also discover an augmented reality poster exhibition, a series of virtual reality movies, and a video game arcade.

Animation First

February 2-4, 2018
55 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022