A growing thread of the Annecy Festival is the “works in progress” section, where the projects of tomorrow (feature films, series, short films, extended reality experiences) are presented mid-production. I love them for the detail they often give about the development and production processes, as well as the feverish atmosphere in the room – these are the events that the real fans come to. Read on to discover the four WIP performances I’ve found the most interesting at the festival so far…
Pianist was shot
The project: A musical documentary and a political thriller that follows the unusual story of Francisco Tenório Júnior, the virtuoso Brazilian pianist who abruptly disappeared in 1976.
People: Spanish directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal previously collaborated on the Oscar-nominated boy and rita (2010). The animation of the multinational co-production is in charge of the Dutch company Submarine (Undone, Buñuel in the labyrinth of the turtles).
The presentation: those who know boy and ritaTrueba and Mariscal’s sparkling tribute to Cuban music will capture the tenor of the duo’s long-awaited sequel. Pianist was shot is, among other things, a finely observed recreation of Rio de Janeiro’s burgeoning bossa nova scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Tenorio.
Trueba came across the story of the pianist a few years ago. Intrigued, he conducted interviews with 100-150 musicians and the like, including Brazilian legends like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. He initially conceived of the project as a live-action documentary, but when he embarked on Boy and Rita — his first animated film — with visual artist Mariscal, he discovered the possibilities of the medium and reinvented Pianist. The animation, Trueba told the audience, allows the team to “resurrect Tenório” without using live-action actors.
There are multiple threads in the movie. In a narrative setting, journalist Jeff, a Trueba representative voiced by Jeff Goldblum, recounts his investigation into Tenório’s past. Cue flashbacks, in which the young pianist makes waves in Rio and records his first album. Talking heads from Trueba’s interviews are intercut to provide context.
The characters are rendered in the elegant ligne-claire style familiar from boy and rita, but from what we saw, it seems that the production design distinguishes between the different narrative threads. Rio and Buenos Aires are rendered in vibrant colors and great detail, making way for a more graphic approach to the concert scenes. The interviews are handled with relative naturalism. Submarine artists drew style frames based on Trueba’s engraved image frames; They then used open source software that interpolated the following frames according to the footage.
Delivery is scheduled for the end of this year.
The project: In a magical-realistic world at the turn of the 20th century, the son of a glazier and the daughter of an army colonel fall in love. Their romance is challenged by an approaching war and their parents’ differing perspectives on life.
People: Pakistan’s Usman Riaz is directing the film, his first animated project, at his Mano Animation Studios. The Spanish producer Manuel Cristóbal (wrinkles, Buñuel in the labyrinth of the turtles) is on board.
The presentation: Usman Riaz has taken an unusual path to Annecy. Trained as a musician, the Pakistani artist was a student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and a senior fellow at TED, when his childhood love of animation came back to haunt him. Having had an idea for an animated film in 2014, he set out to make it. “After all, how hard could it be?” he joked on stage.
The TED Talk training has paid off: Riaz made a very clever presentation in which he presented himself as some kind of Walt Disney from Pakistan, no less. And with some justification: in a country with no hand-drawn animation infrastructure to speak of, he set up a studio (with producer Khizer Riaz, his cousin) and assembled a team capable of producing a film with production values. quite tall. Many of his artists are newcomers, some of them former doctors or dentists, who share Riaz’s passion for the medium.
The film’s stylistic dial is firmly set on “Ghibli,” from the character designs to the melancholy waltz soundtrack (composed by Riaz). The Japanese studio’s films are an avowed influence on the director, who said his team reverse-engineered some of their approaches to storyboarding, animation, etc., studying documentaries and books about Hayao Miyazaki and his colleagues. But the glazier is set in a version of Pakistan, the lavish backgrounds anchored in the landscapes and architecture around Karachi.
We learned little about the plot, which is structured non-linearly through flashbacks. But on strength of presentation alone, Riaz seems like a good storyteller. His story of creative struggle against all odds earned him a standing ovation.
Production should end next year.
Unicorn: Eternal Warriors
The project: The ancient heroes awaken to defend the world against a dark force, but find themselves in the bodies of teenagers. They must fight evil while coping with the anguish of growing up.
People: Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory) created the show for HBO Max and Cartoon Network. His longtime collaborator Stephen DeStefano is on board as character designer. France’s Studio La Cachette is cheering.
The presentation: In a packed room full of excitement, Genndy Tartakovsky appeared on stage to cheers and applause, further pumping up the crowd by announcing that he would kick off by showing us the first episode of his new show.
In steampunk Victorian London, elegant young bride Melinda finds her wedding interrupted by Copernicus, a robot who looks like an obese C3PO. Through his intervention, he is transformed into a gothic goblin endowed with magical powers. Clips from other episodes featured dinosaurs and a rabid elephant running amok in this world.
The episode we watched hinted at what Tartakovsky says is the emotional core of the show: the portrayal of adolescence, of struggling with maturity, through the device of superpowers. Melinda may seem like a cross between Betty Boop and Astro Boy, but on a narrative level, the team takes cues from the final moments of White as snowspecifically the mixture of emotion and cartoon in the scene where the dwarfs cry.
It is no coincidence that there is a touch of Tezuka in the characters. Tartakovsky first conceived Unicorn almost two decades ago, just when I was working on a AstroBoy feature film (which he ended up leaving). The passion project seeped into her mind until HBO Max bought it. He said he benefited from the delay, as the story was based on his experience of growing up his children.
La Cachette, a French studio filled with top artists, impressed Tartakovsky with their work on his recent Adult Swim series. Primitive. Rehiring them was a no-brainer, she said. Her talent for dynamic and slippery action was fully displayed in the episode and animation tests we saw.
The 10-episode series will likely premiere late this year or early next year, Tartakovsky said. It was also announced at the festival that he had signed an exclusive multi-year general agreement with Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation.
Wallace and Gromit: The Great Getaway (VR)
The project: On their first virtual reality outing, the inventor and his dog take a vacation; As usual, things don’t go according to plan. A rocket is involved.
People: Aardman Animations is involved, of course, with wallace and gromit creator Nick Park provides support (but not direction) for the project along with Merlin Crossingham, the franchise’s creative director. Atlas V from Paris is in production and No Ghost from London is in development, and the experience will be available on the Meta Quest 2 headset.
The presentation: Having delved into augmented reality with the recent game the great repair, the franchise is now going a step further with its first virtual reality installment. As this is still a fairly new medium, the team spent more time describing its conceptual approach and pipeline than the actual content of the experience.
Atlas V and No Ghost previously collaborated on Madrid Noir, and the user feedback they received about it helped inform their work on this project. Crucially, there will be more interactivity this time around, though the studios admitted they have yet to determine exactly what form that interactivity will take. Wallace and Gromit will perform alongside a robotic golf cart. In one clip we were shown, the user was playing as Gromit, whose disembodied hands manipulated a control panel according to Wallace’s instructions.
Despite the importance of interactivity, which helps the player feel involved in what is happening, the team insisted that “the story is still king”. While plot details have been kept under wraps, we were told the experience will likely last an hour or more. There’s a distribution imperative here: Users now expect at least 40 to 45 minutes of gameplay from paid VR experiences, the team explained. They added that the story will be structured in chapters and users will possibly be instructed to take breaks at certain points.
The presentation walked us through the production process, from conventional storyboards, which help establish a sense of composition and choreography, to greyboxing, asset creation, and user testing. The clay models will be scanned to serve as the basis for the in-game models, and the animation will mimic the franchise’s signature stop motion, with some animating two by two or even three by three.
The experience will launch in 2023.
Alex Dudok de Wit is a veteran animation journalist who was previously an associate editor at Cartoon Brew. his first book BFI Film Classics: Grave of the Fireflies was published by Bloomsbury in 2021, and its translation of Hayao Miyazaki’s graphic novel Shun’s journey by First Second will be published this November.