ASIFA and the International Animation Film Festivals
History of a strong partnership and future perspectives
THE FIRST ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD
ASIFA, the International Animated Film Association (Association Internationale du Film d'Animation), from its inception, has had a strong connection to international festivals dedicated to animated film. Looking back to the beginning of our organization, we understand, that the birth of ASIFA and the first worldwide animation festival in Annecy are closely connected to each other.
ASIFA was founded in 1961 by some of the most important artists in animation of that time,
including the first ASIFA President Norman McLaren (Canada). The forming of ASIFA intended to give more attention to the artform of animated film, which existed even before the beginning of live-action films and was instrumental in the development of a strong cinematic culture throughout the world. Due to the significant growth of independent animated film in the time of the 1950s, the need for animation specific presentations became more pressing. The film festival in Cannes had started to show special programs of animated short films. It was based on this idea that the first international animated film festival in Annecy was born. ASIFA was closely connected with the organization of the first Annecy festival, the ASIFA Board Members were the honorable guests and their comments and advices were respected by the festival. In attendance were John Halas (UK), Fyodor Khitruk (Russia), Marcel Jankovic (Hungary), Paul Grimault (Belgium) and others.
ASIFA, in these times before internet, also played an important role in promoting the festival worldwide through its international members and the first printed magazine about animation. From 1961-1966 it was published in Paris by Pierre Barbin, entitled “Bulletin trimestriel de liaison de l'ASIFA”, all articles were in the three languages French, English, and Russian.
ASIFA FESTIVALS AS BRIDGE BETWEEN EAST AND WEST IN THE TIMES OF COLD WAR
Soon after the foundation of the Annecy Festival, the first ASIFA supported Animated Film Festival in East Europe opened its doors. In 1966 the Mamaia Filmfestival in Romania had its first edition, but due to the lack of financial support had to close after its third edition in 1970.
ASIFA then also played a key role for the worldwide second 'big' international animation film, which continues to operate successfully today. In 1972, the Zagreb Animation Festival was founded as a bi-annual festival taking place alternatively with the Annecy Festival. For the animation artists, the prizes to receive at both festivals were of outstanding importance. For the audience, journalists, filmmakers and students these two were the most important events at which to meet other animators and to see the newest high-quality animation films. Zagreb and Annecy in that way symbolized the spirit of ASIFA to connect East and West in times of Cold War.
In the spirit of partnership and reciprocal support, these first two animation festivals followed the basic ASIFA Festival Rules and ASIFA granted its so-called “Festival Patronage” to both festivals. The key elements of these rules were these: International Animation Festivals should take place bi-annually (regarding the at time still rather small amount of high quality animation a good decision for allowing strong programs), there should be only one ASIFA Patronized Animation Festival on each continent of the world in the same year (which had a downside: that really good festivals like the one in Stuttgart could not officially be included in the “ASIFA family” when it was founded in 1982), but generally these rules in the early times of independent animation certainly supported the growth of the world leading animation festivals, who regarded it to be an important honor and to be an “ASIFA Festival”.
The ASIFA festival rules also protected the filmmakers. ASIFA did not allow any entry fees, and when films were invited to competition programs, the filmmakers had to be offered festival accreditations, hotel rooms, and sometimes even meals. The festivals had to guarantee best screening conditions and careful handling and return of the 16- or 35-mm film prints, and ASIFA provided support and advocacy to the filmmaker in the case of any troubles with the festivals.
HIROSHIMA, OTTÀWA, VARNA, ESPINHO, HOLLYWOOD
MORE ASIFA FESTIVALS ON DIFFERENT CONTINENTS TO FOLLOW
After the establishment of Annecy and Zagreb, the need for animation festivals grew and more ASIFA patronized bi-annual international animation festivals were founded on other continents. ASIFA Festivals were organized in 1975 in Ottawa, Canada, in 1979 in Varna, Bulgaria, and in 1985 in Hiroshima, Japan.
The Varna Animation Festival had to close in 1989 after 5 successful bi-annual editions. The festivals in Ottawa and Hiroshima continue to be strong partners of ASIFA today, offering discounts on passes to ASIFA members and continuing to offer free entry, accreditation, and accommodation support for filmmakers in competition. The very special support offered by the Hiroshima Festival for the international ASIFA has to be mentioned particularly. Today this festival follows the ASIFA tradition of its first decades, when it still offers festival accreditations and hotel accommodations to ASIFA Board Members and space for ASIFA Board Meetings and ASIFA General Assemblies and in this way strongly supports the organizational needs of ASIFA.
Other festivals, while not specifically designated as ASIFA Festivals, continue to be supportive and welcoming to voluntarily offering the recommended benefits to filmmakers and supporting ASIFA with their programming. The CINANIMA Festival in Espinho, Portugal was founded in 1977 as an annual festival, and often supports ASIFA activities with invitations, space for meetings. The Xiamen Animation Festival in China and the SICAF Animation Festival in South Korea belong to the increasing group of festivals supporting ASIFA in a similar way.
One additional event on the animation world stage must be mentioned: ASIFA Hollywood's Annie Awards. Established in1972 by famed voice actor June Foray, the awards honor the animation industry’s biggest and brightest stars. The Annie Awards have grown into a much anticipated annual event, bestowing awards in over 30 categories of animation production and achievement.
STUTTGART, HOLLAND, FANTOCHE, ANIMATEKA, ANIMATOR POZNAN, GLAS BERKELEY, ANIM'EST, ANIMATED DREAMS, ENCOUNTERS BRISTOL, ANIFILM, FESTANCA, ETC., ETC.
ANIMATION FESTIVAL SCENE TODAY
In addition to the notable “ASIFA Festivals” previously mentioned, other international animation festivals also played a role in the flourishing of independent animation from the early decades of ASIFA's existence. Many of these festivals maintain their reputation for quality programming and intellectual contribution to the art of animation.
Among those of not are: International Trickfilmfestival in Stuttgart, Germany, founded in 1982, the Holland Animation Festival, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, founded in 1985, ANIMA MUNDI held in both in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, Brazil, founded in 1993, and FANTOCHE, in Baden, Switzerland, founded in 1995. From the 1990s onward, we have seen a boom of animation festivals joining the international animation festival scene and filmmakers have a plethora of choices to exhibit their films and connect professionally with others. ASIFA is committed to continuing its good relations with the established “ASIFA Festivals”, while continuing to support other quality festivals that bring the art of animation to the far reaches of the globe. In an age of easy digital access to media, the film festival still plays an essential role of providing a physical place to take in concentrated inspiration from new animation films shown in their highest quality with a large audience. But perhaps equally important is the lasting friendships between animators and professional connections that can only occur with face to face interactions. With this in mind, ASIFA will continue to promote and support quality animation festivals far into the future.