An Adventure at Annecy - by Third Year Animator Haydn Spencer

Graduate Haydn Spencer visits Annecy International Animated Film Festival

I discovered the existence of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 2015, when some of my online friends had attended it. When they shared their experience on Facebook, I knew I had to go some day.

As I finished the second year of my animation course I felt this would be the best time for me to visit. So I planned my journey, got advice on what to see, how to get around and made my way.

Annecy International Animated Film Festival

Annecy is a really nice city. The main building that the Festival was hosted at Théâtre Bonlieu is just across the road from the huge open air screening, the lake and a view across to the mountain range. I was stunned by how the mountains loomed in the distance everywhere I went and everyone just went about their business. Since Norwich doesn’t have a mountain range, I was just in awe of them. There are also a lot of colourful buildings with grand architecture, large comfy cinema theatres and startlingly blue water.

Having never been before, and being unaware of Annecy Festival traditions, I was surprised by the amount of paper planes being thrown while the cinemas filled up. It was a completely different experience to going to the cinema any other day, and I found it hard time adjusting when I returned to England and no one was throwing paper planes and the like.The experience at Annecy was very informative, and helped develop my ideas on my practice, which is extremely useful as I enter my third year.

Annecy Animation Festival


NEW CREATIVE CONTEXTS: A shared talk with Jean-Baptiste Spieser of Teamto and Tom Box of Blue-Zoo about current and upcoming things in the industry. The Teamto talk was about the production pipeline and how it can change radically depending on productions. The Blue Zoo talk was also quite interesting as it explained how they built and overhauled their render farm, as well as how they collaborate creatively within their studio.

The Art of Visual Storytelling with WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS: The two speakers were Nathan Engelhardt, an animation supervisor, and story artist Lissa Treiman (who had, coincidentally, illustrated the first few issues that got me hooked to the comic GIANT DAYS). This was a massively helpful talk, very much worth the wait. The two speakers talked about how to make good shots great, through the positioning of cameras to the two cores of 'greatness' in animation – truth and entertainment.

VIRTUAL REALITY is the future: Google Spotlight Stories had a VR station set up with new videos daily. I managed to catch the session on Thursday which presented a preview of SON OF JAGUAR (dir. Jorge Gutierrez) and ARDEN'S WAKE: PROLOGUE (dir. Eugene Chung, Jimmy Maidens). I had never understood the true potential of VR in animation until after watching these, so much so that after I'd watched them I wandered around Annecy in a daze. Arden's Wake was especially mind blowing, as you could actually walk into the setting and see it from all angles. This has made me want to experiment with VR in my own practice.

Annecy International Animated Film Festival


THE PEANUTS MOVIE (outdoor screening): Having seen this movie before in English, I was surprised at how easy to understand it was in French. The broad animation style of the movie definitely helped.

DESPICABLE ME 3: This is the first world premiere I have ever been to, and the atmosphere was wonderful. This was without a doubt one of the most active audiences I have ever been in. Whenever a joke hit, there would be a wave of laughter and applause, when one of the characters did something cute, there was a collective 'awww', even the applause at the end of the film ended up slipping into the same beat as the music of the credits.


CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: I never read that many Captain Underpants books when I was younger, so I was pleasantly surprised with how funny this was. Much like The Peanuts Movie, it managed to capture the style of its source really well, whilst still giving it their own flair.

ZOMBILLENIUM: An adaptation of a French graphic novel. Before the film began, the crew were on stage and threw production caps into the audience. The film was very stylish, with bold colours and shapes for the characters and making the CG look 2D.


SHORTS: I caught several showings of graduation shorts and shorts in competition. I was amazed by the diversity of shorts on display, showing the talents from animators of all walk-cycles of life. Shorts that stood out to me were the following...

Wednesday with Goddard (dir. Nicolas Menard, Canadian/UK) – a humorous and existential journey as a man tries to find answers to whether or not God exists -

Double King Felix Cosgrove

Double King (dir. Felix Colgrave, Australia) – there is something in seeing this on a big screen that makes it all that more fun -

Nachthexen (dir. Julie Herdichek Baltzer, Denmark) – A documentary short about the Nachthexen of WW2, animated in the style of Soviet posters -

The Burden (dir. Niki Lindroth Von Bahr, Sweden) – A musical stop motion based around anthropomorphic animals who are stuck in an anxious and existential space in their lives. Won this year's Cristal for a Short Film award -

Casino (dir. Steven Woloshen, Canada) – A musical, energetic drawn-on-film animation capturing the frenetic energy of a casino -

Annecy Animation Festival


1. Take care of yourself: In the height of summer in the south-east of France, Annecy is hot. But when you are standing, walking, waiting and surrounded by other people who are also hot, the heat becomes unbearable (so much so that my watch had condensation on it at several points). Drink lots of water, try to keep in the shade when waiting outside, remember to eat.

2. Learn key phrases in France: This is something I'm going to try and pick up should I go again. I used to know quite a bit of French, but having forgot most of it, struggled at points of my visit. A lot of the hosts are bilingual should you have any questions, but knowing the sound of general phrases and what they mean is helpful in a pinch.

3. Beat the crowd: The Festival's 'first come first seated' events will fill up fast, and the queues for the screening events might result in you not getting in if you don't book a place during ticketing. The 'first come first serve' events that I missed were with popular big names, such as a talk with Guillermo del Toro and another with the creators of The Amazing World of Gumball and Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, which I am still kicking myself over, so be sure to arrive early for those.

4. Patience is a virtue: The queueing process at Annecy is quite arduous, but the wait is always worth it. I got into the talk with Walt Disney Animation Studios by waiting two hours earlier. It pays off very much.

5. Be tactical: Annecy is a big festival in a big city. Events conflict and travel times might be longer than you expect if you are travelling by foot or if you need to retrace your steps. When it comes down to seeing a mainstream film or a studio focus talk, choose which one would be a more informative experience. This links in well with taking care of yourself too. If you haven't eaten or drank anything for a while and you are thinking of joining a queue for something that needs you to wait for an hour and a half in the sun, it's better to take care of yourself first and foremost.

6. If you can, go in a group: Not only will this be a 'strength in numbers' type deal, where you can book into the same events and wait together in the queue and tap out should you need to get food, but this experience is one to share if you are enthusiastic about animation and the like.

7. Don't be afraid to try: I hate plane travel. I knew very limited French. I have the worst sense of direction in the world at times. But I went to Annecy regardless of these things and actually had a brilliant time.

Haydn Spencer

Haydn Spencer is a Third Year Animator specialising in CG Animation

See more of Haydn's work: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Vimeo

Find out more about Annecy Animation Festival