News

12 Exciting International Animated Films To Watch Out For

The prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival went online this year, showcasing stunning films and works in progress from all over the world.

by | July 7, 2020 | Comments

Falling in line with most other live events this year, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival — the most prestigious gathering dedicated entirely to the wide-ranging medium — was forced to go online. Though nothing can replace the energy of a festival attended in person, the silver lining was that fans and industry professionals had the opportunity to watch the majority of the films in competition and multiple panels, all of which would have taken place in the festival’s namesake French city, from anywhere the world.

This year, Annecy’s two feature film competitions, L’officielle and Contrechamp, as well as its Work In Progress selection, featured a mix of new projects from prominent directors and productions from regions that are rarely present on such an international stage. The dozen movies we’ve chosen to highlight in this list, most of which will be released in upcoming months, remind us how animation can tell stories in all genres and express complex historical, political, and philosophical themes as deftly and insightfully as live action does.


Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary (France, Denmark)

Calamity
(Photo by Gebeka Films)

Legendary frontierswoman Calamity Jane, who didn’t abide by any restrictive 19th century gender norms, comes to life in French director Rémi Chayé’s stirring new movie, which pieces together a riveting Western from episodes of her defiant childhood wandering, working hard, and asserting her freedom. As seen in his previous effort, Long Way North, Chayé is fond of producing 2D animation with a simple graphic style, both in character design and backgrounds, and brightly saturated colors. The wide-open land of the Wild West functions as a stunning backdrop for this reimagining of the strong-willed, American heroine, enhanced by Florencia Di Concilio’s country-inspired score.

Chayé’s Long Way North is available on VOD here: FandangoNOW, Vudu, Amazon, Google PlayiTunes


Inu-Oh (Japan, China)

Inu-On Poster
(Photo by GKIDS)

Continuing his prolific streak, visionary Japanese filmmaker and animator Masaaki Yuasa is currently in production on a new work set in 14th century Kyoto grounded on the classical dramatic art of Noh and biwa (lute) performances, which began during the Genpei War to honor fallen soldiers. The eponymous protagonist, Inu-Oh, is a skilled Noh performer who befriends Tomona, a blind biwa priest, and together they achieve the type of massive stardom equivalent to what we are familiar with in today’s pop culture. Manga author Taiyō Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet) serves as character designer to provide a singular aesthetic to this historical epic. (Presented as a Work In Progress)

GKIDS will release the Inu-Oh in the U.S. in 2021. Earlier this year, GKIDS released Yuasa’s most recent movie, Ride Your Wave.


The Island (Romania, France, Belgium)

The Island
(Photo by Aparte Film)

Romanian director Anca Damian reinterprets the classic fable of Robinson Crusoe to discuss the refugee crisis facing Europe today in a surrealist animated project that also happens to be a musical. Ambitious on all fronts, The Island takes place in a futuristic world where augmented reality allows Robinson to interact with his surroundings on a more profound level. Rather than a paper diary, a tablet becomes his preferred instrument. Mutant animals and eccentric characters, whose movements were based on a professional dancer’s choreography, will surely make for a visual treat, anchored by a topical message. (Presented as a Work In Progress)

Damian’s most recent completed film Marona’s Fantastic Tale was just released in the U.S. on June 12 by GKIDS.


Jungle Beat: The Movie (2020) (Mauritius)

Jungle Beat
(Photo by ©Timeless Films)

Produced entirely by Sandcastle Studios on the African island nation of Mauritius and South Africa’s Sunrise Productions, this CG escapade puts a sci-fi twist on the talking-animal trope. Originally on Earth to conquer the planet, a young alien, Fneep, begins to feels homesick and enlists the help of the jungle’s fauna, including a vivacious monkey, a grumpy hedgehog, and a kind-hearted elephant, to return to his family. Adapted from the television series of the same name, which was broadcast in over 200 countries around the world, Sandcastle’s first animated feature showcases impressive production value throughout.

Available now on: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes


Kill It and Leave this Town (Poland)

Kill It and Leave This Town
(Photo by Bombonierka)

Polish artist and animator Mariusz Wilczynski lets the audience into his subconscious through hand-drawn hallucinations. Melancholic childhood memories and morbid ruminations about mortality materialize as lines on paper, accompanied by a rock-infused score. Wilczynski introduces us to his parents, and in turn to himself as well, at different stages in their lives and constructs an abstract portrait of a family that’s as striking as it is bizarre. Lo-fi in the most masterful way and idiosyncratic to a fault in how it interprets the human condition (with all its cruelty and tenderness), Wilczynski’s debut feature won’t soon be erased from your psyche.


The Knight and the Princess (Saudi Arabia, Egypt)

The Knight and the Princess
(Photo by Alsahar Animation)

A co-production between Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the first animated from these nations to have an international presence, this seventh century saga follows 15-year-old knight Mohammed Bin Alkassim as he embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue women and children abducted by ruthless pirates. Blending 2D and 3D techniques, the team behind the film achieved a look that calls to mind classic Disney movies, even more so because of its use of memorable songs. Furthermore, the villain sidekicks, two clumsy djinns, will surely remind viewers of Pain and Panic from Hercules. It’s a culturally specific production with wide appeal.


Lupin III: The First (Japan)

Lupin III: The First
(Photo by GKIDS)

Created in 1967 by manga artist Kazuhiko Katō (A.K.A. Monkey Punch), Lupin III is an astute thief descended from French writer Maurice Leblanc’s fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, and his globetrotting adventures have been explored over multiple TV series and films, including Hayao Miyazaki’s 1979 directorial debut The Castle of Cagliostro. Now, over 50 years after its first appearance, the franchise evolves for a CG installment by writer-director Takashi Yamazaki. This time, the likable criminal and his dexterous accomplices must hunt down an enigmatic diary that could potentially resurrect the Third Reich if it were to fall into the wrong hands. Faced with the challenge of working with such a well-known property, Yamazaki embraces the 3D aesthetic to make it his own.

GKIDS will release the film in the U.S. later this year.


My Love Affair with Marriage (Latvia, USA)

Test animation still from My Love Affair with Marriage
(Photo by signebaumane.com)

After tackling mental health in her debut feature Rocks in My Pockets, Latvia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014, animator Signe Baumane examines the neurochemistry of love and the unjust societal standards imposed on women. Through sharp observations and two dozen songs, viewers will get to witness the introspective journey of Zelma, a young woman searching for a romantic partner in Soviet times. To attain her singular style, Baumane and her small team constructed physical sets similar to those used in stop-motion animation and photographed them. She then animated the 2D characters on paper before sending them to be colored in Riga, the Latvian capital. The final result is marvelous. (Presented as a Work In Progress)

Baumane’s Rocks in My Pockets is available on VOD here: iTunesVimeo


Nahuel and the Magic Book (Chile, Brazil)

Nahuel and the Magic Book
(Photo by Carburadores)

Latin American animation has grown in quality and international prominence over the last decade, and this Chilean adventure from director German Acuña is one of the most accomplished features to come out of the region to date. Inspired by legends from the Mapuche indigenous people, it follows Nahuel, a boy who’s afraid of the sea until he comes across a magical book and must rescue his father from a malevolent wizard. Impressive action sequences and polished rural backgrounds resembling those in Studio Ghibli’s catalogue enrich this family-oriented story populated with fantastical creatures.


The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks (Russia)

The Nose or Conspiracy of Mavericks
(Photo by Annecy International Animation Film Festival)

Part offbeat opera about a man whose nose leaves his body to become a powerful figure in 19th century St. Petersburg, and part satirical examination of how Stalin’s murderous regime imposed creative restrictions on music and art. Using a variety of mediums, from watercolors to cutouts on glass, veteran Russian director Andrey Khrzhanovskiy harnesses Nikolai Gogol’s surrealist short story The Nose and Dmitri Shostakovich’s adaption of that same work for the stage into an endlessly inventive and biting political satire. Anachronistic references, a nod to Battleship Potemkin, and live-action snippets that provide insight into the making of the film complete a dazzling package.


True North (Japan, Indonesia)

True North
(Photo by SUMIMASEN)

This computer-animated drama from Japanese director Eiji Han Shimizu captures the brutal conditions inside a North Korean prison camp. Our guide into this harsh underworld is 9-year-old Yo-han, who was sent there with his immediate family after his father’s disappearance. Through this young boy’s eyes we witness the worst and the best of humanity. Proving once again that the medium can do more than children’s content, the animation here helps the subject matter leave a strong emotional mark and enables the filmmaker to access an unseen reality. Simultaneously, we root for the hero’s escape and mourn for all the loss and tragedy he’s endured.


Wolfwalkers (Ireland, Luxembourg)

Wolfwalkers
(Photo by Cartoon Saloon)

Two-time Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea) returns with a new Irish wonder based on Celtic folklore. Co-directed by Ross Stewart, the upcoming hand-crafted vision unfolds in 17th century Kilkenny, the same town where their studio Cartoon Saloon is located, and brings to life the legend of the wolfwalkers, people with the ability to leave their bodies at night and experience the world as wolves. Breathtaking animation draws us in to the friendship between Robyn, the daughter of a hunter bent on taming the land, and Mebh, a ferocious little girl who lives in the forest, and how the former rediscovers the wildness within her.  Don’t be surprised if Wolfwalkers lands Moore a third Academy Award nod. (Presented as a Work In Progress)

Apple TV+ will release the film globally later this year.

Tag Cloud

Certified Fresh video crime 45 President Apple theme song Song of Ice and Fire composers universal monsters DC Universe Disney Plus children's TV reboot TLC Country Baby Yoda Teen MCU cancelled television Calendar Paramount cancelled TV shows reviews Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Film Festival ABC Family Tubi comedies Ellie Kemper stop motion Mudbound Tumblr travel golden globes Bravo Character Guide Amazon Prime Video First Reviews films Film Awards Tour dragons anthology Sundance TV FXX crime drama Mindy Kaling Emmy Nominations YouTube Extras Discovery Channel Pirates VICE Super Bowl Amazon twilight TIFF talk show binge Comedy First Look zero dark thirty Hallmark Christmas movies die hard Fox News Heroines boxoffice X-Men mockumentary National Geographic TCM Epix Chernobyl El Rey AMC CW Seed Pop TV Cosplay natural history Shondaland The Witch HBO Max Mary Poppins Returns quibi PaleyFest laika rotten movies we love Creative Arts Emmys supernatural OWN The Arrangement Vudu disaster A&E nbcuniversal Travel Channel Hallmark San Diego Comic-Con directors cancelled spinoff 21st Century Fox zombies TV renewals ghosts Quiz movie HBO Television Academy Cannes festivals based on movie romantic comedy Watching Series Elton John political drama WarnerMedia Black History Month SundanceTV Dark Horse Comics Tarantino Netflix Holidays A24 independent comiccon SDCC cars strong female leads slashers Warner Bros. Academy Awards Funimation Starz latino Grammys Sony Pictures Hulu ESPN breaking bad 2019 Ghostbusters Brie Larson Nominations tv talk indiana jones unscripted Sundance Masterpiece USA Star Trek Marathons Christmas name the review Box Office 20th Century Fox toy story Apple TV+ BET facebook christmas movies versus TV Land dark cartoon halloween Stephen King E! rotten screenings BBC One Mary poppins CMT canceled TV shows Best and Worst documentaries ABC Rock police drama criterion See It Skip It war Opinion Thanksgiving IFC Films Pixar Trivia science fiction Video Games VOD Acorn TV best NYCC batman Set visit anime what to watch Freeform medical drama Reality Family emmy awards Tomatazos Food Network Rom-Com dramedy finale Awards Reality Competition HBO Go Trophy Talk serial killer werewolf robots Showtime FOX technology Lionsgate Apple TV Plus critics FX on Hulu spider-man Red Carpet dogs 2018 Rocky Biopics cats fast and furious Writers Guild of America Sundance Now The CW mission: impossible RT History Anna Paquin DGA nature Columbia Pictures 2020 stand-up comedy Marvel Television harry potter mutant GoT blaxploitation Fantasy discovery Polls and Games ITV jamie lee curtis sitcom CNN 4/20 Trailer Syfy GLAAD game of thrones Pop docudrama Winter TV cancelled TV series a nightmare on elm street TCA 2017 scary movies Walt Disney Pictures 2016 Comics on TV Disney Channel Western TCA Winter 2020 Winners APB cinemax Horror NBC zombie Turner Classic Movies comics BAFTA Britbox television Spring TV superhero Hear Us Out book indie YA Valentine's Day dceu Countdown green book Netflix Christmas movies Spectrum Originals 71st Emmy Awards award winner E3 asian-american all-time YouTube Premium space Esquire Sci-Fi cooking Marvel movies TBS RT21 Women's History Month TruTV Adult Swim revenge franchise The Walking Dead Drama 2017 canceled Holiday Cartoon Network hist Comedy Central Ovation vampires DirecTV sag awards Interview doctor who History Shudder LGBTQ Disney streaming service cults WGN child's play Television Critics Association crime thriller Lifetime spy thriller period drama American Society of Cinematographers The Purge Amazon Prime adventure free movies CBS All Access Lucasfilm Election screen actors guild Fall TV Peacock Marvel Studios foreign satire Classic Film singing competition MSNBC documentary transformers Crunchyroll historical drama Action romance PlayStation obituary GIFs aliens Amazon Studios Sneak Peek hispanic Star Wars Pet Sematary news DC Comics classics Disney Podcast Black Mirror social media spain sports Nickelodeon Rocketman Schedule dc Logo ratings Pride Month IFC series witnail LGBT elevated horror Kids & Family richard e. Grant DC streaming service TV SXSW 24 frames Mary Tyler Moore Mystery FX MTV true crime spanish language 007 adaptation diversity thriller CBS TCA Emmys Music teaser casting Summer biography blockbuster New York Comic Con Photos hollywood concert Binge Guide Captain marvel Disney+ Disney Plus Musical Universal PBS BBC Animation 72 Emmy Awards Year in Review VH1 Oscars Lifetime Christmas movies TCA Awards chucky BET Awards worst comic justice league crossover game show Superheroes Spike stoner cops south america Nat Geo psychological thriller sequels Crackle parents Comic Book Arrowverse 2015 video on demand Premiere Dates YouTube Red politics Endgame Infographic sequel joker TNT miniseries Superheroe Turner renewed TV shows psycho Musicals Chilling Adventures of Sabrina USA Network BBC America Toys Avengers Martial Arts streaming Paramount Network OneApp animated kids