Jeff Rowe

Jeff Rowe is the writer and co-director of Sony Pictures Animation’s original feature comedy “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” with Michael Rianda.

Rowe graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 2011. He was employed by animation studios Film Roman, Bento Box Entertainment, and Rubicon Holding Group before serving as a writer for Disney Television Animation’s, “Gravity Falls,” for which he was nominated for two Annie Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production. Rowe also wrote for the Matt Groening Netflix series, “Disenchantment.”

Rowe grew up in Chicago and currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and an amazing cat.

Myke Chilian

Myke Chilian is a Los Angeles based animator, storyboard artist, writer, voice actor, and musician. He is the creator and executive producer of the HBO Max series, Tig n’ Seek, which is produced by Cartoon Network Studios.

Chilian has previously written and storyboarded for Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa and helped establish the look for Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. In addition to working in animation, Chilian plays the electric accordion with his alt-punk band, The Manx. He also loves his little cat, Miso!

Dan Krall

Dan Krall is an Emmy® and Annie award-winning artist, producer, and art director with over 25 years’ experience in the animation industry. He currently serves as Consulting Producer on Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, the upcoming animated series produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Television and coming soon to HBO Max. Prior credits include popular titles such as Dexter’s LaboratoryThe Powerpuff GirlsSamurai Jack, Chowder, Coraline, and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Krall is also a published children’s book author and Illustrator.

Ramin Zahed

Ramin Zahed is an LA-based author and journalist who specializes in animation, visual effects, pop culture and indie films. He is the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine and has written for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, Sight and Sound and others. Among his recent books are The Art of The Mitchells vs. the Machines, The Art of Vivo, The Art of Love, Death + Robots, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Art of the Movie and The Art of Klaus.

Raye Rodriguez

Raye Rodriguez is the Creator and Executive Producer of the upcoming Crunchyroll Original series High Guardian Spice. Raye graduated from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Rodriguez began his career as a director, storyboard artist and character designer at Fox Animation Domination High-Definition (Fox ADHD). He served as a Character Designer at PUNY Entertainment on DANGER & EGGS for Amazon Studios, and as a Storyboard Artist at Sprite Animation on TINPO for Cbeebies.

Ray Pride

Ray Pride is the longtime film critic of Chicago’s Newcity arts monthly and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine. His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in 2022.

Erick Oh

Erick Oh is an Oscar nominated Korean filmmaker based in California, USA.

His films have been introduced and awarded at numerous film festivals including Academy Awards®, Annie Awards, Annecy Animation Festival, Zagreb Film Festival, SIGGRAPH, Anima Mundi and more. Erick became an animator at Pixar Animation Studios from 2010 to 2016.

Erick’s latest film OPERA was nominated for the Oscar and his upcoming project NAMOO premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

Sandra Equihua

Born in Tijuana B.C., Sandra Equihua graduated from IBERO university with a bachelors in Graphic Design. She has had the opportunity to work as a graphic designer, illustrator and a character designer next to her husband, Jorge Gutierrez, in companies such as WB, Disney, Nick JR, and Nickelodeon. Both created the animated series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. It was thanks to this series that Equihua was awarded an Emmy. Equihua continues her career working as a character designer for the animated movie The Book of Life.

She is currently working for NETFLIX on the animated series Maya and the Three.

Kristin Lowe

Kristin Lowe

 Kristin Lowe is Chief Creative Officer, Features for DreamWorks Animation.  In this role, Lowe oversees feature development, casting and artistic management for the studio’s renowned feature film division. DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming 2022 feature slate includes The Bad Guys, an original film based on the best-selling books, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the sequel to the 2011 Oscar®-nominated blockbuster. Recently released films include The Boss Baby: Family Business, the sequel to the 2017 Oscar®-nominated blockbuster comedy, the epic adventure Spirit Untamed, the colorful, glitter-filled Trolls World Tour, and audience favorite and award-nominated The Croods: A New Age.

Lowe previously served as Executive Vice President, Production at Universal Pictures where during her 14 year tenure she oversaw production on numerous Universal box-office successes including Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Night School, Unbroken, The Break Up and the Fifty Shades trilogy which grossed more than $1 billion globally. Prior to Universal, she held positions at Warner Bros. Pictures, MGM and the Michael Bay Company.  She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lowe is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Deborah Cook

Originally from England, Deborah Cook has designed and built costumes for every LAIKA film. Her designs for Kubo and the Two Strings won a nomination for Excellence in Fantasy Film by the Costume Designers Guild, and she received a Visual Effects Society nomination for Coraline. Detailed, in-depth research, innovation in small-scale fabric technology and expertise in engineered fabric movement has made Deborah the principal stop-motion costume designer. Other film credits include The Corpse Bride and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Jared Bush

JARED BUSH (Director/Writer) was previously co-director and screenwriter on the Oscar®-winning feature “Zootopia” as well as screenwriter for the Oscar-nominated “Moana” and executive producer on “Raya and the Last Dragon.” He was also co-creator, executive producer, and writer for Disney XD’s animated comedy adventure series “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero.”

Bush, who began his career as a script reader for Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis, worked as a staff writer on the series “Baby Bob,” starring Adam Arkin and Elliott Gould. Bush added producing to his repertoire, serving as executive story editor and co-producer of Will Smith’s series “All of Us.” Bush has developed original television series for Revolution Studios, Fox and NBC, and feature film projects for New Line Cinema, Columbia/Tristar and 20th Century Fox.  

A Harvard University graduate with a degree in English and American literature, Bush is an avid traveler who has visited forty countries on six continents and an accomplished trombone player who has played with several jazz bands over the years. Bush currently resides in Los Angeles, Calif., with his college sweetheart and three sons.

Takayuki Hirao

Kenji Nagasaki

Born February 12, 1979 and raised in Osaka. After some time as a production assistant and episode director, he made a splash with Mobile Suit Gundam 00 as an episode director and storyboardist, as well as the series’ assistant director. Since his directorial debut with No. 6 in 2011, he has not only continued his work in episode direction and storyboards but also produced a steady stream of work as a director. Other shows he has directed include Gundam Build Fighters (2013), Classroom Crisis (2015), etc.

Carlos López Estrada

CARLOS LÓPEZ ESTRADA (Director, Story by) joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in late spring 2019. He is a member of the Studios’ story trust, and, in addition to directing “Raya and the Last Dragon,” is currently directing his next as-yet unannounced feature film with the Studio.

López Estrada’s debut film, “Blindspotting,” premiered on opening night at Sundance 2018 and subsequently sold to Lionsgate for a theatrical release. The film was produced by Snoot Entertainment and starred Daveed Diggs. López Estrada was selected for Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” 2018 list and was nominated by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for outstanding directorial achievement of a first-me feature film director for 2018. His second film, “Summertime,” premiered on opening night of Sundance 2020.

On the TV side, López Estrada directed an episode of FX’s “Legion” and has an original piece in development at UCP.

López Estrada is also a prolific music video/commercial director and a founding partner of the multi-disciplined production studio Little Ugly. He’s won a Latin GRAMMY® for an animated video he directed for artists Jesse & Joy, which established him as the youngest director to win a Latin GRAMMY to date. He’s worked with musicians such as Billie Eilish, Father John Misty, Thundercat and Flying Lotus, Carly Rae Jepsen, Capital Cities, Clipping and Passion Pit.

López Estrada lives in Los Angeles, Calif., with his dog Cous and a large family of plants. 

Don Hall

DON HALL (Director, Story by) began his career at Walt Disney Animation Studios in June 1995 as a story apprentice on “Tarzan.” He served as a story arst on several development projects and produtions, including “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Chicken Little,” before becoming head of story for “Meet the Robinsons” and “The Princess and the Frog.”

Hall made his directorial debut for Disney Animation’s 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” and went on to direct “Big Hero 6,” which won an Academy Award® for best animated feature film. He then served as co-director on “Moana.” He is the creator of the upcoming Disney Animation/Disney Plus animated series, “Baymax,” and is currently directing his next as-yet unannounced feature film for Disney Animation.

Hall graduated with a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Iowa and a BFA in character animation from California Instute of the Arts. After graduating from CalArts, he returned to the campus as an instructor in advanced story development.

Hall is a nave of Glenwood, Iowa, and currently resides in Pasadena with his wife and two children.

Haipeng Sun

Haipeng Sun was born in 1979 in Wuhan, China. Graduated from Wuhan Art College and awarded First Prize for Excellent Domestic Animation Works Of 2014 by National Press Publications Broadcasting And TV Office in China.

Short film Super Bao awarded Prize DigiCon6 by “The 12TH Tokyo TBS”, Animated Short Film Awards by“The 15th Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival (SICAF 2011)”, The Best Cartoon and Animation Awards by “Indian Cine Film Festival 2014”, The Most Popular Online Animation Works by “CNTV China’s Online Video Ceremony”, and selected as collection by MOMA Art Collection.

TV Series Kung Food nominated Award Of The Best 3D Animation by “The 20th Asia TV Festival”, The Best Chinese Animation Award by “The 20th Shanghai TV Festival The Magnolia Award”.

Film Kung Food selected by Contrechamp Award(2019) at the 29th Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

Brandon Jeffords

Brandon Jeffords is co-directing, along with director Kirk DeMicco, Sony Pictures Animation’s original animated musical “Vivo,” which features brand new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative force behind the Broadway smash “Hamilton.”

Jeffords previously served as the head of story on Sony Pictures Animation’s fully CG animated Smurfs reboot “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” Before that, Jeffords worked on “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” where he also served as the head of story. Among other projects, Jeffords also served as a storyboard artist on Sony Pictures Animation’s “Open Season 2” and “Open Season 3.”

Before becoming a story artist for Sony Pictures Animation, Jeffords worked as a storyboard artist at Nickelodeon Animation Studios on the hit TV series, “Kung Fu Panda: The Legend of Awesomeness.” He also served as a storyboard artist on “The Looney Tunes Show.”

Jeffords began his animation career at Reel FX within the art department as a concept artist. While at Reel FX, Jeffords worked on various commercials, TV movies, and an animated series. This experience paved the way for his career in the film industry as a storyboard artist.

Jeffords is a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in Illustration.

Kirk DeMicco

Kirk DeMicco is directing, along with co-director Brandon Jeffords, Sony Pictures Animation’s original animated musical “Vivo,” which features brand new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative force behind the Broadway smash “Hamilton.”

In 2017, Kirk was a creative consultant on Sony Pictures Animation’s “The Star.”

Prior to joining Sony Pictures Animation, Kirk wrote and co-directed DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods,” which was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. He made his directorial debut in 2008 with VanGuard Animation’s “Space Chimps,” which he also wrote.

In addition to many writing credits in both TV and film, Kirk has been fortunate enough to adapt the work of many of his writing heroes such as: Roald Dahl, Jack Kirby and Elmore Leonard, and had the great opportunity to co-write two scripts with comedy legend John Cleese.

Kirk was born and raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey and attended University of Southern California where he graduated in 1991 with a degree in economics and political science. He then spent three years in Italy as a journalist for an Italian film-business magazine before moving back to the United States to work for the William Morris Agency in New York City and Los Angeles.

Michael Rianda

Michael Rianda is the writer and director of Sony Pictures Animation’s original feature comedy “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” a very personal project inspired by his own delightfully crazy family, and a childhood infatuation with robots. 

Rianda was born in Salinas, California in 1984. He faced a hard truth when he was 11 years old: he was a loser that wore sweatpants every day. To try to escape the mockery of his classmates, he began trying to exploit his only two marginal skills: making bad jokes and drawing. The other children still found him to be a loser, but one that drew and said amusing things, and was thus deemed acceptable. This path led him to the California Institute of the Arts where he studied character animation from 2007-2010 and made the short films, “Everybody Dies in 90 Seconds” and “Work.” He has since been employed by Pixar Animation Studios and JibJab, taught at CalArts, and worked at Disney Television Animation where he served as a writer and creative director for the Annie Award-winning TV show, “Gravity Falls.”

 He loves cartoons more than any grown man should.

Ari Folman

Ari Folman is an Israeli director, screenwriter, and film score composer. He has written for several successful IsraeliTV series, including the award-winning In Therapy (Be Tipul), which was the basis for the HBO series In Treatment. He is the director of the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir and The Congress.

Akihiro Nishino

Born in 1980, a comedian and picturebook author. He formed the comic duo King Kong with Yuta Kajiwara in 1999. In addition to his work as a comedian, he has authored many picturebooks and books on business strategy. He is the creator and operator of the popular online salon “Akihiro Nishino Entertainment Laboratory” (https://salon.jp/nishino), Japan’s largest premium online salon.

Yusuke Hirota

Yusuke Hirota joined STUDIO4°C in 2001. He served as the Studio’s computer graphics director first on the TV series Piroppo (2001, directed by Katsuhito Ishii), and then on many titles including The Animatrix – BEYOND (2003), Genius Party – BABY BLUE (2007), Genius Party Beyond – MOONDRIVE (2008), Berserk The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of The King, and Harmony (2015) for which he is also the co-director.

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020) is his directorial debut.

Andrea Warren

Andrea Warren joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1998, when she began as a marketing production assistant on “A Bug’s Life.” She then moved on to be an art department coordinator for the Academy Award®-winning feature, “Monsters, Inc.,” and served as a digital painter for another Academy Award-winning feature, “Finding Nemo.” Warren accepted her first managing role on the Golden Globe®-winning, “Cars,” when she acted as the art department manager. Next, Warren stepped up to production manage Academy Award-winning features, “WALL•E” and “Brave.” Warren made her producing debut with the short film, “LAVA,” and went on to co-produce the feature film “Cars 3.” She most recently served as producer on Disney and Pixar’s newest feature “Luca,” which released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021.   

Prior to Pixar, Warren interned on the Walt Disney Pictures feature, “James and the Giant Peach,” and was a web editor for JavaSoft.

Warren attended Westmont College, a liberal arts college in Santa Barbara. She grew up loving the art of story telling in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and drew early inspiration from Babar books, the Muppets and Star Wars.

Warren currently lives in Alameda, CA with her husband and two children.

Enrico Casarosa

Enrico Casarosa joined Pixar Animation Studios in January 2002.  He began as a story artist on “Cars”before moving on to work on the Academy Award®-winning feature films “Ratatouille” and “Up.” He made his directorial debut with the Academy Award®-nominated short film, “La Luna,” which screened theatrically with “Brave” in 2012. He then went on to work on “The Good Dinosaur” and the Academy Award®-winning feature “Coco.” Casarosa then turned his sights to his own feature film, directing Disney and Pixar’s “Luca,” which released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021.

Casarosa found early influences in Hayao Miyazaki’s work and grew up watching Miyazaki’s television series in Italy. Born and raised in Genoa, Casarosa moved to New York City in his twenties, to study animation at the School of Visual Arts and Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology. 

Before coming to Pixar, Casarosa worked as a storyboard artist at Blue Sky Studios on “Ice Age” and “Robots.”  He also worked as a background designer and storyboard artist for a number of Disney Channel Television Series’ including “101 Dalmatians” and “PB&J Otters.” 

Casarosa currently lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife, daughter, and three chickens.

Aurel

Aurel

Aurel is a French illustrator born in 1980. He is working as a press illustrator for the national daily Le Monde and the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné. He has also worked on numerous graphic reports for various french news- papers.

As a cartoonist, Aurel has published around twenty books, including two non-fiction comics «Clandestino» and «La Menuiserie».

In 2011, he co-directed with Florence Corre his first animated short film, «Octobre Noir» (Studio La Fabrique). Josep is his first feature film. 

Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Jonas Poher Rasmussen is a Danish/French film director born in 1981. He debuted in 2006 with the acclaimed TV documentary Something About Halfdan, followed by a series of radio documentaries from around the world. He graduated from the Danish film school Super16 in 2010.

His feature film debut Searching for Bill, a mix of documentary and fiction, won him the Nordic Dox award at CPH:DOX, and the international competition prize at DocAviv.

In November 2015 he premiered his documentary What He Did, which won the prestigious Fipresci (Int. Federation of Film Critics) at Thessaloniki Film Fest. 2016.

His new film FLEE, an animated documentary about a close friend, was officially selected for Cannes 2020, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the best doc prize at Gothenburg and the Cristal award at Annecy among others.

Masashi Ando

Florence Miailhe

Born in 1956, Florence graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Arts D coratifs with a specialization in engraving. She began her professional career as a layout artist for the press and exhibited drawings and engravings.

In 1991, she directed her first short film Hammam. Since then, she has imposed a very personal style on animated films. She makes her films with paint, pastel or sand, directly under the camera, using a covering process.

Her work has been noticed in various festivals in France and abroad. In particular, she received the C sar for the best short film in 2002 for Au premier dimanche d’ao t, a special mention at the Cannes Festival in 2006 for Conte de Quartier and in 2015 she received a Cristal d’honneur at the 39th Annecy International Animation Film Festival for her body of work. She has worked as a teacher in various animation schools: Les Gobelins, ENSAD, La Poudri re, etc. and continues to work as a visual artist in parallel with her directing.

Most of her films were written in collaboration with the writer Marie Desplechin. Their feature film The Crossing won the best screenplay award at the Festival Premiers Plans in Angers in 2010 and was the subject of an exhibition at Fontevraud Abbey. In 2017 the film received the Gan Foundation for Cinema Special Award

Anime, Mamoru Hosoda, West Coast Premiere

Belle

Mamoru Hosoda
Japan · 2021 · 121 min
Japanese with English Subtitles

From the celebrated Oscar®-nominated director Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Chizu, creator of Mirai, Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and more, comes a fantastical, beautiful and contemporary thematic story of one girl’s growth in the age of social media. Suzu is a 17-year-old high school student living in a rural village with her father. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. One day, she enters “U,” a virtual world of 5 billion members on the Internet. There, she is not Suzu anymore but Belle, a world-famous singer. She soon meets with a mysterious creature. Together, they embark on a journey of adventures, challenges and love, in their quest to become who they truly are. A GKIDS release. (GKIDS)


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French, Immigration, Migrant

The Crossing

Florence Miailhe
France, Germany, Czech Republic · 2021 · 84 min
French with English Subtitles

Forced to flee their small village, when sister and brother Kyona and Adriel are separated from their parents, they must make their way across an unkind world in the hope of being reunited. Mixing elements of fairy tale and fable with upsettingly realistic depictions of the contemporary migrant experience, the “crossing” of the title refers not just to the war-torn continent but the journey from adolescence to adulthood for its young heroes. Florence Miailhe’s feature animation debut (achieved by painting its images onto glass) is a visual and emotional wonder to behold and one of the highlights of this year’s program. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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Josep

Aurel
France, Spain, Belgium · 2020 · 71 min
French, Spanish, Catalan With English Subtitles

In his stunning, Cesar Award-winning directorial debut, French political cartoonist Aurel tells the story of Josep Bartoli, the Spanish painter, cartoonist and writer who chronicled, with unrelenting specificity, his time in French concentration camps as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. Spanning multiple decades and continents, Bartoli’s tale is told via flashback, by an aging former camp guard to his young artistic grandson, Aurel’s portrait of the legendary artist is another contribution to stories in the year’s program about the dehumanization of refugees, but also, the resurrective power of creativity and art. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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Annecy, China, Lion dance

I Am What I Am

Haipeng Sun
China · 2021 · 99 min
Chinese with English Subtitles

When we first meet Juan he (like us) is awestruck by the powerful, balletic artistry of a traditional Chinese Lion Dance troupe. It’s a dance that requires incredible concentration, strength and grace all while wearing elaborate and heavy costumes and the team who seems poised for victory is interrupted by a mysterious interloper. A chase ensues and Juan suddenly finds himself abetting their escape. Turns out the skilled new dancer is a girl also named Juan and before she disappears again she gifts him with the ornate Lion headpiece she was wearing. Juan finds purpose and determination through the encounter and rounds up his rag-tag group of friends (Cat and Dog) to form the world’s most unlikely lion dance troupe. Even more unlikely is the mentor they seek out, a once promising star in the dance world who is now living a very different life as a fishmonger. Together the group goes on the impossible mission of getting ready for the biggest competition in the country, but just when their dream seems within reach harsh reality complicates matters.

By the end of the film you will be on the edge of your seat rooting for Juan and his longshot team, ready to leap to your feet, likely not with the grace of the dancers, but with the enthusiasm for a character you’ve been cheering on the entire time. I Am What I Am adds original flair to the well-loved underdog genre and envelopes that world in impressive animation with a keen eye on light and movement. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission

Kenji Nagasaki
Japan · 2021 · 104 min
Japanese with English Subtitles

In My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission, U.A. High School students Izuku Midoriya, Shoto Todoroki, and Katsuki Bakugo face the greatest crisis in My Hero Academia history, with only two hours to save the world! During their internship with the number one Pro Hero Endeavor Agency, Deku and his new friend Rody find themselves wanted nationwide for a crime they didn’t commit.  Can Deku and his friends stop Humarise’s global plans of eliminating all Quirks?


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Luca

Enrico Casarosa · Andrea Warren
USA · 2021 · 95 min

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s original feature film “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca (voice of Jacob Tremblay) shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, Alberto (voice of Jack Dylan Grazer), but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: they are sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface. Directed by Academy Award® nominee Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”).


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Anime, Masashi Ando

The Deer King

Masashi Ando
Japan · 2021 · 114 min
Japanese with English Subtitles

In the years following a vicious war, the Empire of Zol now controls the land and citizens of rival Aquafa – except for Aquafa’s Fire Horse Territory, where wild dogs that once carried the deadly Black Wolf Fever continue to roam free. When a pack of dogs race through a Zol-controlled mine, Van, an enslaved former soldier, and a young girl named Yuna are both bitten, but manage to escape as the sole survivors of the attack. Finally free, Van and Yuna seek out a simple, peaceful existence in the countryside. But as the deadly disease once again runs rampant, they find themselves at the crossroads of a struggle much larger than any one nation.

THE DEER KING is a sweeping fantasy epic that marries timeless themes with thrilling, high stakes adventure. The film marks the directing debut of acclaimed animator Masashi Ando, whose work on such landmark films as Spirited Away, Paprika and Your Name helped shape the world of modern Japanese animation. – GKIDS


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Cannes, Sundance, Telluride

Flee

Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway · 2021 · 90 min
Danish, English, Russian, Swedish and Dari with English Subtitles

As Amin, now living in Denmark, prepares to marry his longtime boyfriend, his desire for a new, honest life forces him to reconcile his ostensibly contented present with his secretive and mysterious past. Revealed in a series of raw interviews with friend (and the film’s director), Jonas, Amin recounts having to flee the mujahideen-run Afghanistan for post-Soviet Russia before escaping again to Western Europe as a teen. This mesmerizing marriage of documentary and animation is a stunning portrait of a man’s need to reclaim his past in order to truly embrace his future.

Feted at Cannes, Telluride, and New York Film Festival, and the winner of a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Flee makes its West Coast Premiere at this year’s Animation Is Film. A NEON and Participant release. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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Anime, Ayumu Watanabe, Los Angeles Premeire

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko

Ayumu Watanabe
Japan · 2021 · 94 min
Japanese with English Subtitles

Lady Nikuko is a brash, jolly, scattered and passionate woman in an otherwise sleepy, small seaside town in northern Japan. She’s also the mom of 11-year-old Kikuko, who is her opposite in many ways. Kikuko is a stringbean of a young girl, pensive, quietly curious and methodical in how she approaches life in this sleepy, harbor town. Nikuko embarasses Kikuko as any mom of a preteen would, but Nikuko’s bold spirit makes her well-known in the town at a point when Kikuko is trying to blend in. While Kikuko actively tries to avoid the social dramas of middle school she finds herself drawn to her mysterious classmate Ninomiya. One thing that draws everyone together is the delectable, mouth-watering food at the restaurant Nikuko works at. While the two try to navigate their own distinct paths in life, a shocking revelation uproots their core connection.

Director Ayumu Watanabe’s (AIF ‘19, Children of the Sea) unique attention to detail and artistry he brings to every-day life is on full display in Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko, which is based on a popular book by author Kanako Nishi. Watanabe finds the magic and mystic in the worlds naturally occurring around us as well as the ones we create for ourselves. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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Raya and the Last Dragon

Don Hall · Carlos López Estrada
USA · 2020 · 114 min

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon travels to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together in harmony long ago. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

Raya and the Last Dragon features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as Raya, a warrior whose wit is as sharp as her blade, and Awkwafina as the magical, mythical, self-deprecating dragon named Sisu. Characters also include a street-savvy 10-year-old entrepreneur named Boun, the formidable giant Tong and a thieving toddler Noi with her band of Ongis.


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The Summit of the Gods

Patrick Imbert
France, Luxembourg · 2021 · 94 min
French With English Subtitles

Animation Is Film alumnus, Patrick Imbert (AIF ’17, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales) returns with the Opening Night selection The Summit Of The Gods (Le Sommet des Dieuxbased on the manga by Jirô Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura. Seventy years after George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed to the top of Mt. Everest, an old Kodak camera, allegedly belonging to Mallory, winds up in the hands of an outcast climber believed missing for years. Obsessed with proving its authenticity, a Japanese reporter enters a world of obsessive mountaineers hungry for impossible conquests on a journey that leads him, step by step, toward the summit of the gods.


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Nahuel and the Magic Book

Germán Acuña
Chile, Brazil · 2020 · 99 min
Spanish With English Subtitles

Having grown up in a seaside town and with a fisherman father is hard for Nahuel since he has a crippling fear of the ocean. He’s desperate for a solution and he just may have found one in a mysterious book, the Levisterio. Taking the book brings about new problems for Nahuel though as a dark sorcerer is after the book and will do anything (including kidnapping Nahuel’s father) in order to get it. Nahuel finds help from Fresia, the daughter of a shaman, but in order to make everything right Naheul will have to find the courage from within.

From the producers of the Academy Award winning Bear Story, Nahuel and the Magic Book is a classic, delightful adventure film. It’s timeless sensibilities are paired with a winning, modern animation style. Despite the title, the magic extends far beyond the book, and fills every frame of this charming film.


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Pompo The Cinephile

Takayuki Hirao
Japan · 2021 · 94 min
Japanese With English Subtitles

Pompo is a talented, gutsy, and unapologetic movie producer. She works on her filmmaking day and night in the movie capital Nyallywood. One day Pompo tells her movie-loving but apprehensive assistant Gene, “You will be the director for my next script”.

Will Gene succeed his first time as a director and create a “masterpiece”? He sets out to find out, with a script built around the legendary aging actor Martin Braddock (think Brando) and a young actress seeking her first big break.

Pompo: The Cinephile is a story of a new director struggling and devoting his life for his movie, while also putting a playful lens on the filmmaking world itself. Chock-full of insider movie references, it’s a funny, fast-paced look at what it takes to fulfill your dreams in show business. At 90 minutes it’s also the perfect runtime!


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Where is Anne Frank

Ari Folman
France, Israel, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg · 2021 · 99 min

One night, Kitty, the most famous imaginary friend in history, pops into being from the ink-filled pages of Anne Frank’s diary. She doesn’t understand where her old friend has gone (or why, for that matter, their former home has become a tourist attraction). Aided by a crafty pickpocket and a band of young refugees seeking safe quarter, she sets out to solve the mystery, criss-crossing through time and taking us from the streets of Amsterdam to Bergen-Belsen in Germany. While Anne’s deified name has been reverently affixed to bridges and schools and hospitals, Kitty fears her friend’s true legacy is being forgotten. An urgent and poignant detective story from award-winning filmmaker Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir), Where Is Anne Frank is imbued with fantastical animated sequences (40s era Clark Gable on horseback!) and a modern punk sensibility (complete with glorious Karen O soundtrack) and is an essential history for audiences of all ages. (ANIMATION IS FILM)


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Vivo

Kirk DeMicco · Brandon Jeffords
USA · 2021 · 95 min

From Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation — the studio that brought you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and this year’s critically acclaimed The Mitchells vs. The Machines — comes Vivo, an animated musical adventure featuring all-new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Hamilton and In the Heights.

Vivo follows a one-of-a-kind kinkajou (aka a rainforest “honey bear,” voiced by Miranda), who spends his days playing music to the crowds in a lively square with his beloved owner Andrés (Buena Vista Social Club’s Juan de Marcos). Though they may not speak the same language, Vivo and Andrés are the perfect duo through their common love of music. But when tragedy strikes shortly after Andrés receives a letter from the famous Marta Sandoval (three-time Grammy-winning Latin pop legend Gloria Estefan), inviting her old partner to her farewell concert with the hope of reconnecting, it’s up to Vivo to deliver a message that Andrés never could: A love letter to Marta, written long ago, in the form of a song. Yet in order to get to Marta, who lives a world apart, Vivo will need the help of Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo) – an energetic tween who bounces to the beat of her own offbeat drum to fulfill his owner’s wishes.


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Poupelle of Chimney Town

Yusuke Hirota · Akihiro Nishino
Japan
English version

Poupelle of Chimney Town is the story of young Lubicchi living among the thick smoke from the chimneys of his isolated town, yearning to see the “stars” — to know the truth — his father always told him about. One Halloween night he meets Poupelle, a man made of garbage, and together they look to the sky as their adventure begins.

Spectacularly beautiful, filled with inspiring performances and splendid music and sound effects, and produced at Tokyo’s famed Studio 4ºC, Poupelle of Chimney Town brings laughter, tears and joy.

© Akihiro Nishino / “Poupelle of Chimney Town” Production Committee


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The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Michael Rianda · Jeff Rowe
USA · 2021 · 113 min

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is an original animated comedy from director Mike Rianda (Gravity Falls) and producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Lego Movie).

When Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a creative outsider, is accepted into the film school of her dreams, her plans to meet “her people” at college are upended when her nature-loving dad Rick (voiced by Danny McBride) determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time. Katie and Rick are joined by the rest of the family, including Katie’s wildly positive mom Linda (voiced by Maya Rudolph), her quirky little brother Aaron (voiced by Mike Rianda), and the family’s delightfully chubby pug Monchi for the ultimate family road trip. Suddenly, the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!


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Germán Acuña

Acuña is a visual communicator by profession but works as a director / animator. In the year 2007 he created Carburadores, making to date more than 100 audiovisual pieces in different animation techniques, mainly animated television spots for various brands.

He also directs videoclips for musical artists such as Javiera Mena and Solo di Medina, among others.

In 2010 he became involved in the production of content for TV, highlighting the television project Prisma for the international signal of TVN and its web version Prisma Perfiles.

From 2015 to 2020 he directs and writes the animated feature film Nahuel y el Libro Mágico, his debut film. He is currently preparing his second animated feature: La Veta del Diablo. Which is already in pre-production.

Frozen 2

Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—and featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.


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Ayumu Watanabe

Born in 1966, Watanabe joined Studio Mates in 1986 and debuted his first original picture with the same studio. In 1988 he moved to Shinei Videos and was active in a wide range of roles including key animator, animation director, and director.

Watanabe directed the short theatrical release Obachan no Omoide (2000), and the feature film Doraemon: Nobita’s Dragon 2006 (2006) and became a free agent in 2011. After that time, he tirelessly built up his directing portfolio with projects such as the TV series Mysterious Girlfriend X (2012), Danchi Tomoo (2012-15), If Her Flag Breaks (2014), Space Brothers (2012-14), and Ace Attorney (2016). Three TV series directed by Watanabe aired in 2018, including After the Rain, Gurazeni, and Major 2nd.

Children of the Sea is his fourth time directing a full-length theatrical release.

China

Ne Zha

China · 2019 · 110 min
In Mandarin with English subtitles

With the release of Ne Zha, the Chinese animation industry has come into its own. The $20 million budget film has grossed an astounding $700 million at the Chinese box office, demolishing the $235 million prior record head by Disney’s Zootopia.  Animation Is Film is thrilled to present a special screening of Ne Zha followed by a discussion with the Yi Qiao, Nezha’s co-writer and the producer, CEO, and visionary force behind Coloroom, the startup animation company that has produced megahits Nezha and Monkey King: Hero is Back, art house titles Big Fish and Begonia, Da Hufa and Have a Nice Day, and is also distributor for anime hits Your Name and Spirited Away.


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Mamoru Hosoda

Mamoru Hosoda was born in 1967 in Toyama. After graduating from Kanazawa College of Art, he joined Toei Doga studio (now Toei Animation Co, Ltd) and began his career as an animator.

In 1999, he directed his first 20 min. short film, Digimon Adventure, which was released in theaters.

In 2000, he directed a forty-minute sequel, Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!!!, and attracted critical attention thanks to his novel, cutting-edge style. He also introduced what would become recurring themes in his filmography. He became independent shortly afterwards and directed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2006 (an adaptation of the well-known novella by Yasutaka Tsutsui). The film was met with great enthusiasm, and its success exceeded all expectations, remaining on Japanese screens for one year. It was then released in numerous countries, including France, where audiences discovered Hosada’s work on the big screen. In 2009, he directed his first original work: Summer Wars. The aesthetics of the film are reminiscent of those found in Digimon.

In 2011, with Yuichiro Saito (the producer who has accompanied him throughout his career), he created his own animation studio, Studio Chizu, and spearheaded a new movement in theatrical animations.

The studio’s first production, Wolf Children (2012), followed by The Boy & The Beast (2015), cemented Hosoda’s popularity in Japan and abroad, particularly in France.

Patrick Imbert

After graduating from Gobelins, l’école de l’image, Patrick Imbert worked as an animator on several feature films. He later became animation director on the feature Ernest & Celestine, where he met Benjamin Renner. After this fruitful collaboration, they decided to continue working together.

Peter Debruge

Variety’s Chief International Film Critic, Peter is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s film studies program. Prior to Variety, he spent four years working as an editor for AOL Moviefone. In addition to hundreds of reviews for the Austin Chronicle, Miami Herald and Premiere, his writing on film has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Life, Creative Screenwriting, Backstory and IndieWire. Peter also contributed to the book Variety’s The Movie That Changed My Life.

Charles Solomon

An internationally respected critic and historian of animation, Charles Solomon has written on the subject for the New York Times, Newsweek (Japan), Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, Variety, the Manchester Guardian, and National Public Radio. His books include “The Art of Frozen,” “The Art of the Disney Golden Books,” “The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey,” “Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney’s Animated Classic Beauty and the Beast,” “The Art of Toy Story 3,” “Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the first film book to be nominated for a National Book Critics’Circle Award. In 2008, he received the LA Press Club Award for radio feature reporting. In 2015, AISFA/Hollywood’s June Foray for service to the art of animation.

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