The very first Manchester Animation Festival took place last week from the 17th to the 19th of November at ‘Home’ – Manchester’s spectacular new cinema and theatre venue. We sent Lead Animator and Arcus co-founder James Taylor down to acquaint himself with the North West animation crowd.
This year’s Manchester Animation Festival, in some ways a spiritual successor to the Bradford Animation Festival, was all about the legacy of animation in the North West. In particular it was about the legacy of Cosgrove Hall, creators of Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, The stop motion Wind in the Willows and much, much more. Many of the festival’s talks and panels involved people who had started their own studios after Cosgrove Hall disbanded and by the end of the week I had a real sense of the foundation it created for the Manchester animation scene to be built upon. On Tuesday I found myself sat in the front row opposite a terrifically warm and friendly Brian Cosgrove as he received a Fellowship award and was interviewed by festival organiser Steve Henderson. During the interview various old memebers of the Cosgrove Hall team were pointed out to be among the audience, many of whom then went on to host their own talks or panels.
Another highlight of the festival was the huge amount of short films shown from over 900 that were submitted from around the world. My personal favourites included ‘Tusk’ by Rory Wt and I loved seeing the unmistakable style of Nicolas Menard in Loop Ring Chop Drink. I also attended a master-class by Tomm Moore on the production of Song of the Sea, giving great insight into the nature of co-production and the development of the film’s beautiful art style. The films a personal favourite of mine, so it was a real treat to see how it all came together and if you havnt seen it stop reading and go watch it.
Other highlights included Tom Box talking on how they find time at Blue Zoo for making short films (watch this space!) and the Wednesday night showing of The Prophet, a new film based on Kahil Gibran’s book of the same name. The narrative takes the form of a man delivering a series of speeches, sermons and poems, each animated by a different studio. The result is a collage of styles, with different approaches clashing with and complimenting each other in equal measure, making for fascinating discussion in the bar afterwards. I’m looking forward to revisiting the film when it goes out on general release. On Thursday I attended another master-class, this time by Tim Searle, where he detailed his career working as a photographer in Milton Keynes, adapting his photography into a unique form of stop motion, working on the titles for Have I Got News for You and his current role directing Mr Bean, now in its third series as an animation. We also got a behind the scenes look at the new Danger Mouse episodes, attended an exciting award ceremony, had a lovely jaunt around Manchester and won a DVD box set in the Animation quiz.
Thanks to the amazing job done by Steve Henderson and his team, I had an amazing time and left feeling inspired, daydreaming what the future might hold for Arcus Studios and the North East animation scene. The Manchester animation scene has been so warm and welcoming that I look forward to returning next year with a bigger squad in tow.