Annecy 2024 Was Memorable, But For All The Wrong Reasons

The first time I attended the Annecy animation festival was 20 years ago, just a few months after launching Cartoon Brew. One thing that hasn’t changed about the event in all these years is its status as the undisputed global event for animation.

And as the global animation world has exploded over the last couple decades, so has Annecy alongside it. In fact, there may be no better place than Annecy to glimpse a wide angle perspective of the current state of animation, which continues to grow around the world at an absolutely astounding pace.

Having said that, my experience at Annecy 2024 was anything but astounding. In attempting to be a one-stop event for all things animation, Annecy has become chaotic, overcrowded, and aimless in its current form. What follows are three of the key reasons I didn’t enjoy the event this year.

1 – Annecy is a victim of its own success

The most common icebreaker that people ask each other at an animation festival is, “What have you seen so far that’s interesting?” My answer at Annecy this year was nothing. That’s not because I didn’t like anything; it’s because I literally didn’t see anything. And speaking with others, not seeing anything is a surprisingly common Annecy experience.

Here’s the thing: Annecy is actually two events in one: One is the festival, and the other is the business marketplace MIFA. It’s literally impossible to experience both in the same week. You have to choose one – art or business – and stay in your lane. Yes, occasionally a MIFA attendee will sneak in a screening or two, and yea, people on the festival side will often spend a few confused hours wandering the halls of MIFA just to say they’ve done it. But there are relatively few intersection points between these events – and the points where they do intersect, like the pitch sessions, could smartly be reconfigured to fit into one side or the other, or potentially even serve as the launchpad for a third event.

The good news is that the festival has successfully rethought its structure in the past to accommodate the expansion of animation. When production started booming in the late 1990s, thanks in large part to the growth of digital production, Annecy switched from taking place every two years to a yearly schedule. At the time, there was criticism from some quarters that a yearly event would split the audience and not enough people would show up for either, which is a quaint fear looking at the event today.

What cannot be denied is that today’s event is buckling under the weight of animation’s global expansion, and Annecy as a simultaneous platform for a festival and business market is unsustainable. Splitting the festival and MIFA would go a long way towards alleviating the current chaos of Annecy and making the experience more pleasant and productive for all.

2 – Corporate fuckery is ruining Annecy

Even pre-pandemic, Annecy had replaced San Diego Comic-Con as the event for Hollywood studios to make major animation announcements. Not only is it more well situated on the summer calendar than Comic-Con, but Annecy crowds are comprised of industry professionals (and students who aspire to be industry pros) – in other words, a supportive community who welcomes filmmakers and understands the language and labor of animation production.

But Annecy’s open-armed embrace of Hollywood has changed the tone of the event. Most people who attend no longer talk about the independent shorts they’ve seen, but rather whether they were able to get into some major studio’s screening or receive a party invite to some studio event. The prime evening slots at the main Bonlieu theater, which used to be reserved for the short film premieres, are now given to feature films. While many of us like to say that short-form animation is the “soul or heart of the festival,” it’s mostly wishful thinking, as independent filmmakers who were the dominant force at Annecy for most of its 64-year history have now been relegated to the bleachers in favor of big-studio glitz.

With Hollywood’s arrival, the vibe has become more heavy-handed too. A Hollywood director told me how Annecy’s security dragged him out of his own screening for trying to film the audience’s reaction to the film he had directed so that he could show the crew back home.

And then there’s Hollywood’s own unique brand of fuckery that makes the festival more unpleasant for everyone else. One example is finding a place to stay within the city. While finding accommodations in Annecy has always been a challenge, it’s become even more difficult with the arrival of the studios. I spoke to one hotel who told me that all of their rooms had been block-booked by just two companies (I’ll let you guess which two).

And here’s the kicker: one of the studios had purchased 50 rooms beyond what they actually needed, so the hotel had to leave all of those rooms empty during the festival. They told me that their hands were tied since the rooms had already been paid for and they couldn’t double-book in case the studio ended up needing them. It’s beyond comprehension that dozens of rooms in a prime location within the old town would be left empty when so many attendees were struggling this year to find accommodations.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, that same hotel is already sold out for 2025 because the same two companies have bought it out again for their invisible employees attending Annecy.

3 – Annecy is a public health danger

The first two gripes are annoying to be sure, but not enough to stop me from attending. This third one though is making me rethink future Annecy trips.

During the festival, I chatted with people who attended the infamous 2022 edition at which countless attendees caught covid. Hearing their stories, I thought about how glad I was to have waited a couple extra years before resuming attendance. But patting myself on the back for good judgment was premature.

I returned home sick as a dog with the worst unintended French souvenir ever: covid. I’m grumpily writing this piece horizontally from my bed, unable to do much of anything. My miserable state causes me to reflect on the past week. Was there any interaction I had during the festival that made getting covid worth it? The answer is easy: There wasn’t.

Sure, there were wonderful meals and conversations with friends, both old and new, but all of these could have been arranged outside of the context of Annecy. The festival is a convenient way to see a lot of people at once, but that same convenience is also a virulent petri dish of disease and sickness made up of over 17,000 people from 103 countries.

Even in pre-covid times, more years than not I would catch a cold or flu of some sort at Annecy. Now, in the pandemic era, I caught something far more malicious and debilitating. It’s an experience I won’t be looking to repeat anytime soon. As much as I’ve enjoyed Annecy in the past, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to stick with more intimate (and less-potentially-lethal) animation events.

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