Festival puts spotlight on young animators

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Posters for animated shorts featured at the Genius Animation Art Festival. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Ne Zha, White Snake, Monkey King: Hero is Back, Legend of Hei, Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification…and the list goes on.

The past few years have seen one Chinese animated film after another bloom into smash hits, wowing audiences of all ages and pumping huge confidence into the country's animators.

To keep up this momentum in China's animation industry, young talent is essential.

The Genius Animation Art Festival, a three-day event kicking off this Friday at the Beijing Times Art Museum, is ready to play its part in sustaining the momentum by "creating a platform to scout animation talents," according to festival organizer Tengen Space Studios, a Beijing-based animation studio specializing in both animation creation and education.

More than 100 animated shorts, selected from nearly 300 entries and created by animation students from Beijing's six major art academies including the Beijing Film Academy and the Communication University of China, will be screened throughout the weekend, transforming the museum into an animation showroom.

There, animation aficionados can also indulge themselves with dozens of shorts produced by indie Chinese animators and European animation students.

"We created the fest as a platform for young animators so their works can be seen by both industry professionals and the general public," said Wang Tianshi, the cofounder of Tengen Space Studios who initiated the fest in August.

A veteran animator, Wang and his colleagues have noted young animators usually lack platforms to showcase their works and many are awkward at finding them.

So at the festival, a roster of participating animation studios such as Shanghai Animation Film Studio, China Film Animation, and Pinta Studios can approach animators whose works have impressed them, Wang explained.

"Studios can decide if they want to hire the animators upon their graduation, or invest in their ideas and concepts," Wang said in a recent interview with the China Daily website.

Six animations from the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, China's oldest, will take festival-goers down memory lane; award-winning animator Sun Lijun will bring to the fest Harvest and Doomsday, two animation shorts inspired by Chinese ink painting and featuring cutting-edge 8K technology. Harvest competed in the Generation program of the 70th Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.

Genius Talk, another key element of the fest, will run parallel with the screenings throughout the weekend.

Geared toward aspiring animators, a total of 33 talks and roundtables will be given by more than 30 seasoned animators and cartoonists from home and abroad, who will share their career experiences, give advice and discuss important issues facing the industry.

Among the speakers will be Chris Bremble, visual effects expert, founder and CEO of Base Media and Li Wei, director of the 2020 animated hit Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification.

Major issues to be explored at the talks include how to create Chinese animation that appeals to global markets and what other inspirations animators can draw from besides Chinese mythology.

In addition, six animators from Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, and DreamWorks Animation will meet fest-goers through e-conference to share behind-the-scenes stories of globally animated hits such as Coco, WALL•E, and Kung Fu Panda.

Along with screenings and talks, a medley of pop art booths will add spice to the fest. Visitors can shop and take home cool gifts like animated film posters, designer toys, and comic books.

Acknowledging there might be some imperfections because of haste, Wang said he is thrilled to see the efforts of his team materialize soon.

"I think everyone coming to the fest will have a blast and leave with something meaningful," he said.

Looking ahead, the animator said if the first edition works out, "we'd like to add competition programs to our festival as major international animation festivals do around the world."

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