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May 5, 2014

SCA @ Annecy

By Tian Zhou

Four SCA animation students and alumni have been selected to participate in this year’s Annecy Film Festival – the oldest and most prestigious animation festival in the world, held in Annecy, France. Among the Official Selections for the festival are works by Corrie Francis-Parks (SCA ’06), Miguel Jiron (SCA ’13), Lou Morton (SCA ’13) and Chaoqi Zhang.

A still from Jiron's Lagarto

For Ms. Francis-Parks, animation is in her blood. “I’ve wanted to be an animator since I was 13,” she says. Her passion for animation, both as an animator and an educator, brought her to USC, where she received her MFA in Animation in 2006, and later to the University of Maryland, where she recently took a tenure-track position in their Animation Department. 

This will be Ms. Francis-Parks’ second year in a row at Annecy. She submitted a short film last year, A Tangled Tale, that was selected for the 2013 festival. Of her second outing at Annecy, where her short work Hatch was selected for the commissioned films category, Ms. Francis-Parks says, “Annecy is the biggest festival for animation. It really lends credibility to a work, and starts the ball rolling for it to be accepted. I was really excited to be part of it again.” In addition to the honor the festival bestows, Annecy has also proven to be a great networking opportunity. “I made a lot of friends the last time I was there, and I’m excited for the opportunity to go back and hang out with friends and colleagues in the industry.”

Mr. Jiron’s submission was his third to the Annecy Festival, but the first to consciously tackle a clear narrative. Explained Mr. Jiron, “the other films were more experimental and abstract. I’d never done something that was personal or very narrative before.” The short that ultimately made it into the festival was inspired by his experiences as an 8-year-old, and tells the story of a young boy on a trip to Nicaragua with his family, who “finds the world a weirder, scarier and more difficult place - filled, stuffed and absolutely teeming with iguanas.” Interestingly, this sense of narrative is constantly evoked in his day-to-day work at Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind the Despicable Me franchise.

A still from Organic Instruments

In contract, Ms. Zhang's festival selection, Organic Instruments, is an experimental kaleidoscope of music, color and movement without a distinct narrative. Nonetheless, it still comes from a very personal place. According to Ms. Zhang, each element represents “my small happiness from daily magic moments.” For example, “the rotating wire is from the memory that my grandpa was playing the kites with his grandchildren on Sunday, and the glass is my ambition to fly to infinity.”

For Mr. Morton, now a freelance animator, getting in was an unexpected but welcome surprise. In March, when the festival selections were contacted, “I saw a couple of animators had already gotten in, and I went okay, maybe my film didn't make it. Then the next morning I got the email [saying I’d been accepted]. I was really happy."

Inspired by the “city symphony” films of the 1920s, Mr. Morton’s thesis film Passer Passer uses a swirl of colorful imagery set to background noise – the whoosh of a train, the din of a crowded restaurant, the clink of glassware on china – to whimsically capture the pulse of city life. Although Mr. Morton has been focusing on his freelance commercial work, as well as a new short film funded through a Sloan Foundation grant, he’s looking forward to attending the festival in early June. “I’ve already bought my tickets to France.”