Animation First Festival, 5-15 Feb 2021

Deadline | Event Dates (period)
05 February 2021 - 15 February 2021
New York
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Submission deadline
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2021 Festival Coverage

The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) announces the fourth edition of Animation First, the only film festival in the US dedicated to the unparalleled legacy and enduring ingenuity of France’s animation studios and schools. Presented for the first time entirely online, the festival will reach a nationwide audience from Friday, February 5 to Monday, February 15.

This year’s Festival highlights include 55 US and 14 NY premieres of feature-length and short films. Wes Anderson, this year’s special guest, has added four animated films that have inspired him to the program. Screenings include new restorations of favorite and lesser-known masterpieces. The Festival will also present works in progress of highly anticipated films, a new student competition, talks with filmmakers, and workshops. Interactive graphic novels as well as engaging augmented and virtual reality programs will be available throughout the Festival.

Festival Highlights:

  • 5 US and 14 NY Premieres of feature-length and short films
  • Special Guest Wes Anderson selects his favorite animated films. For the first time, Animation First has invited an acclaimed American filmmaker to be a special guest of the Festival:Wes Anderson, director of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs, and the forthcoming The French Dispatch. An avowed fan of animation, Anderson has selected four films that have inspired him to be shown during the Festival.At the top of his list isDisney’s1942BAMBIshown in an unusual presentation in both Hindi and French. It will be available during the closing weekend of the Festival.The rest of films will be available throughout Animation First. THE PLAGUE DOGS(1982), an adaptation of Richard Adams’s novel about two escaped lab dogs who may be spreading a deadly disease, finds renewed relevance in our current moment.Though produced outside of France, the two short films A DOONSBURY SPECIAL(1977) and PETER AND THE WOLF(2006) were both buoyed to Academy Award nominations after receiving accolades at the Cannes and Annecy festivals,respectively.
  • Top US & French animation schools participate in Student Short Film Competition. The 2021 Animation First Festival launches a new Student Competition. It brings together emerging talents from six prestigious schools in the US and France. Five films will be selected from each one of the participating schools—CalArts (California), Ringling School of Art and Design (Florida), SVA (New York), EMCA (Angoulême, France), Gobelins,l’École de l’Image(Paris), and RUBIKA (Valenciennes, France). The 30 entries will compete for juried awards as well as an audience award.
  • Tribute to Paul Grimault with rare screenings of his iconic work. France’s celebrated animator Paul Grimault(1905–1994) is given a special tribute with a screening of his cult classic, THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD(LE ROI ET L’OISEAU). Featuring a screenplay by Jacques Prévert,this satirical masterpiece is an allegory about the nature of power. It is also credited with inspiring legendary Japanese animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata to found the famed Studio Ghibli. A newly restored program of Grimault’s shorts—eight gems produced from1942 to 1973—provides rare insight into the development of his trademark style and his increasingly political themes leading up to 1980’s The King and the Mockingbird.
  • Works in Progress of highly anticipated films by Anca Damian, Benoît Chieux, and Florence Miailhe. The 2021 edition of Animation First continues to offer audiences sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes access to several anticipated films. Along with Miailhe’s The Crossing,Anca Damian will share her newest project, THE ISLAND, on Tuesday, February 9 at 6:30pm. The following evening, Benoît Chieux will show clips from his buzz-worthy SIROCCO AND THE KINGDOM OF THE WINDS(Wed., Feb.10 at 6:30pm).This year, Animation First will also go inside France’s renowned Fontevraud residency to see what the next generation of animators is developing
  • Shorts programs include Best of Annecy International Film Festival and New French works
  • Live Talks with industry leaders and featured filmmakers
  • Plus Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Interactive Graphic Novels, Workshops& more!•

FIAF President Marie-Monique Steckel said: “This year's Animation First promises to be the richest in the Festival's history. We are delighted to have so many exciting new films, cult classics, and our first American special guest, Wes Anderson. It's particularly gratifying to offer, across the United States, at a very affordable price, the chance to discover the amazing world of French animation.”

All programmes will be available to screen online, unless otherwise indicated. A affordable pass of $20 provides complete access to the entire ten-day Animation First Festival. It is available to purchase at

Festival Trailer

2020 Festival Coverage (Archive)

ANIMATION FIRST 2020 / NYC’s Festival of French Animation Returns for A Third Edition - Weekend of February 7–9, 2020. Animation First celebrates France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation showcasing the ingenuity and diversity of France’s renowned animation studios and schools, and it is the Only US Festival Dedicated to French Animation

Highlights include:

  • Premieres of 15 Films, including The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, Marona’s Famous Tale, Notre Dame de Paris, The Age of Builders, and The Prince’s Voyage.

Animation First opens with the US Premiere of The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (2019) by noted illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti on Friday, February 7. This adaptation of the beloved 1945 Italian children’s book by Dino Buzzati marks the debut feature film by Mattotti, who is known for his celebrated New Yorker covers and graphic novels.

The NY Premiere of Anca Damian’s Marona’s Fantastic Tale (2019), nominated for Best Feature at the 2019 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, is one of Sunday’s highlights. The festival will close with its annual presentation of the 2020 César-Nominated Short Animated films, showcasing France’s most notable achievements in this category over the past year.

Around town, Animation First partners with the New York Institute of Technology to present the US premiere of Notre Dame de Paris, The Age of the Builders (2019), on Monday, February 10. This timely look at the grand cathedral’s 850-year history, leading up to the tragic fire on April 16, 2019, will be followed by a Q&A with director Emmanuel Blanchard and motion-capture specialist Jean-François Szlapka.

A special presentation of the critically hailed movie The Swallows of Kabul (2019), the debut film from Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, anchors Saturday’s program. This adaptation of the eponymous novel by Yasmina Khadra was introduced to New York audiences during a Work-In-Progress presentation at the 2019 edition of Animation First.

  • Filmmaker Jean-François Laguionie celebrated as Guest of Honor

The Festival continues on Saturday, February 8, with the US Premiere of The Prince’s Voyage (2019), the most recent film by legendary director Jean-François Laguionie, this year’s guest of honor, as well as his Louise by the Shore (2016). Laguionie is one of the most important contemporary animation filmmakers, and he has been fittingly celebrated with awards, retrospectives, exhibitions, and restorations of his early works. On Sunday, February 9, FIAF will present a newly restored print of his debut feature Gwen and the Book of Sand (1982), and a program of his shorts including his breakthrough “Rowing Across the Atlantic,” which received a Palme d’Or at Cannes. His acclaimed The Painting (2011), will be shown in two programs geared toward young audiences (Feb. 5 and Feb. 7), and the director himself will discuss his storied career and preview excerpts of his forthcoming film Slocum (Feb. 8). In conjunction with the Festival, Laguionie will conduct masterclasses with students at the Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts.

Special Work-in-Progress presentations 

Building on its legacy of sharing sneak peaks of anticipated works and insider looks at noteworthy projects, Animation First will offer fascinating insights across several revealing programs. On Saturday, Benjamin Massoubre, editor of the award-winning I Lost My Body (2019), will give a behind-the-scenes presentation into the creation of this film, following a free screening of the feature. Later that day, Laguionie will present excerpts of his next film, Slocum, as part of a wide-ranging discussion, and directors Phuong Mai Nguyen and Charlotte Cambon de Lavalette will discuss the process of adapting Penelope Bagieu’s best-selling graphic novel Brazen, highlighting the lives of 30 extraordinary women.

On Sunday, Cambon de Lavalette and Nguyen will be joined by director Anca Damian, writer Anik Leray, and producer Valérie Schermann for a Women in Animation panel covering equal representation in the industry; Lorenzo Mattotti will discuss his debut feature film, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, as well as his work as an illustrator with New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly: and director Jérémie Périn (Lastman) will present clips from his debut feature film, sci-fi thriller Mars Express, along with screenwriter Laurent Sarfati and producer Didier Crest.

  • Spotlight Panel on Women in Animation

  • Interactive video games and virtual reality exhibition

Throughout the festival, visitors will be able to sample an array of new video games and virtual reality programs benefiting from France’s prolific animation industry for free in the FIAF gallery. This year’s exhibition includes the 14-minute documentary Accused #2, Walter Sisulu, which takes you inside the trial of Walter Sisulu, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, using the restored audio recordings. Also on display is the interactive virtual reality puzzle, A Fisherman’s Tale, a surrealistic adventure game, and Gloomy Eyes, a virtual reality experience, voiced by Colin Farrell.

From the Curators
“As we launch our third Animation First festival, we see this medium excel at sharing the untellable and depicting the unimaginable," said festival co-curators Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF’s Film Curator, and Catherine Lamairesse, Director of Special Projects at FIAF. "Jean-François Laguionie was a pioneer in pushing animation beyond children’s stories to the realms of philosophy. Meanwhile Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbé-Mévellec find humanity in the depths of unthinkable cruelty through the ethereal The Swallows of Kabul. And this year we see the grandeur—before tragedy hit—of Paris's most beloved monument come to life through 3D technology in Notre Dame du Paris, The Age of Builders. Each work presents its own world with a unique aesthetic and memorable characters, and we are thrilled to share them with New York audiences.”


2020 Festival Trailer

2019 Festival Coverage (Archive)

Building on its wildly successful inaugural year, the second edition of Animation First showcases the vast history, enduring ingenuity, and diversity of France’s renowned animation studios and schools. This year’s schedule includes 17 premieres, provoking feature-length films, exciting shorts, immersive exhibits, video game demonstrations, panels with filmmakers, a special spotlight on the City of Bordeaux's animation industry, and much more. Tickets are available at

Celebrating France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) announces the 2019 Animation First festival. Building on its wildly successful inaugural year, the second edition of Animation First showcases the vast history, enduring ingenuity, and diversity of France’s renowned animation studios and schools. This year’s schedule includes 17 premieres, provoking feature-length films, exciting shorts, immersive exhibits, video game demonstrations, panels with filmmakers, a special spotlight on the City of Bordeaux's animation industry, and much more. It will take place from Friday, January 25 through Sunday, January 27, 2019, at FIAF. Tickets are available at

Legendary director Michel Ocelot is this year’s guest of honor, and the festival will open with his groundbreaking feature, Kirikou and the Sorceress, celebrating its 20th anniversary. When it was first released in 1998, this enchanting film fusing African myth, stunning imagery, and a sophisticated sensibility that attracted both adults and children, broadened the scope of what animation could accomplish on screen.

Ocelot’s work will be surveyed through screenings of two other feature films: Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest (2006) and Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess (2016). In addition, Ocelot will pay homage to the filmmaker Isao Takahata, a co-founder of Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli who passed away earlier this year. He will introduce a screening of Takahata’s feature film Only Yesterday(1992). Ocelot will also curate a program of influential shorts and participate in a discussion about his body of work.

This year’s Animation First festival will present no fewer than eight US and nine New York premieres, from feature-length films to award-winning shorts. Denis Do’s Funan, which won the Cristal Award for best feature at the 2018 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, will receive its anticipated New York premiere. This harrowing and semi-autobiographical film, set during the Khmer Rouge uprising in Cambodia, follows a young mother whose 4-year-old son was taken away from her.

Animation First will also present a selection of notable and award-winning shorts from Annecy, the most prestigious animation film festival in the world, as well as a program featuring all of the animated shorts nominated for the 2019 César Award in that category.

Continuing on last year’s successes, several programs will showcase the breadth of French animation, including provocative works geared toward more mature audiences. Erotic shorts return after a sold-out screening in 2018. In addition, the Late Night Chills program looks at the wealth of science-fiction and suspense shorts currently being produced. Other screenings will bring together noteworthy short films in documentary and humor genres.

Animation First will also look back to France’s historic contributions to the form with a special focus on the pinscreen instrument. Developed by the husband-wife team of Alexandre Alexeïeff and Claire Parker starting in the 1930s, the pinscreen is a device composed of thousands of holes in which pins slide back and forth. As they slide in and out of their holes, the pins cast shadows of varying length on the screen, which create unique and exquisite textural effects that cannot be reproduced digitally. Traditional stop-motion techniques are then employed to animate the images. A screening of short films, from 1933’s Une Nuit sur le mont chauve to 2018’s Etreintes, demonstrate the striking effects produced by this painstaking method. Further exploring this medium, Animation Firstwill present a panel discussion with pinscreen artists as well as two workshops demonstrating how the device works.

Nuit sur le mont chauve

In conjunction with Animation FirstTimes Square Arts will present the short film I was crying out at life (2009) by artist Vergine Keaton as its nightly Midnight Moment throughout January. Keaton is one of at least 16 female filmmakers whose work will be screened throughout the festival.

In addition to the film screenings, FIAF will explore myriad facets of France’s prolific animation industry through exhibits, panels, discussions, and hands-on workshops. Visitors will be able to play a selection of French video games, including a demonstration of Assassin’s Creed organized in partnership with the City of Bordeaux, and experience an augmented reality exhibit through a special app in FIAF’s first-floor gallery.

In a special program, co-directors Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec will present an exclusive look at the work-in-progress The Swallows of Kabul, based on Yasmina Khadra’s novel about life under Taliban rule, and discuss their collaboration on this upcoming feature.

“It is thrilling to bring Michel Ocelot to New York audiences. The release of Kirikou and the Sorceress is among the most transformative moments in French animation from the past several decades,” said festival co-curators Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF’s Film Curator, and Catherine Lamairesse, Director of Special Projects at FIAF. “But Kirikou is only one example of artistic innovation in French animationthat Animation First will explore, from the invention of the legendary pinscreen instrument to contemporary works in augmented reality and video games.”

This year’s festival was conceived in partnership with the City of Bordeaux. In recent years, the region has become a burgeoning market for animation, gaming, and virtual reality, attracting the Cartoon Movie and new Ubisoft studio. Seven films and two video games from Bordeaux Games were produced in the city and will be featured in this year’s edition.

“It’s an honor to be able to showcase Bordeaux’s talented artists and filmmakers on this side of the Atlantic,” said Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux. “It has been a priority of mine to support the creative industries within our region, so I am delighted that they will be presented as part of FIAF’s Animation First festival.”


Event Dates

  • From 05 February 2021 to 15 February 2021