20th Animation Division Critiques
My Hopes for Animated Expression
This is my first year on the jury, and I must say that both the quality and quantity of the submissions caught me by surprise. The animated shorts were particularly varied in technique and style, and the 559 entries ranged from extremely short to nearly 30 minutes. It was hard to imagine them even competing in the same ring, and indeed, I found the task of evaluating them difficult. But that is in fact one of the great appeals of this festival, and it was ultimately a highly stimulating task. My primary method in taking up this challenge was to rate each film in the categories of story, motion, artistry, originality, technique, impact, and emotional power.Overall, I felt that the quality was very high across the board for both amateur and professional submissions. This reflects the fact that the technical skill of the artists is uniformly high, and it speaks well to the future of the industry. But I did not find a great many works with that special spark that made me catch my breath, and I have to say I was generally underwhelmed by the level of originality and impact. I attribute this to familiar styles of expression and mediocre stories. It was personally disappointing to me that a competition styling itself an arts festival attracted so few works in which we can glimpse the artist stretching to achieve something truly new.In terms of specific selections, the titles I found most memorable and polished were SHINKAI Makoto's your name., a story interwoven with contemporary sensibilities and told in a style rich in color and brilliance, and Alê ABREU's Boy and the World, in which simple drawings burst into motion with an appeal that is unique to animation.Many of the submissions from both Japan and abroad were by students, which testifies to the success college programs are having in bringing up new talent. But it struck me that the works from some schools were all similar in taste, and that was a point of concern. I'd like to see more distinctive, off-the-wall, youthful originality in such submissions in the future.Finally, I'd like to note that some very fine works failed to make the cut for awards, and emphasize that there were many worthy titles among those that did not win. Entrants should be proud of their submissions and not be discouraged or lose confidence. My hope is that they will be spurred to turn out even better works in the future.