The trailer marking the sixth edition of the Animation Is Film Festival in Hollywood (October 18-22) dropped Monday morning, highlighting the opening night premiere of Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed “The Boy and the Heron” (Studio Ghibli/GKids) at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX. This marks an IMAX first for the festival, produced by GKids in partnership with the Annecy International Animation Festival.

Aardman/Netflix’s “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” the long-awaited sequel to the most successful stop-motion feature in history, will close AIF, followed by a Q&A with director Sam Fell and executive producer Peter Lord.

AIF programming from the previous two years boasted nine of the eventual animated feature Oscar nominees. This season they’ve scheduled several Oscar contenders: “The Boy and the Heron,” “Dawn of the Nugget,” DreamWorks’ “Trolls Band Together” (special screening), and NEON’s Annecy award-winning “Robot Dreams” (in feature competition). Plus, early footage from Disney’s Oscar-hopeful “Wish” (celebrating the animation studio’s 100th anniversary) will be part of the special programming, too.

While the frontrunning “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is not part of the schedule, AIF will offer the North American premiere of “The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story,” the inaugural short of Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ new LENS (Leading and Empowering New Storytellers) program. It will be followed by a panel with director Jarelle Dampier, writer Khaila Amazan, VFX supervisor Clara Chan, and animation supervisor Joe Darko, moderated by producers. LENS program creators Michelle Raimo-Kouyate and David Schulenburg.

In addition, Disney will screen “Once Upon a Studio,” the hybrid short (directed by Dan Abraham and Trent Correy) celebrating the studio’s 100th anniversary, alongside the “Wish” footage, and there will be a celebration of Warner Bros. Animation with a selection of “Looney Tunes” shorts (as part of the 100th anniversary of the studio).

Among the buzzy shorts to be screened in competition are Flóra Anna Buda’s “27” (which won both the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Cristal at Annecy); Mitra Shahidi’s Tribeca award winner, “Starling”; and “The Day I Became a Bird” from Andrew Ruhemann (who’s serving on the feature jury).

Feature competition:

“Art College 1994” (China, Dekanalog, West Coast premiere): The portrait of youth set on the campus of the Chinese Southern Academy of Arts in the early ’90s, caught between tradition and modernity.

“Chicken for Linda!” (Frame/Italy, GKids, U.S. premiere): In this 2023 Annecy Cristal winner, a mother feels guilty after unjustly punishing her daughter and tries to make it up to her by making her favorite meal: chicken with peppers. But the innocent request quickly leads to an outrageous series of events that spirals out of control.

“The Concierge” (Japan, Aniplex, U.S. premiere): A concierge trainee at an unusual department store that caters to extinct animals has difficulty fulfilling the wishes of the customers. (Crunchyroll has picked up North American rights for 2024.)

“Mars Express” (France, U.S. premiere): Two private detectives and others are in a race against time to find the most wanted girl on Mars.

“Phoenix: Reminiscence of Flower (Japan, North American premiere): After settling on planet Eden 17 after Earth’s destruction, a wife and husband discover that it’s no Eden and the wife plots a return to Earth.

“Robot Dreams” (Spain/France, NEON, West Coast premiere): Director Pablo Berger’s 2D tragicomedy, adapted from the popular graphic novel, tells the adventures and misfortunes of Dog and Robot in NYC during the ’80s.

“Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds” (Belgium/France, L.A. premiere): Two sisters discover a passage between their world and a book titled “The Kingdom of Air Streams.”

“The Summer” (South Korea, North American premiere): A queer, coming-of-age romantic drama that captures the highs and lows of falling live. From rising star director Han Ji-won and animation studio Red Dog Culture House.

The feature jury will be chaired by Peter Debruge (chief film critic, Variety). Other members include Marge Dean (head of Skybound’s animation studio and president of Women in Animation), Andrew Ruhemann (founder of Passion Pictures, Oscar-winning director of “The Lost Thing”), Charles Solomon (critic and historian), Nora Twomey (Oscar-nominated director of Cartoon Saloon’s “The Breadwinner”), and Ramin Zahed (Animation Magazine editor).

Editor’s Note: Bill Desowitz, IndieWire Awards Editor, Craft & Animation, will also serve on the feature jury at this year’s Animation Is Film Festival.


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