Richard Williams at the Fredrikstad Animation Festival

Q&A with Anders Narverud Moen, director of the Fredrikstad Animation Festival


- Fredrikstad Animation Festival -
Fredrikstad, Norway
November 12 – 15, 2015

The Fredrikstad Animation Festival is the oldest and largest of its kind in the Nordic region, dating back to 1994 and the Animerte Dager festival in Oslo, Norway. The annual festival now takes place each November in the town of Fredrikstad, outside of Oslo. One of the cornerstones of the festival is the Nordic-Baltic animated short film competition, where the prize known as the Golden Gunnar is awarded. The Fredrikstad Animation Festival is also one of nine animation film festivals that nominate films for the prestigious European animation award, Cartoon d'Or. Each year, top animation industry professionals hold seminars and lectures, and the festival has previously hosted guests from famous studios such as Pixar, Disney and Aardman.

Last year's Festival featured animation “gurus” from several famous American animation film studios, including A.K.A. Studios and ReelFx, as well as Danny Antonucci, creator of the animated TV show Ed, Edd n Eddy, the longest-running program on the American cable/satellite TV channel Cartoon Network. This year the Festival will be honored with the presence of Richard Williams, the triple Oscar-winner, animator, director and producer best known for his work as the director of the live-action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), for which he won two Oscars, and for his animated feature film The Thief and the Cobbler. The Guest of Honor at this year's Festival will be the Lithuanian filmmaker, animator and caricaturist Ilja Berznickas.

Richard Williams. Prologue, 2015

This year's Festival has such a great treat in store for its audience – the triple Oscar-winner, animator, director, producer, and author of The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams, who will be honoring the Festival with his presence. In the special program section he will be presenting his new film Prologue (2015), and the workprint The Thief and the Cobbler - A Moment in Time.

For those who are not so knowledgeable about the field of animation, could you give a brief summary of Williams’ role and importance in modern animation?

He has done animation for popular films like The Return of Pink Panther from 1973, with Peter Sellers, and for What’s new Pussycat?, but what people know him best for is as the animation director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which has become a classic and is known for its innovative combination of animation and live action. Williams' role as one who inspires started when he hired animation veterans from the old studios of Walt Disney and Warner Bros in the 60’s, and took them over to his own animation studios. Over the next few decades, he worked with big names like Milt Kahl, creator of Shere Khan, the tiger in Disney's The Jungle Book; Art Babbitt of Goofy fame; and Grim Natwick, who animated most of Snow White, and who also created Betty Boop. Williams' work with The Thief and the Cobbler involved the collaboration of animators who had created many of the great characters of the 30s and 40s animation scene. When Williams himself started to lead master classes in the 90s, he was the direct link between the artists of the golden age of drawn animation, and the digital artists of today; his knowledge has been carried on to the new generation of great artists of the current day, who still use his techniques, but now with more modern equipment and technologies.

Trailer. Richard Williams. ‘Prologue’

What does Williams' new film, Prologue, say about the technical possibilities of modern animation and the traditions that he himself helped to develop?

Well, it is still a bit of a mystery, this whole new project of his. People do speculate on how he made it, and if it is all hand-drawn, or did he use any computer aids. Whatever the case may be, it is an amazing work and he is still definitely pushing the boundaries of what is possible within the field of animation. People just have to show up at the screening event to judge for themselves.

Another of this year's Guests of Honor at the Festival will be the Lithuanian filmmaker, animator and caricaturist Ilja Bereznickas. What should every animation-lover know about his oeuvre?

He is a key figure on the Nordic and Baltic animation scene. He is a pioneer in both the Lithuanian and the Norwegian animation industries, as he has established a structure for creating animation in both countries. His style is burlesque and warm – both at the same time, and he is a fun person to hang out with.

In your opinion, what is it that makes people become passionate animators? 

Devotion. I could never do the stuff I've seen done in animation. That’s why I run a festival instead of producing or making animation.

Riho Unt. The Master, 2015

If we look back to last year, what was the most significant event in Nordic/Baltic animation?

Three things: Torill Kove receiving his third Oscar nomination; the Danish production company Nørlum co-producing the Oscar-nominated film Song of the Sea; and The Master, by Rhio Unt, winning the Jury Award at the International Festival for Animation in Annecy. The film has been selected for our competition program this year.

What was the greatest success at last year's festival? And – what was the greatest lesson learned?

The greatest success: our masterclass with Michal Makarewicz from Pixar Studios

The biggest lesson learned? That we have to create a better opening program.

Could you give us five highlights of this year’s program?

We already talked about Richard Williams and Ilja Bereznickas, exceptional gentlemen with life-long careers in the international animation industry. Besides them, we're featuring many other talented people in our seminar program:

Joanna Quinn is regarded as one of the most celebrated figures within the field of animation. Her draftsmanship, wonderful characterizations and humor mark her out as a truly unique talent. Joanna has won 90 major animation awards including Emmys, Baftas and two Oscar® nominations.

Eric Shaw, an American television writer and a former writer for SpongeBob SquarePants, who has also received an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in Animation for his work with the television series WordGirl.

And also the key speakers at our Nordic Animation Forum: the award-winning director of short films and music videos, Jonas Odell; director and creative VFX supervisor Sunit Parekh-Gaihede; and Mats Grorud, who will present his current project, the animated documentary The Tower

And, of course, our competition program for Nordic and Baltic animation.