Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Annecy Animation Festival - Escape Studios' Top Ten Survival Rules

Lake Annecy - Old Town
Next month, from 13-18 June, is the world’s biggest animation festival.  It takes place in the pretty little mountain town of Annecy in the French Alps, and it can be an overwhelming experience; there is so much going on at once that you can't possibly see everything.

Alongside the Annecy film festival is MIFA – the world’s biggest animation marketplace, a huge congress of industry people buying and selling.

But Annecy is an event that every student of animation should visit at least once – if only to get a feeling for the sheer size and diversity of the modern animation industry. Below are our top ten rules to make the best of Annecy.

Lake Annecy
Rule 1 - Hang out in the old town
In the early evening, around 6-7pm, the locals stroll up and down the streets of the old town, enjoying drinks and ice cream cones, seeing and being seen. It’s all very civilized, like the passeggiata in Italian hill towns – everyone is out seeing their friends and exchanging gossip before heading home for dinner.

Later in the evening students and animators congregate around the Café Des Arts (also in the old part of town) a spit-and-sawdust bar serving beer by the bucket that feels like a Soho pub - and is just as crowded. When that closes, the Captain’s Bar is still open for those with the stamina to keep going.

Networking at a picnic in the park
Rule 2 - Network
Part of the pleasure is running into random industry colleagues you haven’t seen in years.

There is a constant stream of people walking along the lake between MIFA, hosted by the Imperial Hotel on the east side of the lake, and the Festival, which is held at the Bonlieu centre on the west side near the old part of town. It's about a 20-25 minute walk between the two.

Rule 3 - Rent a Bicycle
Our top Annecy survival tip is this: rent a bike. Annecy isn’t a big place, but since the film festival and MIFA are at different ends of the lake, a bike shaves 15 minutes off the journey from one end to another. €10 a day will get you your own private bicycle (you can also rent a lock, or better yet pack one in your luggage) – then you can go wherever you want.

DreamWorks Picnic
Rule 4 - Eat Well
This is France - the food is yummy. L’Estaminet is a lovely a French Bistro in the old part of town, serving moules mariniere and traditional local dishes. Tables get booked up fast, so make reservations in advance.

In fact don’t even think of getting lunch at 1pm anywhere in town without a booking.

If you're on a budget, see if you can get invited to the various picnics hosted by the big animation companies - free bread and cheese! (see more on picnics below)

Imperial Hotel
Rule 5 - Book Early
This goes for hotels too – book early, and stay in the centre of town.  The Imperial is the best place to stay (it hosts MIFA), but it's expensive and it books up fast.

If hotels are booked up, then try AirBnB, which releases a trickle of rooms long after all the official hotel rooms have gone.

Rule 6 - Book a Shuttle in Advance
Fly to Geneva airport, and make sure you book the official festival shuttle from Geneva airport in advance. The shuttle (Navette) to and from Geneva costs €70. A cab from Geneva airport to Annecy costs an impressive €240 for a half hour journey one way. 

Mini Golf - next door to the Imperial Palace
Rule 7 - Hang out at the Imperial
The Imperial Hotel (which plays host to MIFA) is a great place to meet.  But, the bar and terrace get very crowded.

If you want a quiet chat, away from the crowds, the best place to go is the snack bar at the mini golf course next door.

Rule 8 - mini golf!
Yes, the smart money is on crazy golf – there you will find a quiet oasis a few yards from MIFA - with no industry bigwigs fighting you for a chair at a coffee table.  For some reason it's also where the Irish tend to hang out.

Snack Bar at the Golf Course
Rule 9: Have a picnic in the public park - Le Jardin De L'Europe
The public park on the south side of the lake, Le Jardin De L'Europe, at Le Quai Napoleoon III, plays host to various picnics – see if you can score an invitation.

DreamWorks picnic in the park
Rule 10 - Make a holiday of it
If you can, stay a bit longer, after the festival ends. Fed up with animation screenings? Why not go for a swim? Or rent a boat and go out into the middle of the lake for some scenery and solitude. Perhaps go hiking in the mountains.  Annecy is a nice place to hang out.


The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To apply for our new BA/MA starting in September 2016, follow this link.  

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