I recently received my first issue of ASIFA Magazine, the quarterly publication of ASIFA International. I served as a great reminder that there is much more to animation than what comes out of the west coast of America.
Around the world there are plenty of indiginous animation industries that are happily supplying local needs without having to export to “the promised land”. Even with my limited experience, I can safely say that the best stuff need not necessarily come out of Burbank.
Perhaps the most well known is France, which is not that surprising given the potency of the French culture. They have also had a few success with films such as Asterix and with TV shows like Totally Spies! produced by Marathon.
Throughout the rest of Europe, there are plenty of small studios workjing on local content. Besides that, there are tons of independent animators, quietly putting out short films (and indeed a few long ones too). Some of these films really do puch the boundaries of animation in terms of their raw design but also in character development and story.
Apart from Europe stands Britain. Despite the dwindling size of the industry there, the number of series that have come out of Britain over the years is perhaps testament to the popularity of the artform there. This is perhaps because of the many, many shows that have been commissioned by the BBC as part of childrens programming and in its youth, Channel 4, whose most memorable production was the adaption of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Seeing as British shows are made in English (duh), it has helped them find other markets around the world, including America (such as Bob the Builder).
Apart from Britain stands Ireland, whose breakout studio (Cartoon Saloon) was behind the feature film, The Secret of Kells which has managed to crack the US market and garner a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Along with the lads in Kilkenny, there is also Boulder Media and Brown Bag Films both based in Dublin, both of which have found success either as a production house (the former) or a consistent creative force on the international front (the latter).
In the last 5 years or so, we have seen the rise of studios from the likes of China, India and of course South Korea, who even managed to get a home-produced TV show on US screens in the form of a show I can’t remember the name of and Google is currently failing me in. Of course the strong cultures in some Asian countries may have difficulty gaining a foothold in the US market, much the same as anime faced for many years before become widely popular.
The best place to suss out some international animation, is at an animation festival! It is not necessarily true that the biggest are always the best, but they do normally have the widest selection that cater to almost any taste. Example include Ottowa, the just finished Annecy, Hiroshima among many others.
I know I have yet to make it to one, but I am confident that when I do, I will see some fantastic animation that can’t be found anywhere else.