Last month I was honored to spend 10 days in Korea as an international juror for the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, a six-day festival held in the Myeongdong district.
Firstly, I should take the opportunity to say how impressed I was with the organization’s attention to detail and hospitality; from the minute I arrived in the country I was incredibly well looked after. Everyone was hugely generous with their time which made for a very social and full visit to the wonderful capital, and a great festival.
The Festival Opening Ceremony was at the park in the center of the city, directly outside the City Hall. It was a high-energy couple of hours with huge video screens, singing kids and dancing characters. I was sitting with Festival organizers and a couple of Jury counterparts, Darcy Paquet (Writer, Critic & founder of koreanfilm.org) and Changhwan Shin (President & CEO at Studio Gale).
The rumour was the Mayor of Seoul would be at the festival; however, it wasn’t expected that he’d be dressed as Korea’s most infamous character – Pororo. What was even more surprising – he came on danced around with the other characters for 15 minutes before revealing himself. To add to the slightly surreal situation, it turned out the awesome Mr Changwhan Shin to my right happened to be the creator and director of Pororo. I think the mayor dressed as Pororo was a highlight for him too.
The next day I explored the Cartoon aspect of the festival, which consumes the winding streets, plentiful coffee shops and varied stores surrounding the Seoul Animation Center, with many hosting exhibitions covering animation stills, comic book art, fine art and more experimental pieces.
The Animation Festival was smoothly run by Kaye Lee (founder, writer and publisher at seoulanimators.com), and covered both national and international features and shorts, split into five categories (online, students, kids, shorts and features). Along with Darcy and Mr Shin we formed the International Feature Animation Jury, but additionally voted on the Best Short Film and Best Korean Movie.
After many years of CG at SIGGRAPH, the styles, techniques and scripts behind the work felt highly varied and original.
Jury Special Prize (Int.) – Over The Garden Wall (Dir: Patrick McHale)
Best Korean Film – Timing (Dir: Min Kyung-jo)
(Left to right: Darcy Paquet, Changhwan Shin, Min Kyung-jo, Me)
Grand Prize – Cycle (Dir: Kim Jun-gi)
(Left to right: Changhwan Shin, Darcy Paquet, Kim Jun-gi, Me)
The full list of award winners are here.
It’s always a pleasure spending time in animation circles; I can’t help but think their passion, talent and humbling modesty comes from knowing their art form can’t be mastered – and it is this commitment to a life-long scholarship that both attracts and defines an animators persona.
SICAF is was a well run and hugely entertaining festival; if you haven’t been to Seoul you should be considering it, and coinciding with SICAF is a win-win.