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Cartoons on the Bay 2004: A Preview

With the next edition of Cartoons on the Bay coming up later this month, founder and director Alfio Bastiancich discusses how the festival, which he founded in 1996, differs from more traditional festivals and what changes he has seen in TV animation since its inception.

Cartoons on the Bay 2004 Cartoon village
Last year's Cartoons on the Bay village set up on the beach at Positano, Italy. (This and other images courtesy of Cartoons on the Bay.)

Cartoons on the Bay logoThe 8th edition of Cartoons on the Bay will, as usual, take place in the Italian resort town of Positano, April 21-25. To find out more about what is happening this year in the premiere festival for TV animation, I spoke its director and founder, Alfio Bastiancich.

Bastiancich is justly proud of Cartoons on the Bay, which, as he notes, is, “The only animation festival of its kind. We have around 250 entries every year from all over the world, including Europe, the United States, Canada, Asia and Australia.”

“There will be,” he estimates, “450-500 official delegates from production, television and distribution companies in attendance. In addition to about 80 journalists, there will be 15,000 members of the public in attendance as well.”

“The festival is held literally on the beach of Positano, an old fishing village on the northern coast of the Gulf of Salerno, south of Naples, where we set up a cartoon village, including a theater, on the beach. As the beach is surrounded by hotels and restaurants, there is no traffic or anything else to distract the delegates.”

Entries in the festival compete for the prestigous Pulcinella Awards, whose symbol is modeled on the famed l6th century Neapolitan Commedia dell'Arte character, which was adapted as a tribute to the 1973 film, Pulcinella, by Giulio Gianini and Emanuele Luzzati. It is an especially appropriate symbol this year, as both Gianni and Luzzati are being given special Lifetime Achievement Awards along with Richard Williams.

The competition is “open to all animated products for television and the Internet,” including TV series, series pilots, short or feature-length TV specials and short films. Pulcinella Awards this year will be given for Best Character, Best Programme and Best European Programme. There are also categories for TV series for Children, Teenagers & Adults and All Audiences, as well as Best TV Movie or TV Special and Best Series Pilot. Educational and “socially useful programmes” compete for the Unicef-Campania Region prize, which is decided by a special jury.

The only category of TV animation the festival does not seem to cover is commercials, though Bastiancich admits to having “had many solicitations in this area. But, it's a different world, with agencies, etcetera.”

In addition to the screenings, there is a conference, “Where every year,” as Bastiancich points out, “we recognize important independent studios; this year, there are two are from Europe — France's Folimage and Italy's Alcuni — along with America's HIT Entertainment and Japan's Toei Animation. Each studio will give an one-hour presentation, discussing their history, the nature of their work, and politics and philosophy. It is a very interesting opportunity for the delegates to understand what goes on behind the scenes.

Although its main focus is television, Cartoons on the Bay does include preview screenings of new animated feature films prior to their Italian release, which this year includes Kate, a new Italian stop motion movie.

This explains why I will be speaking on “Innovation in Animated Feature Films” at the conference, whose theme this year is “The Challenge of Innovation.” Other speakers include Linda Simensky, Senior Director of Children's Programming for PBS, who will talk on “Innovation in Production,” Craig Miller, President of Wolfmill Entertainment, will lecture on Innovation in Writing,” and Richard Williams, who will speak on “Innovation in Animation.”

Cartoons on the Bay 2003 Cartoon village
Another view of the Cartoons on the Bay 2003 village.

From the Start
Bastiancich says Cartoons on the Bay was “my idea and I involved with it from the very start. Up until that time, all our animation festivals, such as those in Annecy, Ottawa and Treviso (which I managed from 1985-95), were devoted to shorts and to auteur films; and there was not, during this period, one which discussed and put into competition industrial production.”

“So, in 1996, with the help of Rai — Radiotelevisione Italiana, the Italian public TV station — through its Rai Trade division, and a local administration,” the first Cartoons on the Bay was held.” This year's event includes Disney Channel Italia and Cartoon Network as “partners,” and is under the patronage the European Broadcasting Union, ASIFA-Italia, Cartoon Italia, and the United Nations Children's Fund — the Italian Unicef Committee.

As to what sort business is conducted during the festival, Bastiancich noted that, “Yes, there is some business conducted on an informal basis in a very relaxing atmosphere. There is a possibility to see material and contact people, and do business.”

Over the Years
When I asked him about what sort of change he has seen in television animation since Cartoons on the Bay began, he said, “From a technical point of view, we now see a strong impact of 3D animation in television. There is also a big growth in programs for pre-schoolers, infants. And in Europe, there is the development of primetime sitcoms for teenagers and adults.”

“During this period,” he adds, “there were also changes in the organization of production; today, the time it takes to produce a TV series in Europe has been greatly reduced in comparison to what it was 10 years ago. Today studios can do a TV series in one or one-and-a-half years; this is due in part to new computer technologies, but it is also true for 2D classic animation. Studios in Europe are more experienced.”

“The UK, from a certain point of view, is different from other European countries like France, Spain and Italy, because they have the possibility of the American market; they are also more classic and more cinematic, especially with regard to their stop motion work. They are also more experimental, because they have production for commercials, which is very strong in animation there.

Over the years, the festival has remained the same size, because, as Bastiancich points out, “it is impossible to have a larger festival, since the town is so small. Every year we change the quality of presentation, but the number of participants is always the same, between 450-600 delegates. And I don't know if I want to increase the number of participants, as right now it's a comfortable size.”

“We have one large 350 seat theater and many smaller screening rooms for showcase presentations, much like a video library. Then there is a conference hall, with around 200 seats, where we hold the professional previews. The theater itself is built on the beach, because Positano does not have a cinema; so, every year we carry everything by boat from Salerno 15 days before the festival and start to build the village.”

When I asked Bastiancich if he had any final words, he said, “I see the festival as a bridge between Europe, North America and Asia. For people in the animation industry, it is a great opportunity to judge the state of the art at the moment, as well as to get to know other people in the industry. This is why we are very different from our friends at Annecy and Ottawa. I love the festival.”

— Harvey Deneroff
April 7, 2004

Reader Response:

I read your article on Cartoons on the Bay with interest this morning, but I did a suitable double-take when I read our film described as CGI! The film in actual fact is handcrafted in stop motion with all the characters and sets laboriously made out of coloured paper — in the technique we call papermotion. This technique is the reason behind the “originalissimo” adjective applied in the Cartoons on the Bay press releases. It is also the first stop motion animated feature length film ever made in Italy. The whole project took us four years. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film Friday evening. For more information you can visit our web sites and

Graham Hunt
Direttore Marketing
Crayons Pictures
Amelia, Italy
April 20, 2004

I apologize for the error, which has been corrected.

— Harvey Deneroff

2004 by Harvey Deneroff







Alfio Bastiancich
Alfio Bastiancich, director and founder of Cartoons on the Bay, the only major festival devoted to TV animation.

Josep Viciana at Cartoons on the Bay 2003
Josep Viciana with his 2003 Pulcinella Award for the Best TV Series for Infants for Connie the Cow, produced by Neptuno Films, Spain.

2001 Pulcinella Awards logo
Pulcinella Awards logo, as seen in its 2001 incarnation.