Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Films (ITFS) 2018 is approaching. As a special article before ITFS 2018, Animationweek interviewed Prof. Ulrich Wegenast, the managing director of ITFS 2018, to learn more about the upcoming big international animation festival. He kindly answered to our questions in detail and uncovered some exciting information about this year’s program. We believe that his words would help you understand more about the festival to make the best use of ITFS 2018.

Interview with Ulrich Wegenast

Animationweek: There are some very famous and important animation festivals in Europe, such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Animafest Zagreb, and ITFS. What is the position and role of ITFS, and what makes ITFS stand out among them?

Ulrich Wegenast: With more than 90.000 spectators, the ITFS is the biggest audience event for animation in Europe. The combination between ITFS and the business platform “Animation Production Day”, “FMX – Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Immersive Media” and the “Spotlight Festival” (festival for commercials and communication) is unique and reaches more than 6.000 professionals. ITFS features the connections between animation and VFX, games, art, architecture and live performances.

Therefore, we reach new partners and target groups in the field of culture and economy (especially IT and automotive industries), which differ from the classical animation audiences and distribution channels. We have a special focus on animation and spatial communication (architecture, scenography, interactive installation).

Animationweek: ITFS 2018 is a very big festival with many and diverse programs, so could you please give us an overview of ITFS 2018, from your viewpoint?

Ulrich Wegenast: The focus will clearly be on the 25th Anniversary, where we look back to the festival’s past, accompanied by a special film program and an anniversary publication. The region of Stuttgart will once again become the global center of animated films in the spring of 2018 for six days and nights. The city center will turn into a huge Festival Garden with an Open Air Cinema next to the Festival Cinema.

Besides to all those fantastic movies that can be seen during the festival, there will also be a framework program with different focuses. Even if the focus is on animated films, the ITFS has been interfacing animation with other media in the past few years, and so we set up the GameZone at the Art Museum where the latest game trends can be experienced. Also, the connection between music and animation will be made this year, so we invited Chad VanGaalen from Canada, as his work is representative for the combination of both music and animation. A special event will be the Live Cinema Theatre by sputnic/Dortmund Theatre, with the play The Futurologic Congres by Stanislaw Lem, with live actors and live animation.

We have various In Persona-Shows (retrospectives) with animators like Priit Pärn, Ivan Maximov, and Florence Mihaile and studio presentations by Cartoon Saloon (Kilkenny), Atom Art (Riga), Superprod (Paris), Foam (Berlin), Laika (Portland) and others. And the feature films The Isles of Dogs and Early Man will be presented with special “Making-ofs”. Six from eight feature films from the competition are German or World premieres.

Above all, there will be several activities for children at various venues.

Animated Games Award

Animationweek: What kind of benefits do the general public and professionals get in attending this festival, do you think?

Ulrich Wegenast: The Festival presents a full, up-to-date spectrum of animated film-making and its intersections with visual effects, architecture, art, design, music and games.

The ITFS offers a platform to directors, production companies and distributors where they can showcase their films and transmedia projects to an interested, broad audience and numerous industry representatives.

The general public gets to watch selected movies, be it a full-length feature or short films in the Festival Cinema. The Open Air cinema is accessible for everyone and has become a constant in Stuttgart’s appearance during the spring time, and it gathers people. This year we will present, amongst others, the Oscar-winning Disney animation Coco and Oscar-nominated movie Loving Vincent, and I’m already convinced that this screening will be one of this year’s highlights.

For professionals, we have great opportunities in the context of Animation Production Day where more than 40 projects will be featured. Companies like Amazon or Disney are attending APD as well as all German broadcasters, and most of the European TV stations dedicated to animation.

In the context and through Trickstar Business Award (sponsored by the Region of Stuttgart), we are discussing new business models with our partner Studio 100, as we are offering opportunities for you German creatives. In our workshops, we are dealing with the relation of Graphic Novels and animation, the role of VR-storytelling, and have a lot of case studies in screenplay writing for animation. So for professionals, the ITFS is not only an event to connect, but also to learn.

The Open Air cinema

Animationweek: What do you think of the current trend of the global animation industry? And how does the programs of ITFS 2018 react and reflect to that?

Ulrich Wegenast: Indeed, there’s still a lot of interest in VR and Augmented Reality. More importantly for the global animation industry is the role and development of new online platforms like Amazon and Netflix and players like Google/YouTube or Vimeo. We see that the old economy, like the auto industry or mechanical engineering, which is very strong in the region of Stuttgart, with companies like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Bosch or Trumpf, is becoming more and more interested in animation, games, and VFX, in terms of marketing, communication, and also workflow! Anyhow, we also see a renaissance of old animation techniques like stop motion and the importance of classic cinematic storytelling.

A huge inflatable pavilion named “Lichtwolke (light cloud)”

Animationweek: Could you please let us know your future vision of ITFS?

Ulrich Wegenast: Our vision is to expand the global idea and the endless creativity of animation to other disciplines. Today, animation is omnipresent, but people are not really aware of it. Therefore, we want to create a transdisciplinary event with animation in its center. Animation can bring together classical art forms, like opera, and new technologies, like AI. Our future has already started and we construct a huge inflatable pavilion named “Lichtwolke (light cloud)”. In “Lichtwolke” you can experience animation, games, architecture and VR as an immersive architectural event. The title of the exhibition is “Welten bauen” (creating worlds).

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