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Animation Nights New York: Best of Fest

Animated Short Films. A style of film that normally doesn't get as much of a reputation as their feature-length counterparts. Where animators, directors, etc can bring together their respective talents to create short but creative pieces of animated storytelling. Some creators get the blessing of being backed by a large studio, while others have to find alternative methods to bring their stories to life. Stories that have the ability to appeal to adult audiences and beyond.

It has long been the goal of Animation Nights New York, currently located at 180 Maiden Lane in New York City's South Street Seaport, to share animated short films from across the globe to anyone who wants to see them. These one night a month screenings have been increasingly well received for over a year now, and screening over several thousand submitted short films. As a celebration of all the films submitted and their passionate creators, two nightthe folks at Animation Nights New York including AFA's very own Yvonne Grzenkowicz, put togethetwo-night event. Complete with industry panels, an art exhibit, virtual reality exhibitions, and a casual gathering place for animation enthusiasts.

This was ANNY: Best of Fest.

Compared to a lot of other conventions that I have had the privilege to attend, Best of Fest sets itself apart by being a very relaxed experience. Attendees, varying from animation fans, to aspiring filmmakers both young and old,  as they mingled together in the main reception area. Chatting about their respective projects, the latest movie they had seen or their favorite style of animation.

Several tables in the lobby from visiting organizations such as: Women in Animation, the Visual Effects Society, School of Visual Arts, Fluidtoons, the author's of the Max & Charlie graphic novel, and comic artist Spookychan.

The Virtual Reality Animation Showcase took place on the building's upper levels. Hosting a wide variety of short animations designed exclusively for VR. Some of the shorts included were: INVASION! (an animated short film created for the Oculus Rift by Baobab Studios), Battle for Avengers Tower (another Oculus Rift Animated short created by Framestore), and the Rose and I (A Little Prince inspired short created for the HDC Vive by Penrose Studios).

Speaking as someone who has never had an opportunity to experience VR on this level, it was a real eye opener. While the idea of animated entertainment with Virtual Reality is still very much in it's infancy, this first taste of what can be done with this new technology was exhilarating to say the least. Even going far beyond the realm of animated shorts but also branching out into interactive gaming and even interactive graphic novels and children's books (demonstrated by the soon to be released interactive e-book of Max and Charlie presented by Zyndo).

After some VR time and a little snack, courtesy of the building's indoor cafe, the afternoon festivities began with the panels. Ranging from an assortment of different topics in the animation industry: VR, crowdfunding, distribution, storyboarding, voice acting, technology currently used in animation process, the use of animation in outreach and much more. At the end of each panel, the audience was invited to ask any questions they had for the panelists, and were even allowed to mingle with them for a certain amount of time as the following panel began to set up.

Some of the major highlights include the creator focused panels. The first one being The Little Prince panel, featuring the film's director Mark Osborne, as he discussed the concept and creation process of adapting the famed book into film. In a way that not only respected the book, but would encourage those who experience to movie to seek out the book and read it for themselves.

This panel was closely followed by Joe Burrascano's presentation on his animation studio Nathan Love, which was as humorous as it was informative.

As part of the presentation of Animation as outreach, several individuals associated with the Animation Project, TAP, came to present several short films to close out Thursday night. Talking about their respective experiences when they first came to the project and what they have learned how to create. It was a distinct privilege to watch these carefully constructed animated shorts and learn more about the process of the Animation Project from the people who have helped make it so special.

It wasn't until Friday night that the official screening of the top 20 animated shorts began. With beverages and popcorn in hand, everyone in attendance gathered round the main screen, as the shorts began to play one by one. Some were dark, some were strange, some were funny, but they each had a story to tell and had their own unique ways of telling it. There was enough variety in visual styles to always keep viewers interested in what would come up next, Cartoonish, realistic, disturbing, stylized, it was like an assorted candy bag of animation that was a real treat to behold.

A experience that Animation Nights New York will continue to champion as they move ahead to the next series of submitted short films to presented in the next several screenings.

While it is too early to say what is next for ANNY: Best of Fest, I can say with certainty that it was an experience that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. As an animation fan, I was able to learn so much more about different facets about the creation process of my favorite medium, and chat with folks that I never would have met otherwise. Young filmmakers looking to learn more on how to get their projects off the ground, veterans in the industry who enjoy sharing their knowledge, and people like myself who want to see animation that isn't like anything else out there.

So if you find yourself in the New York, around the first Wednesday of the month and are looking for a unique but relaxed entertainment experience, I invite you to attend the regular scheduled views of Animation Nights New York and keep your eye out on updates for the next Best of Fest event.

For more information, visit Animation Nights New York website. All photos of ANNY: Best of Fest are credited to Larry Auerbach. Click here to see Day 1 and click here to see Day 2.