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AFA UK: RENDR Festival Belfast, Lonely Castle In The Mirror and more

We're here again rounding up the latest animation news from around the UK!

The Japan Foundation's Touring Film Programme has been bringing a selection of Japanese cinema to audiences across the UK for quite a few years now. The lineup will typically include at least one animated film alongside the live-action. This year is no exception, and audiences will get the chance to see Lonely Castle In The Mirror.

Directed by Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai, Colourful) and produced by A1 Pictures, the 2022 film is an adaptation of the fantasy novel written by Mizuki Tsujimura. It follows middle-schooler Kokoro who confines herself to her room to escape from bullies. One day she notices the mirror in her room is glowing and it transports her to a mysterious castle. There she encounters six other children of similar ages, all of whom are experiencing troubles in their lives. The castle is also home to a mysterious girl in a wolf mask who offers them a task-  find the hidden key in the castle and she will grant any wish.

The Film will screen at the following locations:

Saturday 3 February, 14:30
Saturday 3 February, 16:45
Sunday 4 February, 16:45
Saturday 10 February, 16:30
Sunday 11 February, 17:30
Sunday 11 February, 17:50
Saturday 17 February, 15:15
Thursday 29 February, 17:30
Wednesday 6 March, 18:10
Wednesday 6 March, 20:00
Thursday 7 March, 16:00
Saturday 9 March, 13:15
Saturday 16 March
Sunday 24 March, 17:30
Saturday 30 March, 13:00

Buy tickets from your local box-office or here.

Following the success of its inaugural event last year, Belfast's RENDR festival returns to the city next month with an impressive line-up of talent from the global animation industry. The two-day creativity and technology festival is supported by Northern Ireland Screen, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Studio Ulster, Ulster University, Ulster Screen Academy and Belfast City Council. It takes place from 29 February to March 1 at Portview Trade Centre in East Belfast.

The festival will feature 30 keynote talks across two evenings alongside live and interactive demonstrations of new technology, digital art and gaming experiences. For the first time the festival will also be available virtually from anywhere in the world.

Joining the festival this year is Senior Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel of Industrial Light And Magic. His work includes Toy Story, The Phantom Menace, Rango, Rogue One, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Iron Man and more. He is currently the Animation Director for The Mandalorian series on Disney+.

From Sony Pictures Imageworks is Pawel Grochola, an FX and Look of Picture Supervisor who has worked on feature films including The Edge Of Tomorrow and The Mitchells Vs The Machines. Most recently he worked on Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, which was nominated for an Oscar.

From Pixar is digital artist Dylan Sission who will share his 25 years of experience in animation and visual effects. A key figure at Pixar since 1999, he has made a significant contribution to the development and evolution of Pixar's proprietary animation software Renderman.

Other speakers include Amy Ash, head of character at Axis Studios who has worked on projects for League Of Legends and Magic The Gathering and Aardman's Suzy Fagan Parr who served as a lead character animator on Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget.

Festival director Michael Weir comments "“RENDR offers opportunity to gain insight into unique perspectives within the fascinating worlds of film, gaming and animation, and to network with highly esteemed professionals in these industries. This is an important festival to the ever-growing creative industry in Northern Ireland and we’re proud to make a contribution. Building upon the success of last year, we hope RENDR can serve to inform, engage and challenge the creative community here to push the boundaries of technology in their work.”

For the full list of speakers and to buy tickets see the festival's website.

The British Animation Awards are back for 2024! The biannual event will take place on March 7, 2024, and will celebrate the very best in British animation. With lots of sheep puns. Tickets are on sale for the ceremony now.

The BFI Southbank is hosting a number of animation screenings over the coming weeks. They include a screening of Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget with a Q&A with director Sam Fell (Sunday, February 11),  Nimona (February 25), a preview and Q&A with the producers of Disney's collaboration with Pan-African company Kugali, TV series Iwájú and a preview screening of Oscar-nominated Feature Robot Dreams

Now in UK and Ireland cinemas courtesy of Anime Ltd is the anime feature Blue Giant. The film follows Dai Miyamoto as his life changes when he discovers Jazz. Leaving his home town to pursue a musical career in Tokyo, he teams up with his friend and a talented pianist to form a band. With each performance they get closer to their dream of playing Blue, Japan's premiere Jazz club and forever changing the world of Jazz. Blue Giant is based on the manga by Shinichi Ishizuka and is directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa.

The film features music by Grammy-winning musician Hiromi, who also performs the film's piano pieces alongside top musicians assembled after a worldwide search -Tomoaki Baba on tenor saxophone and on Drums Shun Ishikawa of Millenium Parade.