Animation for all

The five-day Animix festival mixes animated films with live-action entertainment.

Animix Festival  (photo credit: Noam Meshulam)
Animix Festival
(photo credit: Noam Meshulam)
The Animation Festival or, to give it its full titular due, Animix – the Animation Comics Caricature International Festival, has become a fixture on our cultural calendar. Now in its 11th year, Animix offers an entertaining and intriguing range of animated film material, as well as informative and stimulating lectures and workshops, an exhibition or two, and some interesting guests as well.
The latter include French Animated Film Association president Denis Walgenwitz and his compatriot, political caricaturist Jean Plantu. The Gallic guest list is in line with the French Focus section of the festival.
This year’s five-dayer (August 16-20) at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, as every year, is chock full of fascinating animation movies from around the world. There are many of the staple ingredients, such as Oscar Award-winning projects, animated commercials, films for children of varying ages and a selection of somewhat macabre movies with animated takes on death.
There is also a tribute to 60 years of broadcasting by the Army Radio station, films made by women about women and a look at what our best animators have been up to.
Noam Meshulam has been among our preeminent professionals in the field for some time, and this year Animix is recognizing his contribution to the industry as the guest of honor of this year’s festival.
The 51-year-old Meshulam, who owns Pitchi Poy Animation Productions in Jaffa, has been in the business for a while. “In 1981, after the army, I went to Paris to study animation,” he recalls. “There wasn’t much in the way of animation studies here back then, only at Bezalel.”
Meshulam certainly has the creative pedigree for his calling. “I come from an artistic home. My father was the abstract painter David Meshulam. I wanted to do art, but I wanted my art to move, so animation was a natural choice.”
As a youngster, Meshulam saw all the standard cartoons on the market, such as Disney and Tom & Jerry, but says his father’s line of work also provided him with a source of inspiration. “I always did a lot of sketching and drawings, and I wanted to see them and oil paintings come to life.”
That mindset led to a highly varied approach to animation. “I use all kinds of techniques – flash, stop motion, live and combinations of all or some of them. I take it to areas of motion, to cinematic areas.”
Meshulam says he tends to steer away from the beaten path. “I look to the less mainstream animators like [Oscar-winning Czech animator Jan] Svankmajer, who did complex and highly artistic things that fed off other areas.”
After spending four years studying and working in Paris, Meshulam returned home, being fully aware that he was coming back to a far less developed animation industry. He immediately set about establishing Pitchi Poy in 1985 but found it difficult in the land that flowed with milk and honey but had very little in the way of animation activity.
“It was tough to begin with,” he admits. “My first project here was working on ‘Rehov Sumsum,’ the Israeli version of Sesame Street.”
Some years later he got to combine his love for oil painting with his more technologically advanced medium. “I got involved in the [1999] Eurovision Song Contest here, doing the animated fillers. That was very complex and very artistic work, which included working with Rembrandt paintings and the like. I enjoyed that a lot.”
After that, Meshulam worked on a full-length animated feature film entitled Ma’aleh Karachot, which was supported by the Israel Film Fund. And, more recently, he released a delightful movie called Armon Hachol (The Sandcastle), which tells the story of what takes place inside a sandcastle after the kids have gone home.
Meshulam also got plenty of high-end animation work done, including in the advertising industry, as well as helping to produce new generations of Israeli animators by teaching at Bezalel.
He is now in the process of trying to make a longplanned cross-genre project come to fruition. “I am working on a film based on the books of [painterwriter] Nachum Gutman,” he says. “It is very much Tel Aviv based, like Gutman and like me. The script is in the works. I just hope I get the funding I need.”
Other intriguing stellar guests at the festival include US comic book artist Joe Kubert who, among other significant contributions to the field, worked on DC Comics characters Sgt. Rock and Hawkman; and Palestinian political cartoonist Baha Boukhari who, along with their illustrious French professional colleagues, will take part in various panel discussions.
Also in the Animix program is a spotlight on animated documentary films, presented by festival artistic director Dudu Shalita, and a section devoted to animated films on the subject of interpersonal relations. The latter category includes a screening of Words, Words, Words by celebrated Czech animator Michael Pavlatova; and Speechless by British director Daniel Greaves, about a family whose members communicate solely via cellular texting.
Meanwhile, younger patrons – and their parents – should have fun at Shalita’s “Watching with Dudu” program of animated films. And the “Draw Me a Sheep” concert, which includes a string quintet playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with an actor playing the role of the composer, will broaden the festival’s entertainment offering.
There will also be plenty of hands-on activities to keep the kids amused.
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