While 3D animation used in large-scale feature films is a pinnacle for efficiency and high resolution finishing, analogue styles including 2D sketches, painting, and collage layering are still at the heart of animation today.

This point was made clear at Slovakia’s Fest Anca: a festival that celebrates auteurism and experimentation, seen by way of the event’s creative line-up and visceral retrospectives.

UK-based animator Max Hattler [pictured] explained, “All the students going through school right now are very experienced with digital technology, but it is refreshing to know they are combining both 2D and 3D formats, helping drive the medium forward in a more alternative manner. This is creating a style that we didn’t see ten years ago.”

Filmmaker Joanna Kozuch reiterated the lengthy animation process for her film Fongopolis that won the Anca Slovak Award: “It was very complicated. I took photographs, created pixilation (a stop motion technique where actors appear to blend with the animation), then drew sketches, followed by animation and finished the final touches in After Effects.”

Not short of 2D techniques, Swiss auteur Georges Schwizgebel has made a name for himself by using acrylics directly on celluloid, making his films look like paintings. The painstakingly slow process eventually forced him to adapt to digital technology. 

“When I paint, I have to wait one month for each image to dry, so when I have over 1000 drawings, it’s a very long process. I was reticent to transfer to digital; for my last film, we shot on both digital and 35mm. While there are some limitations with a digital camera, I have come to realise it is much more efficient. Digital can make things happen,” confessed Schwizgebel.

At schools like the Academy Of Arts in Bratislava, animation programmes openly address the need to learn both new and old animation techniques. But the problem, producer Peter Badac suggests, is not the creative license - it’s the public’s lack of awareness these types of bespoke films exist.

“Animation is thankfully again on the rise. Here in Slovakia, like much of Central Europe, we had a quiet period when public television entities were forced to shut down during the post-communism period. We are slowly getting back on our feet – now we just need to find ways to reach out to the public.” 

In several panel discussions held during the festival, suggestions in broadening experimental animation to wider audiences included tapping into the television market, that is still largely dominated by children’s programming, or connecting with international production companies to secure co-production deals.  Development funds were also mentioned as a way to release animated shorts in front of feature length films in the cinemas. 

“I know there is a market out there – just look at how many enthusiastic animation fans are here at this festival. Some people are seeing these films for the first time, and they are completely in awe. That is what I want to share with the rest of the world,” said Badac.

In addition to Fest Anca, Romania’s Animest, Czech Republic’s Anifest and Croatia’s Animafest are also gaining in popularity, giving rise to the number of animated filmmakers stemming from Eastern and Central Europe. Badac insists it’s just a matter of time before this form of animation crosses over to wider audiences.