Gainsbourg director Joann Sfar’s pro-tolerance tale is set against the backdrop of Algerian capital of Algiers in the 1920s.

French director Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat du Rabbin) picked up the top Cristal prize for best feature film at the closing award ceremony of the International Annecy Animation Festival on Saturday.  

Japanese Keiichi Hara’s Colorful — about a spirit given a second chance to live and transferred into the body of a boy who has recently committed suicide — won the audience award and was also given a special mention by the jury.

French Patrick Jean’s Pixels, a quirky work about the invasion of New York by 8-bit creatures which has already been viewed more than four million times on video-sharing platforms such as Dailymotion, won the Cristal for best short.

The weather might have been against the festival, running 6-11 June, but the rain and wind did nothing to dampen the exuberant, youthful spirit of the week-long cartoon extravaganza favoured by animation fans, students and professionals alike.

Hardcore festival goers even endured the showers to attend the nightly open-air screenings by Lake Annecy, which included features such as Rango, Rio, Up, and How to Train your Dragon and Gnomeo & Juliet.

Organizers said 7,000 guests hailing from 70 countries attended the festival, adding that although the numbers were down on last year “attendance figures are comparable to those of 2010 which was an exceptional year due to the fact it was the 50th anniversary”. 

Beyond the screenings, the festival laid on it usual packed programme of Work in Progress and Making of conferences, industry debates and talent workshops.

Ongoing features unveiled in Work in Progress included Japanese Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Pirate – Captain Harlock, Paris-based Les Armateurs latest production Ernest and Celestine and Aardman Animations’ Arthur Christmas.

Laurent Boileau’s hybrid feature documentary Approved for Adoption prompted particular buzz among professionals in attendance.

Seamlessly mixing live action footage with animation, the documentary is based on the work of Korean-born, Belgium-raised comic strip artist Jung exploring his adoption and transfer from his native Korea as a small child

The film produced by Thomas Schmidt’s Paris-based Mosaique Films, with the backing of some 20 partners, is due to be completed early 2012 and is aiming for a Cannes premiere.

A presentation of EuropaCorp’s long-awaited The Boy with Cuckoo-Clock Heart had a young audience queuing around the block for hours before it started due to the presence of its co-director Mathias Malzieu, frontman of French rock Dionysus, who gave an energetic acoustic performance as part of the event.  

Malzieu and co-director Stephane Berla showed extensive artwork and a series of rough animatics for the film, based on the former’s eponymous novel. Producer Virginie Besson Silla said the €24 million film would be ready for an October 2012 release and that a proper show reel would be ready for next Cannes.  

The previous day, EuropaCorp gave an unscheduled sneak preview of Bibo Bergeron’s A Monster in Paris which is due to hit French screens in October– flying in French pop star Mathieu Chedid, or M, to perform excerpts of the soundtrack he has written for the film.

Other highlights of the festival included a talk by Warner Bros Animation executive vice president, Creative Affairs at WBA Sam Register in which he discussed how the Burbank studio manages its stable of vintage cartoon characters in the 21st century and also announced the making of a 3D Daffy Duck short for theatrical release.

At the festival’s international animation market, Mifa, the organisers said attendance had jumped by 8% this year with more than 2,000 professionals from 70 countries attending the meeting running 6-11 June.

Key film events at the market included French online games company Ankama’s announcement that it was bringing its cult fantasy world of Dofus to the big screen and Shibuya International’s presentation of its already announced, Blood Vengeance feature film, based on its highly successful Tekken Tag Tournament franchise.

Project director Katsuhiro Harada said the film would be premiered in the United States with a one-day screening event in 370 theatres on July 26 arranged by NCM Fathom Inc and was due to go on general release in Japan in September.

An all-in-one blu-ray disc including Blood Vengeance and a remastered version of the Tekken Tag Tournament game is due to be released late 2011. 

Other Mifa meetings included the inaugural Global Media Connect aimed at connecting five crossmedia projects with potential investors such as Brandcasterz, Dailymotion, M6, Entjoy and Google.  The multiplatform projects included Konrad Seven’s hip hop inspired Puppetmastaz and Alban Gily’s Bubbleman Superstar.