When Bruno Bozzetto and John Lasseter met for the first time last year at the inauguration of the wonderful Pixar show in Milan, the person who was most thrilled was Lasseter. “You are my idol”, the founder of Pixar told the Italian film-maker, and kept him by his side all evening. His son, who has recently graduated with a degree in cinema, had only just finished a thesis that compared “Fantasia” (Disney, 1941) with “Allegro non troppo” (Bozzetto, 1977).
A few months later, Lasseter, now also the head of Disney, invited Bozzetto to California to visit the studios and talk to the artists. The admiration of US animators for their Italian colleagues has deep roots and is reminiscent of that of Hollywood for our cinema.
There are some members of the Academy who still regret not having been able to give an Oscar to “Flauto magico” by Gianini and Luzzati (1978), because it was too long for the shorts category and too short for the features. They are fascinated by our creative craftsmanship and by our ability to create masterpieces from nothing, like Carlo Rambaldi did in his highly imaginative workshop in Los Angeles.
As it has passed on to new generations, the art of our great film-makers – to which we should add at least the Pagot brothers and Gavioli, Pierluigi De Mas, Osvaldo Cavandoli, Manfredo Manfredi and Guido Manuli – has partly turned into an industry.
Today we work with digital images in the most disparate spheres. The main one is television series, followed by feature movies, arthouse movies, visual effects, advertising, video games and the up-and-coming digital publishing. There are around three thousand people currently working in this sector in Italy: film-makers, directors, screenwriters, artistic directors, storyboard writers, animators, scene designers, character designers, set designers and 3D modelers, special effects technicians, musicians and sound designers, dubbing artists plus producers, distributors, marketing and licensing experts and administrative personnel.
These artistic, technical, organizational, managerial and cultural skills feed a small industry that has to measure itself against the international market.
Animation studios are image factories where one production has to follow another, so as not to lose the skilled personnel and, therefore, a large part of the company’s know-how.
The problem of production continuity, along with the ability to create works that are suitable for global markets, mean that animation studios are more similar to the manufacturing industry than the cinema and television sector.
The problem is that, in Italy, the only television interlocutor for independent producers is Rai, to which the whole sector is naturally very grateful for the production and editorial commitment it has made for nearly twenty years.
A commitment that should be shared with private broadcasters or at least redrawn, also in terms of content, in the light of the new distribution platforms and changeability of international scenarios.
It would, for example, be a good idea to liberate children’s animation, finally managing to provide a different, more original representation of individuals and society compared to real life productions. In the past, Italian film-makers have demonstrated that they can do this very well and we are certain that the younger generations of film-makers and scriptwriters will be able to do the same, particularly if we take into account the fact that, today more than ever, animation is a liquid language that can adapt itself to multiple screens and increasingly fragmented audiences.
Alfio Bastiancich is President of Asifa Italia (Italian Association of Animation Films)