Manchester Animation Festival 2023: Animation Nation Forum

Features  |  20 November 2023

This year’s Manchester Animation Festival ran from the 12th to 17th of November. From engaging panels to thrilling VR experiences, take a look back at the festival, as we recap the Animation Nation Forum.

Animation UK recently attended the Manchester Animation Festival (MAF), where we held our monthly members’ meeting, bringing together familiar faces both in-person and online, and participated in the 2023 industry day, Animation Nation Forum (ANF).

ANF took place at the Bridgewater Hall on Thursday, 16 November, and was curated to debate, discuss and inform the industry on the landscape of animation. The day consisted of intriguing back-to-back talks, a marketplace, where you could experience various interactive short films through a VR headset, a networking breakfast and celebratory drinks to round off the festival.

We started off the day at the ScreenSkills Breakfast, courtesy of ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund, where we heard from their team on their latest group of animation trainees, over some coffee and pastries.

Orion Ross (Vice President, International Animation, Disney Branded Television) then delivered the Animation Keynote, where he shared Disney’s recent and upcoming projects, and the evolving opportunities for the UK’s rich and unique ecosystem of animation creators, writers, artists, studios and producers.

The topic of AI was discussed from various perspectives in the following session “In the Frame: AI and the Future of Animation Production”, where we heard from Tom Box (Co-Founder, Blue Zoo), Hameed Adigun (Founder, Ronu Creative), David Holt (Voice Actor), Pinar Oruc (Commercial Law Lecturer, University of Manchester) and Jack Leigh (Creative Director, Eight Engines). The panel explored practical ways in which studios can take responsible steps to ensure the collective good and the artistic heart of animation is maintained, and discussed the interesting results of the MAF survey on AI.

Later on in the day, a session on eco-conscious practices, renewable resources, and ethical production, “The Knowledge Exchange – Eco Talk” took place, followed by “Short Insights: The place of animated shorts in industry”, where the independent short film environment in the UK was highlighted.

The final panel of the day was the annual “State of the Animation Nation”, sponsored by Animation UK. We heard from Jon Rennie (Managing Director, Cloth Cat), Hannah Ferguson (Head of Production and Development, Factory), Courtney Arumugam (Executive Producer, LEGO Group), Tom Judd (Co-Founder/Executive Creative Director, Animade), Emma Turner (Head of Film, Animation and Future Skills, ScreenSkills) and Lisa Mackintosh (Assistant Commissioning Editor, Sky). The session reflected on current issues, such as diversity and inclusion, education and investment in the UK animation industry, and discussed what may lay ahead for our sector.

We wrapped up the day with several celebratory events, including the ANF Drinks Reception and the AfterMAF, where we sent off the festival in style.

At the MAF Awards, Tom Angell (Joint MD/Creative Director, Eagle Vs Bat) won the Industry Excellence Awards for Character Design for The Sound Collector, and Frank Cottrell-Boyce won the Industry Excellence Awards for Script Writing for Lupus Films’ Kensuke’s Kingdom. Congratulations to all the winners! See the full list here.

Thank you to Manchester Animation Festival for your hospitality and for hosting such intriguing panels and events. It was a lovely experience and we look forward to seeing everyone again next year!