Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy And The Heron’ To Open Animation Is Film Festival; Netflix’s ‘Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget’ To Close

Animation Is Film revealed Thursday that its 2023 edition next month will open with Gkids and Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron, the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki that just opened the Toronto Film Festival. It is getting its U.S. Imax premiere at TCL’s Chinese 6.

The festival, set to run October 18-22 in Hollywood, will close with Netflix’s Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, to be followed by a Q&A with director Sam Fell and executive producer Peter Lord.

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AIF’s annual lineup of theatrical presentations, special events, and shorts showcase includes two Annecy International Animation Film Festival prize winners, Neon’s film Robot Dreams and Gkids’ Chicken for Linda!, which will make their West Coast and U.S. debuts. Other titles include Phoenix: Reminiscence of Flower (Japan), making its North American theatrical premiere.

DreamWorks Animation will host a special presentation of its latest film, Trolls Band Together, ahead of it November release.

Other highlights are the North American premiere of Sony Pictures Animation/Sony Pictures Imageworks’ The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story, a new Spider-Verse short film, and a special theatrical presentation of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ narrative short Once Upon A Studio, featuring voices from Disney Animation’s past including Dwayne Johnson, Paige O’Hara, Jodi Benson and Josh Gad. This year’s AIF also features a “Work-In-Progress” sneak peek of Walt Disney Animation’s Wish. 

“Animation Is Film is not just the name of our festival, it is its mission,” AIF executive director Matt Kaszanek said. “New films from Studio Ghibli and Aardman are seismic cinematic events, and a reason for movie lovers of any medium to rejoice. Joining these titles is a collection of some of the most audacious, genre-defying, and critically acclaimed films of the year. We are so proud to present them in Los Angeles.”

AIF will post its full schedule of films and programs to its website, and will be adding additional films, programs, and sneak peeks ahead of the festival.

Here’s the main lineup:


The Boy And The Heron (Japan | United States IMAX Premiere)
The highly anticipated new film from the legendary Academy Award-winning Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Japan’s celebrated animation house, Studio Ghibli. The film is an original story written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, produced by the Oscar®-winning Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, and features a musical score from Miyazaki’s long-time collaborator Joe Hisaishi. A GKIDS release.

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget  (United Kingdom / United States / France | Los Angeles Premiere)
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, is the sequel to the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time, Chicken Run. Having pulled off a death-defying escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger has finally found her dream – a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock, far from the dangers of the human world. When she and Rocky hatch a little girl called Molly, Ginger’s happy ending seems complete. But back on the mainland the whole chicken-kind faces a new and terrible threat. For Ginger and her team, even if it means putting their own hard-won freedom at risk – this time, they’re breaking in!
* Director Sam Fell and Executive Producer Peter Lord (Chicken Run) in-person! A Netflix release.


Art College 1994 (China | West Coast Premiere)
Art College 1994 is a portrait of youth set on the campus of the Chinese Southern Academy of Arts in the early 1990s. Against the backdrop of reforms opening China to the Western world, a group of college students live in full swing as they take their first steps into adulthood, where love and friendships are intertwined with artistic pursuits, ideals and ambitions. Caught between tradition and modernity, they now have to choose who they want to become. A Dekanalog release.

Chicken For Linda!  (France / Italy | United States Premiere)
Paulette feels guilty after unjustly punishing her daughter Linda and would do anything to make it up to her. Linda immediately asks for a meal of chicken with peppers, which reminds her of the dish her father used to make. But with a general strike closing stores all across town and pushing people into the streets, this innocent request quickly leads to an outrageous series of events that spirals out of control, as Paulette does everything she can to keep her promise and find a chicken for Linda. Winner of the Cristal at 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. A GKIDS release.

The Concierge (Japan| United States Premiere)
Akino is a trainee concierge at the Hokkyoku Department Store, an unusual department store that caters exclusively to animals. Under the watchful eyes of the floor manager and senior concierges, Akino runs around to fulfill the wishes of customers with a myriad of needs and problems in her pursuit to become a full-fledged concierge. An Aniplex release.

Mars Express  (France | United States Premiere)
On Mars, two private detectives investigate the disappearance of a young woman. What’s the reason Jun Chow, 18-year-old cybernetics student, is being pursued by the police and by murderers? Aline Ruby, and Carlos Rivera, his partner who has been saved in an android following his death 5 years ago, are in a race against time to be the first to find the most wanted girl on Mars.

Phoenix: Reminiscence of Flower  (Japan / North American Premiere)
Romi flees with her husband and son from a devastated Earth to settle on the planet Eden17. After discovering that it’s uninhabitable and losing her husband in an accident, Romi is placed in a state of cryopreservation along with her son. However, when she wakes up 1300 years later, she discovers that Eden has become an advanced civilization that treats her like a queen. Despite all this, Romi will do everything she can to fulfill her greatest desire: to return to Earth.

Robot Dreams (Spain / France | West Coast Premiere)
Based on the popular graphic novel by the North American writer Sara Varon, ROBOT DREAMS tells the adventures and misfortunes of Dog and Robot in NYC during the ’80s. A NEON release.

Sirocco And The Kingdom Of The Winds  (Belgium / France | Los Angeles Premiere)
Two sisters, 4-year-old Juliette and 8-year-old Carmen, discover a passage between their world and a book’s, “The Kingdom of Air Streams”. To come back they need to find Sirocco, a terrifying character who can control the wind. Opening Night Selection, 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival

The Summer (South Korea | North American Premiere)
Rising star director Han Ji-won and animation studio Red Dog Culture House collaborate on a  queer, coming-of-age romantic drama that captures the highs and lows of falling in love.

Special Screening of Trolls Band Together
Poppy discovers that Branch was once part of a boy band, BroZone, with his brothers: Floyd, John Dory, Spruce, and Clay. But when Floyd is kidnapped, Branch and Poppy embark on a journey to reunite the other brothers and rescue Floyd. Director Walt Dohrn, Co-Director Tim Heitz, and Producer Gina Shay will be in-person

North American Premiere of The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story
Miles Morales struggles to balance his responsibilities as a teenager, friend, and student while acting as Brooklyn’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. After a particularly challenging day living with these pressures, Miles experiences a panic attack that forces him to confront the manifestations of his anxiety and learn that reaching out for help can be just as brave an act as protecting his city from evil.

The Spider Within is the inaugural short of Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks’s new LENS (Leading and Empowering New Storytellers) program. The program connects up-and-coming filmmakers from underrepresented groups with creative and executive leadership to produce a short film utilizing an existing pipeline from an upcoming feature film. The film will have its North American Premiere at Animation Is Film and will be followed by a panel with Jarelle Dampier (Director), Khaila Amazan (Writer), Clara Chan (VFX supervisor), and Joe Darko (animation supervisor), moderated by Michelle Raimo-Kouyate and David Schulenburg (Producers/LENS Program Creators). Special Screening and panel of Walt Disney Animation’s Once Upon A Studio and early footage of the upcoming Wish.

In celebration of Walt Disney Animation’s 100th anniversary, Animation Is Film is proud to host a special theatrical presentation of its newest short film, Once Upon A Studio. After hours at Walt Disney Animation Studios, iconic characters – heroes and villains alike – from the past hundred years try to gather for a centenary group photo. The filmmakers will be there in person

Warner Bros 100: A Special celebration of Warner Bros Animation:
Over the span of 6 seasons, Looney Tunes Cartoons delivered over 250 new animated shorts starring the beloved Looney Tunes characters. Join series creatives for a special Q&A and screening featuring never-before-seen Looney Tunes Cartoons shorts, some of their favorites from the series, and a special presentation of Daffy in Wackyland – the first stop-motion Looney Tunes animated short ever made. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, “Looney Tunes Cartoons” is currently streaming on Max.

Animation Is Film is once again proud to shine a spotlight on some of the year’s most extraordinary animated short films in three separate Short Film presentations.

  • A collection of Oscar-qualifying short films from around the world, including:

  • The Day I Became A Bird (UK/ Andrew Ruhemann) – A boy falls in love with a girl who only has eyes for birds. To get her attention, he comes up with a rather unusual plan.

  • Starling (USA/ Mitra Shahidi) – A little girl shoots down from the heavens to spend her birthday with her family

  • Rosemary A.D. (After Dad) (USA/ Ethan Barrett) – Would my daughter be better off without me? The question swims around a father’s mind as he cradles his newborn, in this darkly funny and poignant tale.

  • Letter To A Pig  (Israel-France/ Tal Kantor) – A Holocaust survivor writes, after the war, a thank-you letter to a pig that saved his life. After his testimony in a classroom, a young student dreams a tragic version of his story.

  • The Best Of Annecy, In Partnership With Women In Animation: A collection of extraordinary short films from Annecy, curated by our partners at Women In Animation.

  • Our Uniform  (Iran/ Yegane Moghaddam) – An Iranian girl unfolds her school memories through the wrinkles and fabrics of her old uniform. She admits that she’s nothing but a “female” and explores the roots of this idea in her school years.

  • Le Grande Arche (France/ Camille Authouart) – With nearly 70 monumental works of art scattered throughout the district, La Défense in Paris is Europe’s largest open-air museum. Sitting between the legs of the gigantic Red Spider, I wonder how I hadn’t noticed them before?

  • The Miracle  (Belgium-The Netherlands-France/ Nienke Deutz) – The Miracle, a place where the sun always shines, there’s endless opportunities to relax and food is in abundance.

  • 27 (France-Hungary/ Flora Anna Buda) – Alice is 27 years old today. Although she feels oppressed because she still lives with her parents, she spends her time daydreaming to escape her dreary everyday life.

  • La Perra (Colombia-France/ Carla Melo Gampert) – In Bogota, a bird-girl leaves behind the family home, her domineering mother and faithful dog to go and explore her sexuality.

  • Nun Or Never  (Finland/ Heta Jaalinoja) – A nun digs a man out of the ground and loses her grip on everyday life. Can secrets and harmony coexist?

  • STUDENT SHOWCASE: A showcase of films from the next generation of artists, courtesy of our Educational Partners – California Institute of the Arts; University of Southern California; California State University, Long Beach; and California State University, Fullerton. (Titles to be announced soon.)

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