SICAF! The 17th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival took place July 23rd ~ Jul 28th, 2013. And you know me, I just had to go. I tend to go every year, but this year was quite special. SICAF usually went hand in hand with the Seoul Character & Licensing Fair as a joint exhibit at COEX but this year they went on their own, creating a more festive mood with exhibits in various venues around Namsan and Myeongdong. So, “Let’s go to Namsan!”
The exhibition this year was spread around various venues in Namsan. The handy map you were given with your ticket bracelet showed all the places you could visit and the activities going on. You could start from the base of the mountain near the subway station and walk up to the main venue, Seoul Animation Center, or vice versa. I chose to start at SAC and work my way down.
The main exhibit this year celebrated the work of iconic cartoon artist Yoon Seung-un (윤승운). Debuting in the late 1960s, Yoon penned many series of kids’ cartoons which were very popular in the 70s and 80s. His most popular series “Maengkkongi Seodang” (맹꽁이 서당, Narrow-mouth Toad School, seodang is an old word for “village school”) ran for 9 years in the comic magazine Bomulseom (보물섬, Treasure Island) from 1983. The comic depicted the hilarious antics of a group of mischievous students in the Joseon Dynasty and the trials of their hunjangnim (훈장님, schoolmaster). Another popular series was about a kid inventor: Invention King Yocheol (발명왕 요철) so the exhibition title was aptly “Invention King Yocheol goes to play at Maengkkongi Seodang”. Seeing the originals (all ink and watercolor) was fabulous.
“Alice in SICAF”, a special exhibition showcasing the works of Korean women cartoon artists, were an interesting look at different interpretations of Alice and other characters from the “Alice in Wonderland” series, with the central theme being the playing cards. You could also view the artists’ other work, of which the illustrations with characters in traditional hanbok I particularly liked.
Guest of Honor exhibits featured animation for kids from Canada and representative animation/cartoon series from Kyoto, Japan. (I especially geeked out at K-on!)
There were plenty of activities for children: exhibit explaining the creation process of a popular animation series, interactive animation computer games, story time, short animation screenings, art activities, and so on. Other permanent facilities at Seoul Animation Center were also available for further exploring. The parents looked exhausted, but at least the kids weren’t screaming their heads off; they were too engrossed in what they were doing, which is always a good thing.
Illustrations and cartoons by students were on display, mostly from various competitions and contests held in the country. The amount of talent was encouraging; I found myself hoping the creative dreams of these kids wouldn’t be squashed by reality in future years. (I’m a cynical adult and couldn’t help it.) The winning illustrations were quite amazing.
Another special exhibition was Gundam art from the artist Kim Sori (김소리). Gundam! The geek in me liked the exhibit even before seeing it. Kim has created a series of “hybrid” Gundam and they were just amaaaaaaaaaaaazing.
I have to confess I took a ton load of photos at the Gundam exhibit, actually more than the whole of the festival combined. It took a lot of self restraint not to post the gazillion photos I took. The figures on display were absolutely incredible, particularly the attention to detail. I also appreciated the many photos on display of the artist’s work in progress, especially the glimpses in the funny moments where the artist clearly is in a “blocked” mode and playing around with other character figures. (Goofy cute Keroro frolicking around dead serious Gundam.) It was also hilarious to see the difference in the hardcore geeks and the casual visitors while they were viewing the exhibit. (“Oooh, do you see the joint work on this?” vs “Cool robots.”)
Of course, I’ve only mentioned the exhibition part of SICAF, the main attraction is obviously the films. The animation films were shown at a selected cinema in Myeongdong, a short walk away from the main venue. Composed of official competition entries for feature, short, student, kids, and special showcases, the film fest started off with “The Apostle” from Spain. The Grand Prix was handed to “Anime Mira” from Japan in the feature film category, and “Junkyard” from the Netherlands for the short. (You can check out the other winners at the official site listed below.)
Besides the film fest, there are conferences and seminars (which you can reserve in advance), souvenir booths for geeky shopping, mini-exhibitions in the cafés around the neighborhood, a hotdog eating contest (which was quite funny), caricature booths, other kid activities, and plenty of street art.
I really, really, liked SICAF this year. The venue made it seem more intimate, there were other related cartoon and animation things to do while at the Animation Center (whereas at COEX once you were out of the exhibition hall that was it), the outdoors neighborhood element was lovely, and there was plenty of staff around to handle unruly kids and answer questions. I hope they continue this trend next year, because I know I’m going to be there.
- The Seoul Animation Center and Cartoon Museum http://blog.korea.net/?p=7241
- 2012 Bucheon International Comics Festival http://blog.korea.net/?p=12668
- Learn Korean with webtoons! http://blog.korea.net/?p=3687
- 100th Seoul Comic World http://blog.korea.net/?p=1677
- Game On! From Comic Conventions to PC Rooms http://blog.korea.net/?p=16864
- “Monster Bath House” exhibit (SICAF 2010) video http://youtu.be/RLbCcyqTdkE
- Sori Kim http://sorifactory.blogspot.kr