Once Upon a Time

The Fantoche Story since 1995

When Fantoche first launched back in 1995, it announced itself as the «new arrival in the Swiss festival landscape, a sapling in the shadow of Zurich’s cultural hothouse.” The founders of Fantoche, Otto Alder, Frank Braun, Suzanne Buchan and Peter Hossli, were inspired by a sense of idealism, by an absolute love of animation, as well as by the desire to open up this «realm of boundless opportunities” to Switzerland.

The aim was to provide the global animation scene with a regular forum in Switzerland, «bringing together exciting, involved people from all around the world (every two years), forging links, showcasing the most dynamic contemporary film form in all its glory, building bridges with other art forms, closing the gap between commerce and art, a real event.”

8000 viewers heeded the first call and made the pilgrimage to the small city of Baden where they watched over 300 short and long animated films from 21 countries. It proved to be a great success and spurred the organizers on to do it again.

Fantoche II and III in 1997 and 1999 carried on seamlessly from the success of the first edition. Organizational and logistical improvements were made, and it became increasingly popular among the general public, enabling Fantoche to make a name for itself in ever increasing national and international circles.

Boiling point reached

At the same time, the strain was increasingly telling on the festival’s limited human and financial resources. It had reached a critical size; Fantoche would not be able to keep pace with the dynamics which it had triggered itself in the long term. Its lifeblood had reached boiling point, and its team of volunteers had become depleted.

As a result, Fantoche IV in 2001 had to be cancelled due to a lack of financial assurances. Thanks to an organizational analysis which showed how to achieve a professional management model with permanent appointments and constructive talks with Baden City Council, Fantoche then managed to find positive answers to the major question concerning its very existence.

Relaunch: The young shoot takes root

The organizers then concluded a service agreement with Baden City Council lasting a number of years, and the increased subsidies from the Canton of Aargau and from the Swiss Office of Culture enabled the festival to be resumed on a professionally organized footing. Fantoche IV eventually took place in September 2003, attracting 19,000 visitors.

Fantoche grows and blossoms

Following nine successful festivals, the young shoot has now well and truly taken root and blossomed into a magnificent event; Fantoche has now become firmly established as one of the world’s top festivals for animated film. It is Switzerland’s biggest and most prestigious cultural event devoted exclusively to animation in all its many facets, in terms of the technology, content and media.

In 2009, for the first time the festival gave greater prominence to the theme of computer games. This field is now among Fantoche’s permanent activities and the festival has established itself as an annual meeting place for professionals and all those interested in the theme.
Fantoche shows its films at six cinemas with a total seating capacity of 1300, as well as occupying two exhibition rooms and other venues for panel discussions, talks and lectures as well as a centrally located festival centre along with various fringe venues and a comprehensive entertainment and information programme.  It achieved a new public record in 2011, drawing in over 34,000 visitors. In light of this success and the unbridled diversity and dynamics of animation production, Fantoche changed in 2010 from being a biennial festival to being staged annually, treating Baden and Switzerland to a whole new influx of animated imagery every year.

Fantoche is contemporary and refreshing, and it takes a look over the garden fence

Fantoche is both a festival for the general public and a meeting place for the film and creative industries in equal measure. It comprises an international and a national short film competition, a carefully chosen selection of animated feature films, its own programme slots for innovative computer games, themes with in-depth insights into the medium of animation and games, a multifaceted programme for children and young people, school classes and student groups as well as a diverse offering of lectures, panel discussions, presentations and exhibitions.

Fantoche places great importance on a carefully structured programme, generates its own programme ideas and content, and always seeks to get the balance right between experimentation and good entertainment. With its broad understanding of animation and the careful inclusion of related forms of art and communication, Fantoche is steadily broadening its horizons, thereby continuously reaching out to a new audience and tapping into a new pool of expertise.

Fantoche is every bit as refreshing, fun-loving and lively as the untamable genre to which the festival is devoted. It has a particular preference for artistic films, loves experimentation and is always on the look-out for new trends and young talent.

Its in-depth exploration of individual themes, aspects or styles in classical animation are just as much part of Fantoche as insights into the animated film production process and the desire to cross borders into related areas, such as games, art, media, industry and entertainment.

Fantoche is a well of discovery and inspiration, a place where people meet and share ideas. Baden is the perfect venue with its small-city charm, professional and comfortable cinemas, as well as its ideal location within Greater Zurich.