Running on its thirteenth year, the international stop-motion film festival was born from founder Gio Toninelo's fascination with one of America’s favorite toys: G.I. Joe. Obsessed with the figurines since childhood, Toninelo carried his love of the action hero well into adulthood, amassing a treasure trove of more than a thousand G.I. Joes.
Turning his childhood love into an art form, Toninelo began staging and photographing his action figures for his web series Pond Patrol back in 2005. After a two-year run, the website garnered more than 60,000 views per month.
Toninelo cooked up the idea of creating a film festival that would showcase films made with G.I. Joe dolls. “I had this film festival idea. I wanted to show other filmmakers you don’t have to complicate your animation too much, as long as you have a good story," he says.
Thus began the G.I. Joe Action Film Festival.
Filmmakers from around the world submitted hundreds of G.I. Joe-themed works in various genres, from somber war dramas to slapstick. From the festivals' start in Denver, the event has toured six U.S. cities, Canada and Singapore. Toninelo’s own film "Pastrami on Rye" gained him notoriety, and even received shout-outs from the New York Times.
All of this attention soon caught the eye of
“Initially, we were on good terms,” said Toninelo, who admits he only had a sort of informal agreement with the Hasbro executives. Even though talks were in the works for a more formal partnership, Toninelo received a cease-and-desist letter from the company in June. The added notoriety coupled with the outright gore and toilet humor in some of the films, Toninelo believes, caused the crackdown.
“I think they thought the films didn’t reflect what Hasbro thought of G.I. Joe,” he says.
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Instead of facing off in the courts with a corporate giant, Toninelo decided to rename his event the Action Figure Festival Festival this past June. Though the name change shifts away from Toninelo’s favorite figurines, it also opens the festival to a new crop of characters.
“Combining these worlds — DC with Marvel, G.I. Joe with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — is very likely to happen in the generic film world. On this
As for incorporating Marvel characters into his own films? Toninelo says it's a possibility. “I might combine some worlds, even though I am a die-hard G.I. Joe fan. Maybe I would get Ironman to join G.I. Joe."