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Festival Review : Short Animated Films To Be Shown


"Festival of Animation," which will screen at the Science Lecture Hall at UC Irvine today through Sunday, includes some excellent short films from Canada, Europe and the United States. However, most of the shorts are old and virtually all have been shown in Southern California within the last few years.

The one film from 1986 has been broadcast on MTV. Will Vinton's rock video "Vantz Kant Danz" combines stop-motion animation of clay figures with live-action footage of singer John Fogerty. Ironically, the animated figures move more fluidly than Fogerty, who seems very stiff as he stands and plays the guitar.

Shorts from the National Film Board of Canada dominate the first half of the program. Zlatko Grgic's fire safety film "Hot Stuff" (1971) is a hilarious example of how to present a message without getting mired in didacticism. Made for the U.N.'s Year of the Child, Derek Lamb's Oscar-winning "Every Child" (1979) uses humor to present a poignant call for better treatment of children in our society.

Ryan Larkin's exuberant study "Walking" (1968) and Jacques Drouin's intriguing "Mindscape" (1976) remain striking examples of unusual animation techniques. "Walking" is rendered in ink wash on paper. "Mindscape" was created on the pinscreen, a device that gives the film the look of a pointillistic charcoal drawing.

But audiences should also see new films from the artists at the film board. Sheldon Cohen's 'Pies" (1983), an icky tale involving mince pies and cow pies, certainly doesn't represent the best work being done at the board today.

The other real dud in the program is also from Canada. Marv Newland's inane "Hooray For Sandboxland" (1985), a pointless exercise in cutesy-poo graphics, recalls Dorothy Parker's line about "Winnie the Pooh" making her want to "frow up."

Animation has often been described as a moribund art form, so it's encouraging to see two excellent first films included in the show: Alison Snowden's "Second Class Mail" (England, 1985) and John Minnis' "Charade" (Canada, 1985).

"Second Class Mail" tells the story of a cozy little old lady who sends for an inflatable little old man doll. Snowden deftly underplays the humor and incorporates some imaginative bits of animation, including an improbably athletic canary. Minnis won the Oscar in 1985 for "Charade," an outrageous, Monty Python-esque send-up of the party games people play.

Like "Charade," the off-the-wall style of Richard Conde's "The Big Snit" (Canada, 1985) recalls the spirit of the classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons. Conde's lumpy husband and wife become so embroiled in a domestic squabble about a game of Scrabble that they fail to notice the outbreak of World War III. The humor is very black but very funny, and "The Big Snit" ends the show--and the world--with a bang, not a whimper.

"Festival of Animation" screens today at 7 and 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 5, 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2, 4, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5 in advance, $5.50 at the door. For information, call (714) 856-5549.

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