A collection of "excitingly current, classic and thought provoking Animated Films from around the world" would be a welcome addition to the summer's film offerings.
Unfortunately, "Animation Fascination" (at the Cinemaland Theater in Anaheim through Aug. 3) fails to live up to its billing. Most of the short films in this two-hour program are old and/or student works from Cal Arts and UCLA.
The outstanding film in the collection is Sara Petty's "Furies" (1977), an exquisite study in motion, color and texture. Charcoal and pastel drawings of the artist's two Rex cats change color and metamorphose into Cubist abstractions, yet always move like cats. But few of the other shorts match that level of excellence.
"Spotting a Cow" (1983) by Paul Driessen offers some amusing black and white images, but it is decidedly inferior to the brilliant Dutch artist's other works, and the ending is needlessly gross. Jimmy Picker's "Sundae in New York" (1983) may have won an Oscar, but its caricature of Mayor Ed Koch quickly grows tiresome. The technical excellence of "The Great Cognito" (1982), Will Vinton's Claymation spoof of a stand-up comic, is marred by a bad voice track.
Chris Bailey's "Bubba" (1982), Kelly Asbury's "Bug" (1983) and Brett Koth's "Happy Hour" (1983) are funny and well-animated; they're also student exercises, with rough sound tracks and without color, rather than finished films. Another student work, "Pixel" (1984) by Charles Barnett, offers some standard, computer-generated flash, but it looks like a portfolio piece. Renan Tolon's "Say It With Flowers" (1984) and Valerie Lettera's "The End" (1985) fall short of the standards of animation, design and storytelling usually associated with the UCLA animation workshop.
"Zagreb Bits," a three-minute collection of five films by various animators, reveals just how far the standard of quality has declined at the once-prestigious Zagreb Film. The viewer looks in vain for the imagination and wit that made the Yugoslavian studio the center of international creativity in animation during the early '60s.
In his introduction, program co-producer Mark November assured the audience that an animated film was "as artistic as a painting." He then announced that comedian Peter Crabbe would serve as emcee for the weekend shows, as if artistic animation were a bitter pill that required a sugar coating. Webster's defines comedian as "a person who amuses others by behaving in a comic way." Crabbe expands that definition by behaving in a way that amuses only himself. His pathetically unfunny jokes about Cambodians, gays and Japanese should be retired to a museum of ethnic slurs, and the films allowed to speak for themselves.
"Animation Fascination" continues at the Cinemaland Theater, 1414 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim; Show times are 5:00, 7:15 and 9:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with additional 2:30 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens. For more information call (714) 956-5215.