"Although there are a lot of film festivals in America, there are no other animation festivals," says Terry Thoren, director of the second "Los Angeles Animation Celebration," which opens Friday evening on the Westside and runs through July 17.
"Trying to start one here is a labor of love, because we don't have the government backing to create the kind of festival that's become traditional in other parts of the world--the Annecy Festival (in France) has a budget of more than $1 million. With much more limited resources, we're attempting to establish the kind of festival Americans will want to attend: one that's diverse, exciting--and entertaining."
With more than 200 films from all over the world competing for a total of $5,000 in prizes in eight categories, and an additional 100 films screening in various retrospectives, the "Animation Celebration" has become an important showcase for animated films and film makers. There's only one other animation festival in the Western Hemisphere--in Hamilton, Canada, in even-numbered years.
Among the animators, directors and producers scheduled to make guest appearances are Ralph Bakshi, Bruno Bozzetto, Marc Davis, Jerry Rees, Brad Bird, Murray Ball and Thomas Wilhite.
The 31 programs that comprise the event include 10 feature-length films, eight collections of short films in competition, five tributes to major animators and various special screenings. Among the highlights:
--The world premieres of two American features, "The Brave Little Toaster" and "Rock Odyssey." Based on a story by Thomas Disch, "Toaster" follows the adventures of a band of lonely household appliances as they search for their former owner. Hanna Barbera's "Rock Odyssey" is an attempt to do a rock 'n' roll "Fantasia."
--The salutes to "New Age TV Animation" and Great Britain's Channel 4 prove that it is possible to produce quality animation for television. Imaginative works such as the "Family Dog" episode of NBC's "Amazing Stories" demolish the shibboleth that animated TV shows have to be synonymous with mindless children's entertainment.
--Tributes to Norman McLaren, Milt Kahl and Ralph Bakshi. Although his films are not widely known in the United States, McLaren's brilliant work at the National Film Board of Canada has influenced artists throughout the world. The late Kahl, one of the celebrated "Nine Old Men" of the Disney Studio, did key animation on many of the studio's classic features, including "Cinderella," "Peter Pan," "The Jungle Book," "Saludos Amigos" and "Song of the South." The program of films by Bakshi (excerpts from "Fritz the Cat," "Heavy Traffic," "Wizards") offers a look at the career of one of the most controversial figures in the history of animation.
The screenings of films in competition offer a rare opportunity to see short films, including the work of some of the world's most respected animators. (New animated shorts are shown regularly in theaters and on television in Europe, and the audiences there are familiar with many of these films.)
Among the more interesting works in competition:
--Program 2 includes "Babylon" (Britain), a savage political cartoon in motion; "Drawing on My Mind" (USA), Bob Kurtz's zany illustrations of George Carlin's outrageous humor; "Luxo, Jr." (USA), the Oscar-nominated computer film (Saturday at 6 p.m.).
--Program 4: "The Amazing Bone" (USA), a charming adaptation of William Steig's children's book; "Lucretia" (Canada), a Christmas story with a devilishly clever twist; "Baeus" (Italy), Bruno Bozzetto's tale of a mismatched romance between a housewife and a little blue bug (Sunday at 6 p.m.).
--Program 6: "L'Homme Qui Plantait des Arbres" ("The Man Who Planted Trees") (Canada). Many artists regard Frederic Back's gentle ecological tale as the most beautiful animated film in recent years (Tuesday at 6 p.m.).
"We've tried to bring films to Los Angeles that audiences won't be able to see anywhere else," concludes Thoren. "The idea of animation as a sophisticated art form is still in its infancy in this country, so we're trying to build an audience. In these early years, it's important for people to have a good feeling about the medium when they leave the theater. So we're trying to show a diverse selection of films and not take ourselves too seriously."
With the exception of the premiere of "The Brave Little Toaster" at the Wadsworth Theater (on the Veterans' Administration grounds in West Los Angeles), all screenings take place at the Nuart Theater, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. Further information: (213) 312-3390 or 478-6379.