Walt Disney's Tom Sito compares the animation business to the farming business--some years are bountiful, some years aren't.
If that's true, the animation world should be reaping a big harvest come year's end, when several animated, feature-length films are expected to be released.
With that in mind, this seems as good a time as any for the Ojai Film Society's annual "Adventures in Animation" program Saturday. Organizers have invited nine of the top animators around, including Sito, to discuss the medium.
"Basically, we're kind of performers on paper. We sort of do what the actor would do," said Sito, whose wife, Pat, works in animation at 20th Century Fox. "I forgot who said it--I think it was Alfred Hitchcock--'The advantage of being an artist is, if you don't like your story, you can tear it up.' "
Over the past few years, with the release of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "The Little Mermaid," there has been a renewed interest in animation.
"In the '70s, the art form was considered to be dying. There were no Hollywood shorts, TV was getting progressively worse," Sito said. "These recent films sort of re-established the universal appeal of animation. It's not just there to be children's baby-sitters but, rather, a serious form of entertainment."
Sito said the reason some of the animated films appeal to such a wide audience is that people can identify with the characters.
"They are the most easily created Everymen. They physically manifest our anxieties and our problems, but they are an easy escape for us," he said. "We don't feel like they are going to lecture us or take a stand on something we don't agree with."
Roger Rabbit, he said, was one of the Everymen (or Everyhares). "If you feel like life is hitting you in the head and you see Roger Rabbit really getting hit in the head, it's a release."
Animated films to look for in the coming year include "Beauty and the Beast," "FernGully, The Last Rainforest" and a Tom and Jerry feature.
The Ojai Film Society event will include an animation workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. and a discussion program, hosted by cartoonist Sergio Aragones, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Both will be held at Matilija Junior High School, 703 El Paseo Road in Ojai. Tickets to the workshop are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Admission to the evening program is $25 for adults and $10 for children. For more information, call 646-8946.
Also on Saturday, the Thousand Oaks Library Classic Film Night will feature the 1954 Japanese film "24 Eyes," written and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. "24 Eyes" is a political statement about an elementary school teacher who follows her pupils through time, seeing them suffer at the hands of poverty, war and Japanese tradition. This black-and-white film is in Japanese with English subtitles. Show-time is 7 p.m.