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POPULAR 'TOONS : 'The Best of the Festival of Animation' Screens Some Favorites of the Past 14 Years

July 25, 1991|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lance writer who regularly covers film for The Times Orange County Edition.

Not everybody likes everything the annual "Festival of Animation" has to offer, and they don't mind letting Shane Peterson know about it.

"People who love animation take it very seriously," said Peterson, who has helped to produce the festival for several years. "We've had people object to some films because they felt they were too violent or hard to understand. We try to pay attention to their complaints."

Peterson and his colleagues have also paid attention to what people have enjoyed during the festival's 14 years. Through information gathered from dozens of talks with cartoon fans and hundreds of questionnaires handed out after each screening, they've come up with what they believe are animation's greatest hits, or at least the most popular.

"(Animation fans) make a point of coming up and talking to us after the shows, they spend time filling out the questionnaires, and they answer mailers," Peterson said. "They may not like something, but they also feel strongly about their favorites. This latest program is really what the public has asked to see again."

The collection, called "The Best of the Festival of Animation," opens Friday in Costa Mesa for a three-week run. It features 17 shorts and cartoons from the United States, Canada, England, Italy and Poland that were selected from previous festival programs.

Included are previous Academy Award winners for Best Animated Short Film (Zbigniew Rybcynski's "Tango" and Eunice McCauley and John Weldon's "Special Delivery") and past nominees (Bruno Bozzetto and Richard Denti's "Grasshoppers" and Richard Condie's "Getting Started"). It's surprising that this year's Oscar winner, "Creature Comforts" by Nick Park, isn't included, but the eclectic program is still impressive.

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The list is wide-ranging, covering a gamut of technique and inspiration, from the traditional style of cartoons such as "Porky Pig" and "Superman" to the modern, computer-generated graphics of Steve Goldberg's "Locomotion."

Although the program (about 1 1/2 hours in length) is obviously geared to an adult audience, Peterson adamantly defends its family appeal. He stressed that the best animation can be enjoyed by kids as a purely visual experience, even while their parents are appreciating the craftsmanship or the sophisticated ideas at play.

"The early cartoons of the '30s and '40s were primarily made for adults but with a kid's point-of-view," he said. "You look at the (more recent) 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' cartoons--they're great for children, but everybody else can see all sorts of satirical, clever things going on. That's how it is with the festival."

OK. But how about "Tango"?

Rybcynski's 1983 Oscar winner is a mix of uncompromising images that include a couple simulating sexual intercourse on a couch. It's a superb short, noted for technical expertise and intelligent commentary about the human condition, especially in Cold War Eastern Europe, but it's clearly too sophisticated for children. They may not be disturbed by the repetitive imagery, but they're likely to be bored.

Erica Russell's "Feet of Song," one of the festival's highlights, is more likely to have general appeal. Giddy, highly active and faintly comic, this short features a series of stylized dancers moving through pulsing routines. Nobody has to think about this one, it's just the spirit of dance revealed in primitive but stirring ways.

What: "The Best of the Festival of Animation."

When: Through Aug. 15. Screenings Monday through Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 7 and 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 4, 7 and 9:30 p.m., Sunday at 4 and 8 p.m.

Where: Edwards Mesa Cinema, 1884 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: Costa Mesa Freeway to Newport Boulevard. The theater is at the corner of Newport and 19th Street.

Wherewithal: $4 (4 p.m. matinees), $5.50 and $6.50.

Where to call: (714) 650-8768 or (714) 646-5025.

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