Movie Reviews : Uninspiring Bill for Animation Festival

The annual Festival of Animation has become one of the regular showcases in America for international short films. The 1989 festival, which opens Sunday at Sexson Auditorium on the campus of Pasadena City College, offers a disappointing lineup that consists primarily of works that are technically competent but aesthetically uninspired.

The one truly outstanding film in the program is Cordell Barker’s madcap “The Cat Came Back” (Canada), which screened recently in the International Tournee of Animation.

A portfolio of stop-motion commercials from the Brothers Quay (England) are impressive, but the prints were made from videotapes, substantially reducing the quality of the image. “Pencil Test” (USA), a clever exercise from Apple Computers, ranks as the best entry in the package of very short computer films.

Two Oscar-nominated American animators have films in the festival, but neither short represents the artists’ best work.


The animation of the title character in John Lasseter’s “Tin Toy” reveals the same imagination and skill that made “Luxo, Jr.” a delight. But the baby who attacks the toy looks monstrous, and Lasseter misses the film’s obvious ending.

Although the metamorphosing heads in “How to Kiss” by Bill Plympton recall the raunchy transformations of “Your Face,” the new film lacks that mischievous energy--and goes on far too long.

The producers at Mellow Manor had three student works from the character animation unit at CalArts inked and painted, a gesture that seems more well-intentioned than wise.

A distressing number of films seem pointless. N. Shorina’s “The Door” (U.S.S.R.), about an apartment building whose stop-motion inhabitants enter every way but the door, might make more sense if the dialogue were translated from Russian. Then again, it might not--the timing, designs and motions aren’t terribly interesting.


Joe Falconer’s “Dog Brain” (Canada), in which a dog dreams of himself dreaming, stands out as an example of how a few dozen sloppy drawings can fill three minutes of screen time.

The 1989 Festival of Animation continues on Nov. 4, 5 and 6 at Sexson Auditorium. Information: (213) 856-8611.