L.A. Celebration Brings Home Animation

The third biannual Los Angeles Animation Celebration, which opens tonight with the world premiere of “Felix the Cat: The Movie” (Hungary) at the Wadsworth Theatre in West Los Angeles, has become the largest animation festival in the world.

In 1985, 200 films competed in the festival. In 1987, the number rose to 400. And this year more than 850 films from 35 countries are vying for over $95,000 in cash prizes and awards in 12 categories.

Although several festivals devoted to animation are held annually in Europe and Japan, the Los Angeles Celebration, which runs through Feb. 3 at the Wadsworth and the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles, is the only major festival in the Western Hemisphere, where animation was invented and where a substantial percentage of world production remains centered.

Festival organizers plan to turn the Los Angeles Celebration into an annual event.


“We believe that the animation industry in America needs a festival that focuses on its concerns,” said festival chairman Terry Thoren. “The foreign festivals like Annecy (France), have a flavor of really being for Europeans. Ours has developed more of a Western feel: The animation industry in this country has expanded and begun to catch up with the cultural aspects of the medium that are presented in the festival.

“I believe that this year’s festival truly covers the entire spectrum of animation as it exists today. The films range from the surreal visions of Jan Svankmejer to the classic masterpieces of David Hand to the cutting edge of computer animation to what’s hot in animated commercials. The programs offer something for everyone.”

Included in the festival’s 39 events are screenings of seven full-length features, eight programs of films in competition, six tributes to individual artists, two seminar series and surveys to contemporary animation in eight foreign countries. Among the highlights of the festival:

--The American premieres of “Heroic Times” (Hungary), Joszef Gemes’ brooding story of medieval life, rendered in oil paint on canvas and glass on Tuesday, and “Robot Carnival” (Japan), a feature-length collection of short science-fiction films by eight leading Japanese animators tonight.


--"New Voices From China: A Salute to the Shanghai Animation Studio,” a Saturday program that provides a rare look at some of the most artistically sophisticated animation being produced, including Te Wei Yang’s exquisite “Feelings from the Mountains and Water” and “Shooting the Unshot,” a new film made in Shanghai by Japanese master puppet animator Kihachiro Kawamoto.

--Tributes to voice artist Mel Blanc on Saturday and animator Art Babbitt on Feb. 2, including the only American screening of the British documentary on Babbitt, “Animating Art,” which contains rare footage of the Disney artists at work during the 1930s.

--"MTV’s Animated Rock,” a Saturday program that includes the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights film from the recent Amnesty International tour and the final judging of a competition to create new network promotional spots for MTV.

--A Friday tribute to animator-director Don Bluth (USA/Ireland), who will screen excised footage from “The Land Before Time,” animation for the never-released laser disc video game, “Dragon’s Lair II” and scenes from his forthcoming feature, “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”

In addition to Blanc, Babbitt and Bluth, a number of artists are scheduled to appear at this year’s celebration, including Yang Ding Xien, director of the Shanghai Animation Studio; Feodor Khitruk, president of the Union of Soviet Animators; John Coates, president, TVC, London; Czech animator-director Jan Svankmejer and Doug MacDonald, executive producer, English Language Animation, National Film Board of Canada.

Information: (213) 312-6630.