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TV REVIEW : ‘Off Center’ Offers Rare Showcase of Animation as an Art Form

“Alive From Off Center” (tonight at 10:30 on KCET Channel 28) showcases the work of four independent American animators. As animation is only rarely acknowledged as an art form in this country, it’s encouraging to see it included in a program focusing on contemporary art. But the viewer can’t help wishing the producers had chosen better films.

The one truly notable piece is George Griffin’s “Ko Ko,” in which the artist uses the motions of brightly colored scraps of paper to evoke the spontaneity of the upbeat Charlie Parker sound track. The result is an infectiously cheerful blend of pattern, texture, motion and music.

Jim Blashfield combines live action with stop motion and drawn animation in “My Dinner With the Devil Snake.” The animated sequences illustrating an African folk tale are charming, and it’s unfortunate that he interrupts them with the fatuous conversations of a group of artsy yuppies at a dinner party. Their dreary chatter spoils the rhythm and mood of the animation. It’s like watching a clown throw a pie filled with lead instead of whipped cream.

Sally Cruikshank tries to recapture the rubbery, metamorphic animation of the early Fleischer jazz cartoons in “Face Like a Frog,” but her work lacks the rambunctious innocence of its model. Jane Aaron spins model furniture on rods in “This Time Around,” contrasting the speed of rotating objects with the swirling background. It’s a consummately silly film, and a textbook example of the self-absorbed navel-gazing that leads audiences to ridicule the idea that animation can be a valid art form.

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