5 must-see movies to check out at L.A.’s Animation Is Film festival this weekend

a girl holding a one-eyed boombox on one shoulder
Kat in a scene from “Wendell & Wild,” the opening night feature of the 5th Animation Is Film Festival.

The Animation Is Film Festival, celebrating some of the world’s best animation, is back for its fifth edition, and the festival is going bigger by expanding its programming to a second weekend for the first time.

Kicking off Friday at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, the festival’s opening night feature is celebrated director Henry Selick’s “Wendell & Wild,” which he co-wrote with Jordan Peele. A special screening of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” — directed by Del Toro and Mark Gustafson — will close the festival on Oct. 29.

Beyond these buzzy stop-motion films, AIF will also host the world premieres of “Titina” and “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom,” as well as the theatrical premiere of the Netflix limited series “Oni: Thunder God’s Tale.” The world premiere of the English-language version of “One Piece Film: Red,” based on the long-running hit manga series by Eiichiro Oda, is the festival’s centerpiece film.

While the chance to catch lesser-known gems is part of what makes AIF special, big studio animation will also be plenty represented through special screenings of “Turning Red” (Pixar) and “Luck” (Skydance), as well as “work-in-progress” previews of “Strange World” (Disney) and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Dreamworks).


Here are five films to check out during the 2022 edition of the Animation Is Film Festival:

“Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom”

a woman holding a puppy being chased by a man on a bridge under a crescent moon
A promotional image for “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom.”
(Animation Is Film Festival)

When: Friday at 8 p.m.

Based on a popular manga series by Nao Iwamoto, “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom” is set in two neighboring lands with a history of going to war over the smallest of perceived slights. After building a wall along their borders, they make an attempt at peace by agreeing that each kingdom will send one of their best to be married to someone in the other kingdom. Whether each land makes good on their promise is another story. Directed by Kotono Watanabe, “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom” is a heartfelt romance built around one of the greatest tropes: a fake marriage.

“My Father’s Dragon”

a dragon peeking around a tree at a boy
Boris, left, and Elmer in “My Father’s Dragon.”

When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Cartoon Saloon co-founder and Academy Award-nominated director Nora Twomey’s newest feature is an adaptation of a beloved children’s book. “My Father’s Dragon” follows Elmer as he has to adjust to a new life in the city after his family store is forced to close. Frustrated about being brushed off by his stressed-out mother, Elmer ends up on a voyage to rescue a dragon imprisoned on a remote island as part of his plan to prove that he can help. It’s a story about friendship, adventure and how it’s OK to admit you don’t always have the answers.


thee anthropomorphic animals looking at distant fireworks from a hill
A scene from “Perlimps.”
(Animation Is Film Festival)

When: Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Oscar-nominated Brazilian director Alê Abreu’s hand-drawn “Perlimps” is vibrant, colorful and one of the most visually beautiful films of the festival lineup. Set in an enchanted forest, “Perlimps” follows Claé and Bruô, agents from rival kingdoms who are on a mission to save their world from the “Giants,” outsiders who thrive on the destruction wrought by war. Although initially distrustful of one another, Claé and Bruô eventually figure out they share the same goal — to locate the Perlimps who can help them save the forest.

“Little Nicholas”

a drawing of a boy come to life standing on pages of illustrations
A scene from “Little Nicholas.”
(Animation Is Film Festival)

When: Sunday at 4 p.m.

Based on the stories of the beloved French children’s character “Le Petit Nicola,” “Little Nicholas” is sort of a cross between an adaptation and a biopic. Directed by Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre, the film opens with artist Jean-Jacques Sempé meeting up with his friend, writer René Goscinny, where they create the title character. The sequences focused on Little Nicholas’ daily adventures playfully utilize line art and colors to make it seem like they are cartoon strips come to life. More poignant are the scenes in which Goscinny and Sempé directly interact with Nicholas, sharing with him the stories of their childhood and their hardships and dreams that led to their creative careers. “Little Nicolas” took the top prize at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June.

“Aurora’s Sunrise”

hands holding a framed family photo above an open suitcase
A scene from “Aurora’s Sunrise.”
(Animation Is Film Festival)

When: Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Directed by Inna Sahakyan, “Aurora’s Sunrise” is a documentary that blends animation and archival footage to tell the story of Aurora Mardiganian. A teen survivor of the Armenian genocide, Mardiganian’s story was depicted in the 1919 silent film “Auction of Souls,” starring Aurora as herself. Copies of the film disappeared before parts were recovered after her death in 1994. A longtime L.A. resident, Mardiganian was outspoken about the atrocities her people faced and her story shouldn’t be forgotten.