Monday, May 5, 2008
ASIFA-East 39th Animation Festival: REPORT #1
It’s the day after the big ASIFA-East festival and my thoughts are filled with all the good films and good times from last night. A super big congrats to all the winners and a huge "thank you" to the many folks that tirelessly donated their time to pull this off. In particular, I’d like to give a shout to our jury film list guru Candy Kugel, festival co-chairs: Nancy Lennert and Linda Simensky, Celia Bullwinkle for making the opening film, Cliff Galbraith and Justin Simonich and Dayna Gonzalez and Mark Bailey and Adrian Urquidez for spreading the word about the festival, Cartoon Network and Michael Grover for sponsoring the party, Linda Beck and Jennifer Oxley for planning the party, and our welcoming host; Parsons School of Design and Anezka Sebek. Check in with our website, www.asifaeast.com, this week to see the full list of winners.
Our apologies for not having time to screen the two honorable mentions in the student category, which were; Michael Langan’s “Doxology,” and Joy & Noelle Vaccese’s “The Scritch-Scratch of Busy Little Hands.”
There’s a lot of film’s I’d like to discuss in subsequent postings, but I’m eager to first offer some comments on Fran and Will Krause’s Cartoon Network short, “The Upstate Four,” and Pen Ward’s Frederator/Nickelodeon short, “Adventure Time.” It was a treat to see these films play nearly back-to-back in the festival because they represent the hope that still remains in sponsored TV product.
Fran and Will’s short was a virtual follow up in theme and tone to their previous Cartoon Network short, “Utica Cartoon” (2002). Both their shorts open with characters engaged in game play, have plots that center on obsessive eating, and feature bizarre casts of human, animal, and surreal characters. The six years have been good to the Krause brothers and they have emerged with an even stronger point of view than before. Part of their growth was letting go some control and it was to their benefit to bring in strong support in voice talent and sound design. “The Upstate Four” races along at a break neck pace, with main character Mary not even having time to properly mount and ride her bicycle to the big finish. The film frequently goes places other TV cartoons would not even think to tread. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a character with a tombstone for a head play checkers or a furry snack scout that, when angry, transforms into a cross hatched pen & ink R. Crumb-like design.
Pen Ward’s “Adventure Time,” might seem like a celebratory parody of adventure story clichés, but it is so much more and so much less at the same time (and I mean both in a good way). The real theme of the film is innocence. One usually thinks of Mr. Warburton’s Code Name: Kids Next Door as being the best example of writing for a kid audience. Still, KND (by its own cleverness) seems very much organized with an adult’s logic. In contrast, Pen Ward is truly floating in outer space. “Adventure Time,” only sprinkles on just enough plot to set their characters into action and relishes in spending all of its energy on character. Design wise, never have I seen such an uncluttered TV pilot, and the characters are so basic and simply drawn that they might be mistaken for preschool if they weren’t so distinctly odd. “Adventure Time,” is unconventional in just about every way.
Taken together, “The Upstate Four” and “Adventure Time” show that there are great things to be done in sponsored film and I give both Cartoon Network and Frederator/Nickelodeon three cheers for recognizing the merits of these filmmakers and letting them lose to make some wonderful cartoons.