Article by Heidi Marie Campbell.
The 41st Annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival was a wonderful display of talent, art and humor. The 29 films showcased on Sunday, May 9, 2010, were a mixture of industry veterans, studios, students and newcomers. The works of Bill Plympton (Plymptoons), Mo Willems (Weston Woods Studio), Elliot Cowan, and David B. Levy, all established animation artists, stood alongside many animators who are less well known, but all were well deserved prize winners.
The Festival began with a film, Topi, whose break from the traditional genre of animation comedy was a pleasure to watch. The captivating story made up for the sometimes stiff animation. This was the only serious film in the festival. Being confined to only comedy or commercialism sometimes makes animation dull. Breaking from this tradition, the student filmmaker, Arjun Rihan, gave the audience a glimpse into a culture and world many of us in America do not understand, but all of us could relate to the humanitarian approach of the characters. The comedy of animation has been explored vastly over the past century, and this film deserved mention due to its exceptional difference.
Other animations were also well deserved of their prizes, including the innovative Tom Gasek with his independent film Off-Line, set inside an abused microwave oven; the catchy-tuned animations of Sean McBride’s I Am a Paleontologist, David Cowles & Andy Kennedy’s Science is Real, and Tiny Inventions’ Electric Car were all delightful and fun to watch; the simple black & white (and red) line animation of Peter Ahern’s Down to the Bone invoked feelings of pain and anguish with seemingly simple animation; while George Thorman’s Sam the Super Sticky was ingenious and had the crowd in belly laughs with nothing more than sticky notes and line drawings.
As the night went on, the laughs, giggles, and applauds roared through the packed theater. Hundreds were in attendance in the egg-shaped, 500-seat Tishman Auditorium at The New School in Manhattan. The venue provided a wonderful auditorium, however the after-party was set on the 5th floor of an adjoining building. The crowd got backed up on the staircase, and stuck there in an endless line of people not moving for quite some time. Although the theater was well chosen, the after-party location was not, as a bottle neck of Festival attendees were left to stand anxiously to wait and get in. Other than this and a small technical difficulty during the Festival, which all of us who create films can appreciate and understand, the event was a brilliant display of hard work and fascinating art, and was well worth attending. The emphasis on traditional, stop-motion and cutout 2d work far outshone the more modern 3d animation; which was a bit disappointing, in that there wasn’t more 3d represented in the festival.
The festival culminated with Best In Show. The witty story Backwards, by Aaron Hughes & Lisa LaBracio, was another basic line and color 2d animation, with a captivating story which played… well…backwards. In leaving the audience to the surprise ending (or beginning) the filmmakers avant-guard approach ended the festival with laughs, applause and anticipation for next years events. ASIFA-East did a fantastic job with this festival and is sure to delight many more animation enthusiasts in the future. Congratulations to all winners of the 41st Annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival!