Tuesday, May 8, 2007

ASIFA-EAST THEN AND NOW…



The East Coast (read New York) branch of the international society of animators is a scruffy affair compared to its Los Angeles counterpart. Every year, Los Angelenianios get dressed up in black tie, trod on red carpet, and applaud politely as their betters are lauded by celebrities and their ilk.

In New York, the awards take place in a Greenwich Village screening hall, officiated by the organization's President attired in his second best pair of jeans. The award presentations are not dissimilar to a grade school assembly, the winners get certificates and their (artistic) families whoop and holler. Then everyone watches the cartoons. After the screening, the audience troupes outside for cheese, crackers, and jug wine.

I love the ASIFA-East festival.

It’s not just the scruffiness; unlike any other film festival, the awards are voted on by the entire ASIFIA-East membership (you got 35 clams, you’re a member), which consequently shows the best and worst of democracy in action (mostly best, tho’). The judging and award screenings are free and open to the public.

My animation career received a big boost in 1993 when a short film I made about an incomprehensible child entitled IDDY BIDDY BEAT won 3rd place in design. What was so cool about the award (besides my having won it) was that the crowd was really, honestly happy for me. They were my peers: animators, storyboard artists, designers, production folk who, like I, slogged away in the unglamorous animation pits around the city.

IDDY BIDDY BEAT
was commissioned by Spike and Mike, and its laughable budget necessitated my begging for help painting cels and what not, so the audience was in all probability applauding for themselves. It was exciting anyway.

The film’s success led to my being hired by Sesame Street to animate and produce short subjects for them. That led to the Off-Beats, Sheep in the Big City, and Codename: Kids Next Door.

Over the years many of those films and series were recognized by ASIFA-East, including my last independent short, LIFE, which won best in show in 2000.

I’d skipped the last few festivals for various reasons, but in a fit of nostalgia, I dropped by the festival this last Sunday where I reconnected with a bunch of old friends and fellow travelers like Bill Plympton, Tony Eastman, Masako Kanayama, Tom Warburton, Jennifer Oxley, Jason MacDonald, Linda Simensky, and others.

To my surprise, a short film I wrote and produced about an incomprehensible child entitled KNUFFLE BUNNY won 3rd place in commissioned film.

I like the East Coast…