The British animation industry was well represented again this year by such diverse films as Channel Four’s SNOWMAN, Liz Spencer’s ‘Sredni Vashtar’ and Jonathan Hodgson’s ‘Nightclub’ as well as by a selection of commercials from Richard Williams’ studio. Britain’s strength judging from the festival entries seems to be in the quality of work which is being produced by students and in the area of animation as entertainment. The three films which had been produced expressly for Channel Four THE SNOWMAN, ON PROBATION and IGOR-THE PARIS YEARS CHEZ PLEYEL showed that C4 is now a major source of funds and encouragement to the animator and long may this continue.
Russia’s prize winner THERE WAS ONCE A DOG was the hilarious tale of an elderly watchdog who, out of favour with his master, regains his position by striking a bargain with a hungry wolf. Far more accessible than some recent Russian productions this film showed that lively and interesting films are being made from Russian folk tales.
The Finnish feminist film EQUALITY stood out as an excellent use of a minimum of animation to achieve a telling point. Two characters are of equal ability and have equal qualifications, yet one has far greater opportunities for social and career advancement. Why? One is a woman and the other a man. Using a very simple character design, the film was effective for its crispness, lack of elaboration and international appeal.
The prize winner in the children’s category, THE STORY OF THE BIG RABBIT AND THE LITTLE RABBIT, introduced a rabbit who discovers that the regular thumping on the ceiling is caused by the centipede in the room above kicking off his boots one by one. This film achieved something which many children’s producers seem to find difficult – a strong narrative, a hint of mystery and a degree of entertainment which did not lose the interest of a festival audience, easily bored, without at the same time being above the level of the film’s intended viewers.
Besides the major prize winners there were a number of other films which should be mentioned. VINCENT by Tim Burton is a puppet film financed by Walt Disney Productions and appears to be another of Disney’s attempts to find a new direction for itself. (THE BLACK HOLE, TRON and the recent SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES are other examples). The puppet is a conventional armature character but with a mobile plasticine face. The story is a simple one of a little boy who imagines himself as Vincent Price in the witty style of this actor’s gothic horror films. The narrative is spoken in verse by Price himself and describes the little boy’s tortured and self destructive end. The atmosphere and animation are superb and bode well for the future of 3D animation from Disney.
THE GREAT COGNITO from Will Vinton’s studio was another film which was well received. Vinton’s studio has obtained a niche for itself as a maker of clay animation of quality and originality. The film tells of a music hall impressionist who caricatures personalities from the second world war, including Churchill, Patton, Roosevelt and a fleet of battleships. Only the head and shoulders of the character are shown with the head remodelled with each change of impression. A potent anti-war message is delivered with excellent style.