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Animation Festival of Fun

By David L. Greene

The Festival of Animation returns to the Somerville Theater again this year, along with Jim "Jimbo" Terry and the rest of the Mellow Madness touring crew.

The Festival of Animation

At the Somerville Theater/Davis Square

Tonight and tomorrow night

This year's production is billed as "The Best of the Fest," a sort of "greatest hits" production highlighting some of the best animated shorts from Festivals of years past. Only two of the 17 animations contained in this year's Festival are new to Boston screens--the 1989 Academy Award winning Tin Toy and John (Charade) Minnis' new short Just a Cartoon.

As usual, this year's Festival is a delight. It showcases an intriguing collection films from Hungary, Poland, and the Netherlands as well as work by American animators and the National Film Board of Canada. The Festival includes films displaying a number of different animation techniques, from the computer animations of Pixar and Apple Computer to the claymation techniques of Will ("The California Raisins") Vinton. As usual, Marv Newland's classic Bambi Meets Godzilla returns along with this year's Festival: This year also highlights the work of Max Fleischer, one of the pioneers of the animation form.

The Festival of Animation (A Mellow Madness Production) has been touring the country since 1977. Jim Terry, who selected the films for this year's Festival, has been working for Mellow Madness since 1981. Terry (who says he prefers that people call him Jimbo) says he tries to make every showing of the Festival something special, an event that people will enjoy and remember. To that end, Terry comes to each showing of the Festival, gives a brief introduction to the films, and wanders around the lobby during intermission to discuss the animations with moviegoers and to get their opinions of the Festival.

In addition, Terry and Mellow Madness print up programs which they distribute to patrons at each performance. They also invite special guests to attend showings and to discuss the art of animation. This year, Marv Newland will be on hand for the opening weekend of the Festival (April 21st and 22nd) while Marilyn Zornado of Will Vinton Studios will be bringing some claymation creations to the Festival on April 29th and 30th.

The folks at Mellow Madness assist in the production as well as the distribution of animated shorts. If you take a close look at the credits of Just a Cartoon, you'll notice a brief "Thank you" to the Mellow Madness Production Company. Terry says that Mellow Madness is currently giving financial and artistic assistance to a small group of animators, and hopes to be able to assist more projects in the near future.

If Terry's special attention to the Festival makes this production seem like more than just a bunch of cartoons, it is. Some of the animations are brilliant political commentaries, like Zbignew Rybczynski's Tango, which was awaraded an Oscar in 1982. Others films are intriguing social reflections, like Paul Driessen's Elbowing or the 1981 Academy Award-winning film The Fly. Still others are just simply hillarious, like my favorite animated short, Charade, and the 1988 animation, The Cat Came Back.

The Festival of Animation is a great deal of fun. If you don't like one film, you'll like the next. The Festival has something for everyone--if you've seen the show before, come back and see your old favorites again along with some very nice new productions. And say "Hi" to Jimbo during intermission. He's the guy with the slightly frazzled look on his face, and he'll be more than glad to talk to you.

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