Platform International Animation Festival Comes to Los Angeles

After a 5 year hiatus, Irene Kotlarz brought her Platform Animation Festival to the REDCAT in Los Angeles.

First row (L-R) Jerry Beck, Katsuhiro Otomo and Irene Kotlarz. Back row, the CalArts student curators.

By Sean Buckelew and Jess Iglehart

When we traveled to the 2012 Annecy International Animation Festival to present a two-part CalArts Retrospective curated through the class taught by our professor Irene Kotlarz, we expected to bring films back to screen in America, but never did we dream that we would eventually be hosting the legendary animator Katsuhiro Otomo at the new Los Angeles incarnation of the PLATFORM International Animation Festival taking place at REDCAT.  

Katsuhiro and Irene

During the Friday night screening of rare 35mm films by stop-motion pioneer Ladislas Starewitch, one of the curators, Jeanette Bonds, found invited guest Otomo along with his producer and translator sitting outside in the lobby enjoying a drink.  They invited us to join them.  Suddenly it set in how surreal this experience was becoming.  Starting with a curatorial class project, becoming a dream list of animation events, and culminating with a three-day animation event packed with screenings and panels, we realized that a group of enthusiastic students, with the right guidance, could manifest a truly great animation festival.  And the surreal feeling did not stop there. “Fuck a lot of strippers” was JJ Villard’s advice during our "Life After College" panel moderated by Cartoon Brew’s Jerry Beck.  Whether a rockstar effect or the result of inebriation, Villard’s comments were both an injection of anxious excitement and the subject of mass debate following the panel Sunday evening (after Villard was removed from the premises by security).  

Paperman director John Kahrs

Regardless of the controversy, the "Life After College" panel, along with the “Awesome” Cartoon Network and Disney’s "Paperman" panels, were filled with inspiration and positivity from many of the industry’s top players, reflected by autograph lines that stretched out the doors of REDCAT.  The zenith of the event happened on Saturday when Otomo took the stage to receive the festival's first Platform Lifetime Achievement Award and present his new short, "Combustible."   Early on, we felt the responsibility of representing PLATFORM and having our screenings reflect the mission of the festival.  During our curatorial process, we were fortunate enough to have guidance and support from not only Irene but also Steve Anker, dean of the Film/Video department at CalArts and avid curator, Michael Ouweleen of Cartoon Network, Robert May of Disney/The Animation Show and Jason Carpenter, creator of The Renter, featured in our CalArts retrospective screening.  The most exciting aspect of the weekend was seeing the fruits of months of labor, and presenting animation that we love in a context that grants the gravity this work deserves. PLATFORM 2012 was curated by CalArts students Jeanette Bonds, Sean Buckelew, Thalia Fry, Jess Iglehart, Melody Yenn, and Festival Director Irene Kotlarz.