ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

Hollywood's World Animation Celebration

by Gregory Singer

Wacfest was, true to its name, a celebration. The festival has been around for the last fifteen years, and it has had an extravaganza of some sort surrounding the film competition for the last seven of those. This year, with the vision of Terry Thoren and the blessing of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the World Animation Celebration has returned to its roots and home of Los Angeles, with a weeklong schedule of events that covered everything from the history of sex in animation to the archival footage of Disney's "unseen treasures."

A common observation among attendees was that, 'This isn't your normal trade show and recruitment expo.'

Bill Plympton's self-portrait. © Bill Plympton.

Truly L.A.
Walking poolside of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel -- where, once upon a time, the likes of Marilyn Monroe used to live -- with a beer in one hand and a cell phone in the other, people were making deals, making calls, and generally watching as a new breed of celebrity emerges. Where else could one rub elbows, and forge relationships, with the president, CEO or executive producer of a major independent studio? Passing among the cabana booths, the beach balls and the bikini-clad girls promoting Eruptor.com, these "future mogels" of the entertainment industry came from as far and wide as Canada, India and South America. Courtesy of Wildbrain.com, this brave new world was Web cast for the amusement of a larger, on-line audience, and if you look closely enough, you might even spy as part of the surreal background and wonder: 'Hey, isn't that Bill Plympton?' -- or, from his balcony perch, an older gentleman patiently giving interviews to the media -- 'Hey, isn't that Stan Lee?'

Yes and yes.

Though the activity of Wacfest was spread among the different venues of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the L.A. Film School, and even, for one afternoon, the Paramount Studios lot, the whole festival was remarkably well coordinated and organized. In the future, there will be one facility (currently under construction) that will house the entire affair, but for now, most of the week's discussions and screenings took place at Hollywood Boulevard's newly restored Egyptian Theater, only a short jaunt away.

A visually stunning scene from Raoul Servais' 1996 film Taxandria. © BIBO TV.

Special Programs
Celebrating the animation of Russia (Fedor Khitruk), Poland (Piotr Dumala), Belgium (Raoul Servais), the Czech Republic (Michaela Pavlatova), and others from Japan and Britain, the festival was, in one gesture, a bridge between animation's traditional origins and expressions, and its coming future. Kicking off the entire week, in eight hours of sweat and laughter, Clifford Cohen and Nigel Zeid of AnimAction corralled together the talents and energy of some 550 young, fledgling animators to create 57 short films, as part of the festival's World Animation Marathon. Career workshops provided guidance and encouragement to aspiring animators throughout the week. And among the Internet competition of films, for his piece Argon, Peter Peterson of Davidson College, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, walked away with Shockwave.com's $25,000 grand prize for best student Internet production.

Don Bluth and Gary Goldman’s latest effort, Titan A.E. © Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

Gary Goldman and Don Bluth were given a Life Achievement Award for their work on such projects as The Secret of NIMH, Dragon's Lair, American Tail, Anastasia and Titan A.E. In other forums, Oxygen Media screened its X-Chromosome show, MTV Animation debuted its Spy Groove series and Leonard Maltin hosted a ten-year salute to Matt Groening and the other creators of The Simpsons and Futurama.

Perhaps one of the best attended events of all was "The Making of the Iron Giant." Director Brad Bird, producer Allison Abbate and supervising animators Tony Fucile and Steve Markowski were among those who spoke during the evening. The audience got to see clips of scenes that were cut from the final movie -- for constraints of time, money and storyline. There were even some short, joking animations that the artists had done in their spare time, such as Hogarth doing the moonwalk and the Giant dancing around like a ballerina. (One can cross their fingers and hope that such gems will get published on the special edition DVD.)

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