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Editor's Notebook

Getting to the people

Heather Kenyon

Once again while putting together this issue of two seemingly completely different themes, a similarity appeared to me. Location-based entertainment is a huge umbrella which covers many different areas from arcades and theme parks to experimental virtual reality projects. We chose to include Imax theatres under this title because the massive screens are still generally rare outside of major cities and urban areas, making them a special destination or location to attend. Plus, the theatres are usually located by other entertainment venues, be it an amusement park, museum or shopping/entertainment complex. "Anime" is also a gigantic umbrella which covers Japan's vast expanse of animation production. However, like Imax, in most parts of the world outside of Japan, we see only the tip of the anime iceberg. I am always correcting people who believe that anime is only composed of graphically violent and sexual material. When I explain that there is anime for pre-schoolers, house wives, professionals, teen girls and beyond they are amazed. The misunderstandings even creep into the professional world as Andrew Osmond's "Anime Debate" shows. Whether we are discussing Imax or anime we come to the same dilemma which is being given the opportunity to reach viewers.

Imax seemed to be a great hope for animation after the success of Fantasia/2000. People, especially independents, saw this as a great possibility. 'What if an animated short was placed in front of every Imax feature?' or 'What if more art driven animation features were produced strictly for Imax?' Festivals and beyond were filled with this buzz. Now, with hard times hitting theatre chains and even harder times hitting Imax all this talk has gone suddenly quiet. Karl Cohen's "Imax May Be The Greatest Film Delivery System Ever Developed, But Will It Prosper?" defines the issues and offers insight. Will our opportunity to reach audiences through this dynamic screening environment be shattered before we are ever truly given the chance? How would an audience re-act to seeing our independent "art" films on this huge screen? Would they love them? Would they want more? Let's keep our fingers crossed that we get a chance to find out.

In the same vein, what if viewers outside of Japan were able to see all of the different types of animation that the country is producing? What if Vampire Hunter D is able to secure access to theatres worldwide? Would general viewers be astonished by the look and feel of the picture? Would they then want more? After reading Fred Patten's article, "Vampire Hunter D: The Next Anime Hit in America?" I knew I wanted to see the film and others like it. Once again, all we can do is hope that a bold soul will take this risk and we will be rewarded by the opportunity of seeing these different types of animation. It is almost as if whether or not audiences like these new shows and films is a moot point. The point is the right to be able to see them.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Internet. Urban Entertainment is a great example of what the Internet promised to do from its onset. The Internet promised to give everyone their own "channel." And while many looked forward to this day with great anticipation, they were disappointed to see it gobbled up by mega-corporations. However, Urban Entertainment is not only providing talented African-American creators a distribution outlet, they are also proving that niche programming, if it is good and of high quality, can be appealing to an audience beyond the niche. Lee Dannacher's article, "UrbanEntertainment: Siting A Skyline Across The Net," clearly defines this company which is movin' on up.

And finally the most direct way of reaching people is in person. This month we are featuring many different animation events that have taken place from such well-known centers as London and Hollywood to such little towns as Espinho, Portugal and Trivandrum, India. It is here that the beginnings of awakenings and changes happen. The results can be either personal -- perhaps an indy film is produced or a new taste acquired -- and professional as attendees return to their home countries filled with new ideas, experiences and relationships to apply to their business. Espinho started its festival not knowing that it would produce an ASIFA-International president and a winner of one of the most notorious prizes in animation within a little more than twenty years. This one small festival has placed Portugal on the animation map and they deserve high praise for such accomplishments. It is here at events like this that an understanding for other types of animation and points of view develop and widen our scope of what is possible.

Until Next Time, Heather