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Kalamazoo Cartoon-Creating Competitors Set

Ten teams from animation programs spanning North America will engage in a "24/4" cartoon-creating competition prior to the start of the fifth Kalamazoo Animation Festival International (KAFI) scheduled for May 14-17 in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Earning spots in the competition for the 2009 "Cartoon Challenge" are four- and five-person teams from:

-- San Jose State University in California.-- College for Creative Studies in Detroit.-- Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.-- South Dakota State University.-- Bowling Green State University in Ohio.-- California State University of Long Beach, California-- Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan-- Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan-- University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana-- Humber College in Toronto, Ontario

Four of the teams' schools are past "Cartoon Challenge" winners -- the College for Creative Studies at the first festival, the San Jose entry in the second, the Kendall College of Art and Design in the 2005 competition, and the Savannah College of Art Design in the 2007 "Cartoon Challenge." The teams from Humber, California State and South Dakota are first-time finalists.

The 10 teams will arrive at KVCC's Center for New Media in downtown Kalamazoo on the Sunday preceding festival week. Beginning on the morning of Monday, May 11, their objective will be to conceive, script, design and produce up to a 30-second animated short on a public-service topic over the next four days with the competition ending at 5 p.m. that Thursday as the festival begins.

The teams won't know the topic until the competition begins. All of the materials, computers, software programs, and production equipment will be furnished at the KVCC Center for New Media. KVCC will provide resting stations and food to the teams that will choose their own work schedules to produce their 30-second animated spot.

The 10 spots will be shown at a public screening at the State Theater at 8 p.m. Saturday of festival week. The audience that evening will vote on which team should receive the People's Choice Award, while professional animators -- the KAFI judges -- will pick the recipient of the "Cartoon Challenge" championship, the Judges' Choice Award. That distinction also brings scholarship funds for the school's animation program. In 2005, the Kendall entry won both.

The "Cartoon Challenge" winners for 2009 will be announced at an awards luncheon set for 2 p.m. Sunday. That's also when all of the division winners in the film competition for $15,000 in prize money will be announced.

The 10 finalists were chosen from schools from across North America. They selected their own team and produced a demo reel that illustrated the quality and creativity of the members' animation skills.

KAFI will feature themed and programmed screenings of the nearly 90 finalist films that were weaned from 555 entries from 41 countries. A panel of professional animators is selecting the finalists. The entries from Europe came from Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Finland, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, France, Estonia, Georgia, Switzerland, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Romania, Spain, Serbia and Russia. In addition to the 287 entries from 32 of the 50 United States, animators from Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Chile, and Brazil have submitted entries in the various categories of competition. Africa is represented by South Africa and Nigeria.

Other countries in the "United Nations of Animation" include Australia, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Turkey, Singapore, The Philippines, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Iran and India.

Now held every other year and sponsored by Kalamazoo Valley Community College, the four-day festival salutes the art form of animation and its entertainment, education and entrepreneurial functions. Entries in past KAFIs have been nominated for Academy Awards and were awarded Oscars at the prestigious event.

During that Thursday-through-Sunday period, attendees can experience a film festival targeted for both adults and children that includes screenings of the entries chosen as finalists in the KAFI competitions.

Professional-development seminars, training sessions for students, distinctive family-oriented events, and a one-day conference for educators are offered to enhance animation skills, prep young people for careers, and use this creative medium as a tool for teaching and business ventures.

In addition to programs tailored for those who view animation as a profession and an art form, the 2009 KAFI will offer free events for people who equate cartoons with fun and entertainment. One new addition to the fifth KAFI will be hands-on activities designed for children and family-oriented attractions.

Another new twist will be festival events that link the worlds of music and animation as majors in those artistic fields at Western Michigan University and KVCC combine their creative talents to produce animation based on original compositions. These teams will compete for $5,000 in prize money.

Their productions -- under the umbrella of what is called the Kalamazoo Animation and Music Competition, will be part of the festival agenda.

Already booked for a presentation is Mike Mitchell, who is directing SHREK GOES FOURTH for DreamWorks. All of the activities and events will be held in KVCC's Center for New Media, Anna Whitten Hall, and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, with the major screenings booked for the historic State Theatre.

The festival, regarded as the first of its kind in the Midwest, is again being organized by Kalamazoo Valley Community College and its Center for New Media. For the fifth time, Kalamazoo's Irving S. Gilmore Foundation is one of the prime sponsors of the salute to animated films and the art of animation.

Information about all KAFI activities, the new Kalamazoo Animation and Music Competition, and the Cartoon Challenge -- date, time, location and cost -- will be available at or by calling Maggie Noteboom at the festival office at (269) 373-7883.