Around Town: Don Hertzfeldt kicks off Cinefamily's 'Animation Breakdown'
Who shows up to watch a program of independently made, unconventional animated short films well past midnight? Quite a few people, as it turns out. Thursday night marked the opening of the Cinefamily's Animation Breakdown festival, and a healthy audience turned out for the 12:35 a.m. show, with filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt following his two sold-out shows earlier in the evening.
The program of shorts by Hertzfeldt included the local premiere of his "It's Such a Beautiful Day," the third and final film in his popular series on the adventures of a character named BIll. Hertzfeldt's unique animating style, which combines traditional animation with optical effects and, more recently, digital work, is singular for both its visual style and its emotional mix of innocent whimsy and cynically downbeat humor.
Hertzfeldt was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 for his short film "Rejected" and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2010 at only the age of 33. Onstage Thursday in Los Angeles during one of his three Q&As, Hertzfeldt noted that though he studied live-action filmmaking at college in Santa Barbara, he had never taken an animation class and took only one art class in high school.
"I still feel like a live-action filmmaker who happens to draw, rather than an animator," Hertzfeldt explained.
The Animation Breakdown series continues through Tuesday with a varied mix of programs. Friday night will feature the first in a series of programs of classic Polish animation along with a screen of the Brothers Quay's "Maska." There also will be a series of films curated by the East Coast-based Animation Block Party (co-presenters of the fest with Cinefamily and Cartoon Brew) that includes new work by Spike Jonze.
Saturday will feature a screening of "La Luna," the new short film from Pixar that was just shortlisted for the Oscars, with director Enrico Casarosa in attendance. Also on Saturday will be a reunion of talent behind the cult television show "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast" which will be livestreamed for those who can't make it to the theater.
Sunday will see a tribute to Bruce Bickford, whom Cinefamily programmer Alex McDonald called "America's greatest underground animator," that includes the world premiere of the 20-plus years in the making "Cas'l" with live musical accompaniment. There is also an exhibition of Bickford's artwork at Synchronicity Space along with work from other animators featured in the festival.
For anyone who believes in animated filmmaking as more than just a platform to promote products for kids, the Cinefamily's Animation Breakdown, planned to become an annual event, should provide a wild and wonderful haven.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: "It's Such a Beautiful Day." Credit: Don Hertzfeldt