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3rd Annual Los Angeles Animation Festival Brings A Community Together

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By Noah Nelson
The 3rd Annual
takes over the Regent Showcase next week, bringing to the screen a collection of new classics and fresh work from up and coming animators.
The schedule of the festival is like a fever-dream wish list for animation fans: screenings of "Akira" and "The Iron Giant", revivals of the anarchic "Team America: World Police" and Studio Ghibli's melancholic "Grave of the Fireflies," the West Coast premiere of the French film "A Monster in Paris," and events honoring Bill Plympton and the revitalization of Liquid Television, the show that introduced a generation of MTV watching teens to experimental animation.
While this year's festival is under the artistic direction of Sean Lennon -- who has brought his love of French and Japanese animation to the slate -- L.A.A.F. is the creation of co-founders John Andrews and Miles Flanagan. The pair shared with us the secret origin of the festival.
"I came to this country because of an animation festival," said Flanagan, "that was run by Terry Thoren and was called the World Animation Celebration. Basically I was chaperoned by Terry's organization and I met lots of people, and I had a pretty healthy career because of that. Years later, when I was working on commercials directing -- which is what I do in the daytime -- I actually thought wouldn't it be great if we could offer the same type of experience to other people: An animation festival that was as much about the social experience and networking-- not just for people who are already famous and successful, but everyone."
Flanagan met Andrews, who in the 90's was MTV's V.P. of Animation and produced shows like Beavis and Butthead, Aeon Flux, and Liquid Television. That era of animation had a huge impact on the current generation of animators.
"I found that a lot of people who would come up to me after our shows would comment that Liquid Television was the reason," said Andrews, "or animation on MTV in general was the reason they got interested. That it wasn't about, you know the other great stuff -- the Disney movies, the Warner Bros. shorts, that and the Fleischer, the history -- but it was about seeing alternative and unusual, strange stuff in TV and their childhood."
On Friday the 9th, the festival will be celebrating that influence.
"Liquid has migrated to be sort of a web channel -- -- and it's trying to keep alive that history of MTV in terms of a cool destination on the web for animation, and they've once again been commissioning new work. We thought to do a show that showed some of the best stuff from the 90's along with some of the cool stuff that they're putting together now would really be a great opportunity to relaunch and refresh the brand. So we're gonna have some of the filmmakers on the panel who made the original shorts, the original producer of the series and some of the filmmakers who are doing it now."
All of which culminates in a party thrown by animation studio Titmouse. Parties are what separate festivals from just another night at the movies, and at L.A. A. F. they serve as the opportunity for the diverse animation community, which Flanagan says is "like nowhere else," to come together.
"Really we're trying to serve our local community," added Andrews, "and bring together people form the feature studios, the TV studios, the commercial studios, the flash and web studios, the motion graphics houses, the effect houses. It's a big community."
Not only does the community of animators benefit, but so do the fans. Seeing classic and experimental animation on the big screen is more of a special occasion than it was back in the 90's, as the strength of the art house circuit has waned.
"I think it's primarily more difficult to get prints," said Flanagan. "For instance Grave of the Fireflies which is a fantastic movie. But to find that print? We're getting flown in from Japan. It's incredibly expensive. A lot of rep houses can't afford it. So I think we're offering an experience that is more and more unique."
The 3rd Annual Los Angeles Animation Festival opens on Wednesday March 7th with an opening night party hosted by Tom Kenny (the voice of Spongebob Squarepants) and carries on through Sunday the 11th at the Regent Showcase in Hollywood.

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