Film: Largest animation festival in the US comes to Eugene

This year, Eugene will host the largest animation festival in the United States. The third annual Northwest Animation Festival is showing at the Bijou Art Cinemas this weekend in its first foray out of Portland.

Festival Director Sven Bonnichsen, who founded the festival in 2010, says that this year has been the festival’s most successful, garnering more submissions than in the past two years combined.

“It’s important to me to have this kind of scale because, if you look at festivals internationally, the best films get shown at all the festivals,” Bonnichsen said. “But there’s so many excellent films that need to get seen. You really have to have scale in order to make sure that up-and-comers get seen as well as the masters.”

The festival, which showed its 154 animated films in Portland earlier this month, will take place at the Bijou Arts Cinema this Friday through Sunday. Submissions were whittled down to the best from 628 submissions from around the world, featuring American films as well as animation from Germany, the UK, Japan and France. The festival includes an animated short from “Portlandia,” as well as a new film from “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward. Oscar-nominated and winning shorts, such as Disney’s “Paperman” and PES’s “Fresh Guacamole,” will also be shown.

Bonnichsen, a Portland animator who specializes in constructing armatures for stop motion puppets, wanted to create a “world-class” festival, and the range of creativity in this year’s screenings beautifully showcase the expansive possibilities animation offers filmmakers. Some are even helping to redefine the concept of animation.

One such example is “Modern No.2,” a four-minute mesmerizing journey into music, color and rapidly-changing geometry. According to Bonnichsen this short, created by Mirai Mizue, is an example of the “new wave of Japanese abstract animation.”

Another, Mikey Please’s “The Eagleman Stag,” caught Bonnichsen’s eye with its paper craft animation and the main character’s obsession with the passage of his life.

“It is a film that, in eight minutes, packs in more ideas and more story than a lot of feature-length films,” Bonnichsen said. “It makes a really intriguing point about perception of time. It’s enormously clever and well-written.”

The festival begins Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m., continuing Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Afternoon tickets are $10, evenings are $15. A three-day pass is $50.

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