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Best of Festival of Animation reopens the Somerville



At the Somerville Theatre.

April 13-29.


THIS YEAR'S Best of the Fest opened in the newly refurbished Somerville Theatre. The program offers a rich mosaic of animation styles from both the United States and abroad. In addition, during intermission on weekend showings, animators Bill Plympton (April 13-15) and Mark Lougee (April 20-22) are speaking about their work and answering questions from the audience.

The program of 16 animated shorts is well put together. The great variety in the pieces -- from classic Betty Boop and Superman to a short by Will "California Raisin" Vinton -- is the strong point of the production. Among the mediums utilized are clay, pencil illustration, and typewritten print. Themes vary from elaborate storylines to nonsense syllables swirling on screen with an accompanying voice singing them (Primiti Too Taa by Ed Ackerman and Colin Morton (Canada)).

Although most of the pieces are very well done, some deserve special mention. Second Class Mail by Alison Snowdon (England) is an amusing short of an elderly British woman looking for a mate, which she finds in a rubber, inflatable man. In Feet of Song, Erica Russell, also of England, sets animated dancers in syncopated motion with music in a beautifully rhythmic piece. From the sick joke side comes Bill Plympton's One of Those Days. The piece is about the protagonist's bad day -- from dropping his toast on the floor butter side down to cutting off his nose shaving. The twist is the way the audience sees it -- animated from the suffering person's point of view.

In the second half of the program there's the fascinating Bartakiad by Oldrich Haberie of Czechoslovakia -- a portrait of the surrealistically dreary existence of a man in his society. Lea Press on Limbs by Chris Miller (United States) pokes fun at the American replace-it mentality. Adorable and amusing is Creature Comforts by Nick Park of Great Britain. His claymation short of animals in the zoo being interviewed on how they like their lifestyle is a pointed comment on our society. The animals, with their British accents, are also excellently cute.

The Best of the Fest is a fun evening that will give you lots to talk and laugh about afterwards. No doubt many will want a repeat performance.