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Park's Grand Day Out is the star of animation festival

BEST OF THE FESTIVAL

OF ANIMATION

Continues through April 25

at the Somerville Theatre.

By BILL JACKSON

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THE BEST OF the Festival of Animation begins its run today at the Somerville Theatre, right next to the Davis Square stop on the red line. The festival is an amazing combination of laughter and wonderment, the best of past animation festivals along with some new pieces for 1991.

The highlight of the pro-gram is the spectacular 23-minute Grand Day Out, Nick Park's amaz-ing piece of work, which was

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no-minat-ed for an Oscar this year but did not win. (Park's Creature Comforts was the winner.) I can't imagine how Grand Day Out lost, because it is a funny and wonderfully animated tale

of an English fellow who discovers he's out of cheese. His answer to this dilemma is to build a rocket to fly to the moon, which is, of course, made of cheese. The detail and most especially the characterizations make Grand Day Out worth the admission price in itself.

Also in the festival is 1990 Oscar winner Balance, by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein of Germany. Balance is an indescribably rich and fascinating film allegory which leaves you thinking after you've left the theatre. Not bad for an eight-minute short. Balance is atmospheric and poignant, another standout in this festival of standouts.

Special Delivery, by Canadian Eunice McCauley, is

an extremely funny, if slightly->

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an unsho-veled front walk, and a lot of mistaken identity. Adding to the fun is the Jack Webb-style narration, dead-panning all of the strange goings-on. It's

one of the most fun films in the bunch.

Knickknack, John Lasseter's computer-animated short, is pleasing to the eye and funny to boot. The computer-driven animation is flawless. Chairs, by Sandy Kopitopoulos, is a nifty little playlet with a surprise ending. Fingerwave, a musical by Hungary's Gyula Nagy, is a symphony of 10 fingers, a fun, musically synchronized short. Bill Plympton's One Of Those Days, a terrific short done entirely in first-person perspective, will satisfy the masochists in the audience. MIT favorite The Wizard of Speed and Time, by Mike Jittlov, closes the show with its amazing trick photography and song-and-dance ending.

There are, of course, disappointments. Anijam, an extremely bizarre 10-minute short, is actually an experiment gone awry. To the first time viewer, it is a jarring, inconsistent, confusing series of unconnected images. At the end of the short, the audience is informed that Anijam was actually a collaboration of 22 animators. Each animator created one sequence, not knowing what had come before or what was to follow (an "animated jam").

Armed with this knowledge, it might be fun to watch. By not telling the audience this until the end, however, the animators destroy the enjoyment one might get from trying to pick out where the sequences begin and end. It might also be nice to compare the styles of the various animators, all of whose names, along with one cel from their individual sequence, are shown at the end.

Negative Man, another experiment -- this one using a film negative as a basis for animation -- is simply boring. It is blessedly short, however. The Great Cognito has some interesting animation and amusing imitations of celebrities, but it doesn't sustain interest for its six-minute length. The remainder of the animation films range from good to unspectacular.

All in all, the animation festival is good fun. This being the first one I ever attended, I found the films to be engaging the entire way through and my interest rarely flagged. If you are planning to spend an evening out tonight, I highly recommend thinking about heading for the beautiful Somerville Theater for the festival.

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