Cartoons Aplenty for Both Big and Small

Big Festival Of Animated FilmsIn Darina Schmidt's "Little Vasilisa," the protagonist is left by cruel relatives to fend for herself in the woods.
Cartoons are not just for kids.

This may be an axiom in the animated film world, but it can be hard to believe when children's films like Madagascar (and Madagascar 2) and Ice Age (and Ice Age 2) make it to the big screen far more often than the likes of Wall-E, Pixar's spare, philosophical sci-fi film.

Starting Saturday in Moscow, however, the Big Festival of Animated Films will allow adults with an affection for animation to lay eyes on a wealth of shorts and full-length features for a taller audience.

"I think we may have even made it too big this year, too mammoth," admitted Maria Tereshchenko, one of the program directors for the second edition of the festival, which has more than 300 films showing this year. "We wanted more premieres because last year was mostly Russian cartoons, and there are only so many new films coming out every year in one country. So we looked more to foreign ones this year."

And foreign films they have in impressive abundance. Within the lists of featured films in the 12 different programs are award-winning pictures from six countries as well as sections dedicated exclusively to Portuguese, Hungarian and Korean animation. The 50th anniversary of Estonian production company Nukufilm will be honored with a run of shorts as well as an exhibition displaying dolls used in its films over its half-century of existence. The wildly popular American studio Pixar will have more than a dozen films shown, and there will even be a program of shorts from Belarus.

All foreign films will be shown in their original language with Russian subtitles.


Big Festival Of Animated Films
The 1926 German film "Adventures of Prince Ahmed" will open the festival.
The foreign selection does not mean that there is still not a huge choice of new Russian animation and Soviet classics, which are an integral part of Soviet visual history. Fyodor Khitruk, the acclaimed animator of the Russian "Winnie the Pooh" -- a stouter, browner version of the beloved A.A. Milne-inspired bear -- will be honored with a group of films on the schedule, as will Ivan Maximov, a former aerospace engineer who will show the five-minute "Tunneling," about an imprisoned shepherd who dreams of escaping to reunite with his sheep, and the outrageous "Slow Bistro," which depicts the humorous antics of diners tortured by a long wait at a restaurant.

"Maximov has very strange films -- you can recognize them immediately," explained Viktor Fedoseyev, administrative director of the festival. "He's won lots of awards, and his work is very different."

TV channel 2x2, the Russian version of Cartoon Network that was recently under government pressure over the adult cartoons that they air, such as "South Park," has a special program of award-winning films. Judging by their choices, the channel is playing it safe -- although highlighting plenty of eccentricity along the way.

"Janitorial Story -- Love Story," in which, yes, two janitors fall in love, will be shown, as will a French picture titled "Do Pigeons Go to Heaven?" The likely favorite among Russian audiences, however, will be "Peter and the Wolf," the British-made Academy-Award winner from this year based on the story by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

"There are some animated films being made now that are more relevant to what's currently going on in the world -- but they're the kind that tend to shock people's sensibilities," Tereshchenko said. "They don't have as much success here. Here, it's the tender, sentimental ones that get more attention, that people adore."

The Big Festival of Animated Films runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 16 at a dozen movie theaters across the city. See the festival's web site, www.multfest.ru, for detailed information on the various programs, the schedule of screenings and the addresses of all participating theaters.