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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Festival Shows Off Innovation in Animation

To win a prize at the annual Goldfish Children's Animation Festival you must be creative, hard-working and at least 2 years old.

That was the example set last week by Sonya Usenko of Novosibirsk, whose one-minute cartoon "The Little Owl," drawn with a bit of help from her mother, charmed the members of the festival's jury, who awarded it one of the first prizes.

The Goldfish festival, which was held for the third time last week during Moscow schoolchildren's fall vacation, was a showcase for the new works of child animators, as well as professionals. The festival is proof that animation in Russia is not dead, despite financial difficulties, lack of any government attention and a normal system of distribution.

Prizes at the festival were awarded by two juries - one made up of professional animators and another comprised of children, ages 10 to 16, who have already gained a bit of fame in cinema, music and other arts. Most of the prizes were awarded jointly by the two juries, but the grand prizes were awarded separately.

The children's jury gave its grand prize to the film "We Draw Pushkin," made by a group of kids from Yaroslavl's Perspektiva studio. The young animators, who ranged in age from 6 to 14, told the story of Pushkin's life in a warm and familiar intonation. Their simple pencil drawings on a white background illustrated little-known facts about the poet, such as how he once wrote an advertisement for a shoemaker for 50 rubles to pay a gambling debt.

Amateur studios like Perspektiva survive in Russia on the enthusiasm of experienced animators who help children bring their fantasies to life without much monetary compensation.

The international (adult) jury, which was led by Latvian animator Rosalia Stiebra, bestowed its top prize on the 50-minute film "The Magic Reed Pipe," a cartoon with a wise moral that Belarussian director Mikhail Tumelya made on the basis of an Ossetian epic.

In addition to the artistic merits of the film, which used a variety of animation techniques, including puppets, drawings and computer-generated images, the members of the jury noted the heroism of the film crew, who completed the film in light of chronic underfunding.

The film's Moscow producer, FAF Entertainment, plans to show "The Magic Reed Pipe" to a wide audience in Moscow movie theaters. If they are able to pull it off, it will be quite an accomplishment.

In recent years, the only cartoons seen on the screens of Moscow's movie theaters have been the work of Disney, while Russia's indigenous animation industry has faltered. Television stations are unwilling to pay money for new Russian animation and show only U.S. imports and old Soviet favorites. Unfortunately, the Goldfish isn't as all-powerful as the Russian fairy-tale character it is named after, and winning one of its prizes does not generally guarantee that one's films will be seen by a mass audience.

But despite the indifference of promoters and television executives, people continue to create new animated films.

The attraction of this magical art form is probably best explained by the film "Chucha," which won first prize in the fantasy category at the festival. The film has been available on video for about a year in a collection of the best works of its creator, Garri Bardin, one of Russia's leading animators.

"Chucha," which is set to the music of Glenn Miller (Chucha is Russian for "choo-choo," as in Chattanooga), tells the story of a little boy who is left alone while his parents entertain guests and dance the night away. In order to save himself from loneliness, he puts together some junk to create a nanny who entertains him with all sorts of magic.