Animation Sensation

Take a break from Disney and Pixar for a while. Check out some of the best cutting-edge cartoons at the California International Animation Festival in Modesto.

Running all day Saturday at Modesto's State Theatre, the fourth annual festival features 66 mini-movies ranging from about three to 15 minutes long.

"It's an opportunity to have a full day's worth of entertainment for $10," festival co-founder and director George Baker said in rattling off reasons why people should attend. "Secondly, the theater is air conditioned. Third thing, it's an opportunity to see films from parts of the world that you'll probably never see films from."

Submissions came in from Australia, Brazil, Turkey, Portugal, Germany, Spain, France and more. Selection committees whittled down the final lineup from 175 entries, generally choosing films that stood out for style and story, Baker said.

From 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., the festival will show selections for all ages, with films for age 7 and older scheduled between 1:15 and 2 p.m. The rest of the day, most of the films are rated PG-13, with a couple of adult-only entries in the late afternoon.

At the end of Saturday, winners will be announced in several categories, including 2D animation, anime, children's animation and experimental. For the first time this year, the festival has added categories for music videos, science fiction and student work.

Among the music-video entries is a Jim Henson-style puppet video for New York band The Greyboy Allstars' song "Still Waiting" (see it on YouTube).

Baker is excited to add science fiction as a category because he is a big fan.

"We got so many science-fiction animation (submissions) this year," he said. "Animation lends itself to really being able to do things with science fiction. Even the big science-fiction films are doing a lot of CGI, which technically is animation."

The student-film category is important because it encourages artistic expression in young people, Baker said.

"There are so many times that students are being stifled in one way or another or with budget cuts," he said. "They're losing the opportunity to do certain things, especially in the arts."

He added that high school and college students alike were encouraged to submit films.

In the past, some of the films have ended up on TV or been nominated for awards. "Dear Sweet Emma," which was shown at a past animation festival, ended up receiving a nomination for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award.

The quality of films in the festival is always good, Baker said. "It seems to go up every year."