You might not know it based on the movies that make it into theaters, but there’s a whole world of alternative animation out there. Odd shorts, surreal adventures, dark stories–all intended for consumption by an audience older than eight.
This weekend’s Animation Breakdown Festival at Cinefamily offers five days dedicated to the genre. There’s also an Oculus Rift VR Cafe & Arcade Lounge curated by Glitch City in the theater’s upstairs space. Each day of the fest, which kicks off on Thursday, is packed with unique movies, but we’ve broken it down to the must-attend events.
The Animation Breakdown Roundups
Free For All: Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 p.m.
2: Friday, Nov. 21, 9:45 p.m.
The Nite Owl: Saturday, Nov. 22, midnight
Beyond Anime: Sunday, Nov. 23, 3 p.m.
Cinefamily programmers and guest animators have cobbled together these roundups of innovative cartoons. Most of them play late at night for a reason: independent animation can get very, very weird. In fact, the whole schtick of the “Nite Owl” block is that it’s the kind of stuff you’d find while surfing TV in the wee hours.
David Silverman’s Cartoon Favorites (Friday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.) and Saturday Afternoon Warner Bros. Toons (Saturday, Nov. 22, 2:15 p.m.)
David Silverman was an animator and director on The Simpsons during its golden age. Phil Lord is a co-writer and co-director of the beloved flicks Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie. Join both of them on tours of their favorite classic animated shorts. You may have seen many of these Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies clips on TV or the web, but it’s an entirely different experience watching them in a theater, with an audience. Take your kids, and let them appreciate some timeless shorts the way they were meant to be seen.
Watership Down (Saturday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.) and The Plague Dogs (Sunday, Nov. 23, 5:15 p.m.)
In 1978, British animation house Nepenthe Productions adapted Richard Adams’s best-selling novel Watership Down, about a group of rabbits searching for a new home. The film was such a success that in 1982 they turned another Adams book, The Plague Dogs, about a pair of escaped laboratory dogs, into a movie. Both films are famous for combining cuddly animal protagonists with extraordinarily upsetting content. Both Watership Down and Plague Dogs feature wince-inducing violence while the latter also layers on existential dread about the cruelty of man. Fortunately they also feature gorgeous animation, and The Plague Dogs is being exhibited in its original, uncut form. Watership Down will join the Criterion Collection next year, making it just the second animated film (the first traditionally animated one) to do so.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (Saturday, Nov. 23, 12:15 p.m.)
Japanese animation titan Studio Ghibli is revered in animation circles thanks to movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke. Co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki, who won an Oscar for Spirited Away (and just this month was awarded another Oscar, for lifetime achievement), recently announced that The Wind Rises would be his last film. This documentary follows the production of that movie from storyboarding to completion, offering an unprecedented look at the Ghibli creative process. This is a must for animation fans everywhere.
Bob Dorough Presents: The Music of Schoolhouse Rock Live (Sunday, Nov. 24, 8 p.m.)
Jazz legend Bob Dorough helped craft the soundtrack to childhood, writing the music and lyrics for many of the early Schoolhouse Rock shorts. Dorough and Schoolhouse Rock co-creator George Newall will visit The Echoplex to discuss their inspiration for these beloved films and soundtracks. Then Dorough will lead his band in performing the most-loved Schoolhouse Rock tunes.