London International Animation Festival

Posted on: 26 August 2011 by Alexander Hay

Fun for all the family (and hamsters) at the LIAF's family shows

Kameneko's Christmas is certainly the cat's whiskers!While the London International Animation Festival might sound so high brow that no self-respecting child would be seen dead there, as it happens, the schedule on Saturday 27th of August at the Barbican and the 3rd of September at the Rio is much more family friendly, with an excellent range of child-friendly animations to choose from.

Like Mobile, a German animation about what happens when a clumsy felt cow toy at one end of a mobile decides to make friends with a mouse toy at the other end. A small menagerie of other soft toy animals do not approve, but then the brutal laws of physics intervene and it all goes a little crazy...

The use of CGI is subtle and well observed with each creature imbued with its own personality from the start - and even their own voice actor. The climax of the short, meanwhile, is frenetic and beautifully timed. The cow is, for all her hulking clumsiness, a charming and lovable character you want to succeed.

Or A Monster Mess, a British cartoon by Susie Jones. An everyday tale of monster meets girl monster next door, who then discovers he eats custard with his fingers and sucks up peas with his straw. A crash course in table manners later, and all is well. While it's the most 'CBBC' of the shorts on the schedule, it's done with enough wit and love of children that it stops short of being preachy and has a final act set in a puddle of mud - after all, sometimes it's OK to make a mess.

Then there's Komeneko's Christmas, a Japanese stop motion animation. The latest in a series of popular cartoons featuring the titular young moggie, this time she's mourning the absence of her parents at Christmas but finding a bit of the Yuletide magic, and her imagination, is there to help her through.

While ultimately a soothing and gentle tale, this doesn't stop it gently probing into subjects like abandonment, loss, frustration and melancholy, nor the painfully detailed emotions and moods suggested by a simple twitch of a tail or a simple shake of the head. Beyond lots of 'meow' noises, it's also free from dialogue – good news for those allergic to subtitles - and deserves to be put on in a double bill with The Gruffalo every Christmas Day., meanwhile, is less a story and more a barnstorming spectacle. A staid, geometric adult and his beastly, lively wild child toddler go on an adventure of sound, speed, monsters, mayhem and, of course, frenzied piano music. It's a well executed roller coaster of a short with a vibrancy and vigour that makes it come alive.

Finally, there's the Polish/Norwegian co-production Fat Hamster, a kitchen sink (or rather, 'sawdust and water bottle') drama of an overfed hamster being forced onto the wheel by his wife for the good of his health. Sadly, he can't stop eating...

Another stop motion animation, it has a gritty, grimy feel but also a keen grasp of physical comedy and the body language between Mr. and Mrs. Hamster is priceless.

Other animations at the Family Screenings include The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside and The Last Norwegian Troll, plus Lexdysia and Whisteless. Will the kids enjoy it? Yes, and so will the adults.

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Alexander Hay

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