By Jill Pope
For The Hollywood Star News
The Northwest Animation Festival’s recent run at the Hollywood Theatre in May 2015 was the festival’s biggest year yet. The festival screened a total of 272 animated films during the week of May 4-10. This year’s schedule included three showcases of international short films, two feature films, eight “special topic” themed screenings, such as Family Friendly and Women of Animation, an Oregon Animation Industry Showcase, a meet-the-animators panel discussion, and activities at local after-parties.
The festival received nearly 1,400 film submissions this year, which are screened and hand-selected by nearly 100 volunteer jurors from around the world. The films showcase all manner of animation styles and techniques: hand-drawn, computer-generated, stop-motion and more. This year’s festival included a theater lobby installation that gave audiences a close-up look at the furry rat models from the stop- motion animation seen in “Portlandia,” created by local studio Bent Image Lab.
After a major animation festival came to Portland in 2007, created a stir, and never returned, animator and activist Sven Bonnichsen founded the Northwest Animation Festival in 2010. Since then, the festival has been home-grown and locally funded, which gives local artists and filmmakers control of its content and regularity. Bonnichsen, who is still the festival’s director, says the Hollywood Theatre is an ideal location and he plans to keep the festival at the Hollywood “for the foreseeable future.”
This year, Mazza’s Supper Club (on the corner of Northeast 37th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard) held two animation festival after-parties. Bonnichsen said that after hearing that Tony Starlight’s Supperclub had closed, he was delighted to find that Mazza’s had opened in its place and could still offer the relaxed late-night atmosphere he was seeking to allow festival-goers to continue conversations and keep creating. Around 11 p.m. on May 8 and 9, after the Friday and Saturday night festival programs ended, moviegoers walked the short distance from the Hollywood Theatre to Mazza’s to relax with cocktails and appetizers.
ASIFA-Portland, a local chapter of the international animation society, hosted Friday night’s “Drink and Draw” after party. In Mazza’s dining room, against a backdrop of red velvet curtains, artists gathered around industry-standard lightboxes armed with cocktails, sharpies, and a stack of notecards on which to make a series of drawings. Each person began their first drawing with the last drawing in the previous person’s series. When the drawings were finished, a cameraman shot all of the cards in sequence, creating a short film partygoers watched on a big screen the same night. The Portland Indie Games Squad hosted Saturday night’s afterparty at Mazza’s, which featured independently created animated video games.
Readers who missed this year’s Northwest Animation Festival can catch the Festival’s annual “Best of the Fest” screening at the Hollywood Theatre in September. Mazza’s, at 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., is open for dinner and a show Tuesday through Saturday nights, with an open mic, no-cover piano bar on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturday nights at 10:30 p.m., and a full bar and restaurant menu available. Check www.mazzasclub.com for events calendar.