Wednesday night, the third not-quite-annual Los Angeles Animation Festival opened at the Regent Showcase. The free event was essentially a preview of what's to come over the next few days, with trailers of upcoming screenings, introductions to the LAAF team and sponsors and a live performance from local rock band Nylon Pink. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants as well as the Ice King in Adventure Time, was the event's emcee.
But last night's festivities set the stage for more than just the animated action that will take place on the Regent Showcase's screen. It was a mixer, with animation students and industry professionals milling about the theater, drinks in hand, talking shop and maybe posing for a photo with Shrek. Songs from vintage rock bands like Love and Electric Prunes accompanied Chuck Jones' classic Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd "Hare Tonic," which played muted on repeat before the presentation. This was a true animation party that embraced the odd, funny and psychedelic while touching on the industry's history and diversity."We celebrate the past and showcase the future," says Miles Flanagan, who co-founded LAAF with John Andrews.
Both Flanagan and Andrews have spent a lot of time working in the animation industry; beyond that, they're big fans of the art form. LAAF is, Flanagan says, "absolutely 100 percent a labor of love."
Flanagan contends that L.A. is the center of the animation industry, and it's hard to disagree with him. Greater Los Angeles is home to everything from smaller studios, like Hollywood's Titmouse offices, to the Burbank campuses of Warner Bros. and Disney. Animation departments draw students from across the globe to both art schools and larger universities. Even L.A.'s gallery scene is frequently filled with artists who work in the industry. Flanagan, Andrews and their team have organized an event that captures the size and scope of the region's connection to animation.