If you think animation is only for kids, the upcoming Longwood Animation Film Festival will make you think again. A wide range of subjects for all ages will be showcased in what is believed to be the only film festival in Virginia devoted completely to animation.

The first-time event March 24, which attracted more than 700 entries from around the world, will spotlight top-notch short films from a variety of directors, including animation professionals. Science-fiction and documentary films are among the entries, which organizers say illustrates the often-underappreciated breadth of animated films.

Organizers have selected the 27 films, called the “official selections,” that will be shown during the festival. All showings and other festival activities, including two animation-related workshops, are free and open to the public. All activities are in Bedford Hall.

“We hope to showcase to people outside of the animation community that animation can be any genre—sci-fi, mystery, western—rather than strictly cartoons for children,” said Amanda Christensen, one of the organizers and an animator who teaches in Longwood’s graphic and animation design program. “Any type of story can be told through animation, whether it’s for children, teens or adults. This is a great medium because the sky is the limit.”

Any type of story can be told through animation, whether it’s for children, teens or adults. This is a great medium because the sky is the limit.

Amanda Christensen, festival organizer and assistant professor of Graphic and Animation Design

Various directors entered the festival, including one who currently works at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Another director works at Blue Sky Studios, also a prominent animation studio. Others include students, independent artists and animation instructors.

“Topics run the gamut, from light and playful to more serious,” said Christensen. “Some are simple stories, like a snowman losing his hat, to more serious subjects, such as a parent not being there for her child. We tried to pick ones that appeal to a wide variety of viewers, with a wide variety of subjects, and ones that cover 2D, 3D and stop motion.”

Most of the entries are about 3-4 minutes in length (they were required to be under 10 minutes), and those in a non-English language have subtitles. Prizes will be awarded in four categories: Best in Show, Most Unique, Student Choice and Upcoming Longwood Student Animator.

The festival kicks off with a continuous showing of the best films from 1-5 p.m. in Bedford Auditorium. Workshops, for which registration is required, will be offered at 3:45 p.m. by animators William “Tuck” Tucker of Longwood and Ken Fountain. Each also will speak in a program beginning at 5 p.m.

A reception and gallery opening for The Pipeline, an exhibition that Sabatos said will “walk people through the process of making an animated film,” will be held at 7 p.m. in Bedford Gallery. The exhibition runs through April 7 and includes a continuous screening of the films selected for showing at the festival.

Tucker’s workshop is on storyboarding, which is part of the pre-production process, while Fountain’s is on the production process. Tucker, who formerly worked on several Nickelodeon shows, teaches in the graphic and animation design program, which is sponsoring the event. Fountain runs an animation studio called SplatFrog.com and has worked for DreamWorks Animation on several films, including Monsters vs. Aliens and Shrek Forever After.

The festival received funding from a Parents Council grant and what Sabatos called a “generous donation from an anonymous sponsor.” For more information, visit https://longwoodlaff.wixsite.com/laff.

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