The Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival offers a variety of programs for kids (and some returning favorites for parents).
Photo courtesy GKIDS
II’m pretty sure kids don’t care what a good cartoon looks like.
Adults shouldn’t either, obviously. The quality of a film is determined by its content, which can be helped or hindered by style, but it doesn’t matter if an animated work looks like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Toy Story 4″ or ” Shaun the sheep.” If it’s good, it’s good.
We can forget that; I’m as guilty as anyone, having judged many animated versions for looking amateurish compared to Pixar’s latest miracles. (That doesn’t count as an apology, “Uglydolls.”) Young viewers, however, likely won’t make those judgments. It’s funny? Entertaining? Interesting? So it works.
That’s why something like “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales”, a French release from 2017 – and as part of the 2019 Pittsburgh International Children’s Film Festival – deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. It’s funny (often very funny), lively and thoughtful. And it looks like it was drawn around 1983.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful; it’s adorable. Across its three tales – presented with a narrative framework that positions the stories as the work of an awkward barnyard theater company – “The Big Bad Fox” is packed with beautiful scenery, expressive creatures and memorable moments. . There are many grape varieties of beautiful animation; shimmering digital masterpieces are one, and expressive paint-on-paper sketches are another.
The festival, which takes place from July 26 to 28 at the Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville, offers young audiences a selection of recent films from around the world. This year’s programming is dominated by animated films and documentaries.
Although the first genre is a natural choice, programming children’s documentaries can seem like an odd choice. However, the internet has helped with that, says Molly Ebert, events coordinator for Row House.
“Because [modern kids] grew up with YouTube, documentaries are a really natural transition,” she says. If a young viewer is used to watching, say, other kids’ unboxing videos, “something like ‘The Eagle Huntress’ is the next step.”
This (excellent) documentary, a 2016 Sundance favorite, takes viewers to a remote corner of Mongolia, where 13-year-old Aisholpan is working to become the first female eagle tamer to take part in an annual festival. Another documentary showing at this year’s festival, “Landfill Harmonic”, follows a Paraguayan music teacher’s quest to create musical instruments from detritus from a nearby landfill.
Ebert says organizing an international festival for children is vital. “Movies have such an impact on children,” she says. “It has the opportunity to broaden their horizons in ways that other media cannot.”
Parents looking to share familiar favorites with their own children should note Sunday’s program, where a quintet of 80s and 90s throwbacks will be screened in a one-day marathon. The lineup, beginning at noon, consists of “Casper”, “The Little Rascals”, “Babe”, “The Great Muppet Caper” and “Labyrinth”. Admission to all first four films is $10; “Labyrinth” can be added for an additional $5.
While parents might be more inclined to get their kids interested in the “Labyrinth,” which continues to play throughout the week, Ebert urges visitors to watch films throughout the festival. Young audiences won’t distinguish between one of their parents’ favorites and a new and standout offering, she says.
“The children are so open. If they’re watching something and it’s enjoyable, that’s the main thing.