Celebrating the Cel

From hand-drawn to computer-rendered, all types of animation are this festival’s focus


Animation has always had a special place in the annals of entertainment. Progressing alongside, and sometimes outpacing, live-action moviemaking, animation has always pushed the boundaries of what is possible. Further, those who work in animation often pioneer the visual effects that become the industry standard.

When Dick Van Dyke danced with penguins in “Mary Poppins” (1964), people were floored. When Jessica Rabbit seduced Bob Hoskins in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988), viewers were similarly wowed. And so it has gone, with animators creating techniques that live-action filmmakers use to literally move mountains. What was once a nifty way to keep tykes entertained has become its own magical medium for telling stories.

In celebration of the art, the Citrus Cel Animation Film Festival hosts a wide range of short and feature screenings, workshops and lectures, and a 24-hour animation contest. Some of the not-to-miss films include the gothic short “Cadaver,” featuring the vocal talents of Christopher Lloyd, Tavi Gevinson and Kathy Bates, the haunting French film “Son Indochine” (“His War”), and the debut of the feature-length “Zarafa.”

Shane Douberly and Bill Waller launched the festival in 2009; this is the third they've held, after taking a year off.

Folio Weekly: Are you and your staff animators or just fans of animation?

Shane Douberly: I think it’s both. It’s all volunteer-based. There are six people who put things together and maybe a team of 12 volunteers who help out here and there. Bill and I own a company called Drips Black, which is animation, motion graphics and film production. That’s kind of how we got into it.

F.W.: How did you manage to land such high-profile industry guests as LAIKA artists Georgina Hayns (“Corpse Bride,” “Coraline”) and storyboard artist Mark Simon (HBO, Nickelodeon)?

S.D.: I went to school in Manhattan, and a lot of my friends ended up in bigger studios. One of those friends was friends with [animator and screenwriter] Bill Plympton. Bill gave us a few pieces. That became the cornerstone. We ended up with a software sponsor in ToonBoom, and with that kind of clout, we were able to go after quite a bit of content. That’s how it ended up catching fire.

F.W.: You named the festival Citrus Cel, but people rarely work in that format now.

S.D.: Traditional [cel animation]? You’d be surprised. The ideas are still there. A lot of the traditional animation, even though it’s computer-based, some folks still do it. There’s [still] a niche in that format.

F.W.: Which do you enjoy more: hand-drawn and stop-motion or computer-rendered?

S.D.: I think it’s an aesthetic. I’m pretty open. Being a festival director and being a part of the [filmmaking business], our shop’s so small, we juggle quite a bit. We just did a stop-motion piece for [a client], and I fell in love with that process. I just think it’s the aesthetics, the quality, and it’s also the story. If the artist is really good, or the story is good or clever, then it’s a choice of medium. Whatever the artist is comfortable with. I’m in love with all of it.

F.W.: What’s your favorite submission this year?

S.D.: It’s funny, I was just laying out the program. I think “Zarafa,” the opening night film, is a beautiful film. It’s kind of Disneyesque. It’s got that traditional Disney hand-drawn quality. It’s making its Florida premier [at Citrus Cel]. I hope folks will come out and see that. I think what folks will be interested in this year is that we have <> guests coming.

F.W.: Why does animation enjoy such longevity? And why does it appeal to both children and adults?

S.D.: The options are limitless. As a viewer, you get to escape. The boundaries are thrown out the window — physics and things like that. You could be put in any world. The industry, even the live-action side, so many of the effects that are used today [come from animation]. It’s something we’re drawn to, like Cap’n Crunch on a cereal box. There’s always that character you can relate to. You can just escape watching these films. 

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