China’s “Monkey King” in 3D at Vancouver festival

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Vancouver International Film Festival

At this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, China’s The Monkey King gets an eye-popping 3D restoration on its 50th anniversary; A Liar’s Autobiography (also in 3D) celebrates Graham Chapman’s inimitable work with Monty Python; and Persistence of Vision tells the story of what could have been the greatest animated feature of all time, The Thief and the Cobbler.

There’s plenty for the kids, but there’s also a tremendous seriousness of purpose and heartfelt artistry to the selection of animated features and shorts in this year’s festival, taking place from September 27 to October 12.

Comic book superheroes may rule the multiplex, but in the wide world of cinema, more rarefied and grown-up tastes are being well served! More and more, the use of animation sequences and devices enhance “photo-based” movies, and while graphic novels break new artistic ground, along comes Cartoon College to introduce us to the great animators of the printed page.

Among the cartoon selections at the Vancouver International Film Festival:

The Monkey King — Uproar in Heaven 3D (Da nao tian gong)
China; dirs. Su Da and Chen Zhihong
A grand spectacle, Su Da and Chen Zhihong’s 50th anniversary 3D restoration of China’s most lauded animated feature is truly a special event. Based on the the Ming Dynasty classic Journey to the West, it chronicles the adventures of the magical Monkey King, a mischievous character who creates havoc in the palace of Heaven by refusing to kowtow to the Celestial Jade Emperor…. Bring the kids! Classification: TBA.

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
United Kingdom; dirs. Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett
Ready for something completely different? In the spirit of Graham Chapman’s five-author, highly fictionalized autobiography, this carnivalesque 3D adaptation/animation enlists three directors (Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson), 15 animation studios (each using different techniques) and the remaining Monty Python members (minus Eric Idle) to pay irreverent tribute to “the dead one.”

Ernest et Célestine
France/Belgium/Luxembourg; dirs. Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier
Like-minded Ernest, a busking bear, and Célestine, a boho mouse, forge an interspecies friendship and instantly become a cause célèbre. Teaming with Benjamin Renner, A Town Called Panic‘s Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier curb their anarchic tendencies and delicately craft “a cautionary fable where friendship tries to stand the test of bigotry and intolerance.” — Hollywood Reporter. To be classified so all ages can attend!

McDull: The Pork of Music
North American Premiere
Hong Kong; dir. Brian Tse
Hong Kong’s funniest and most subversively popular avatar, the cartoon piglet McDull, is back in an animated musical by Brian Tse and Alice Mak. Mixing hilarious, weird and deliciously profane humor with ultra-sharp social critique, McDull & Company sing about HK’s uniqueness with a poignant charm all their own.

Consuming Spirits
U.S.A.; dir. Chris Sullivan
In this spiraling animated tale, the darkly humorous, seemingly random misadventures of three Rust Belt grotesques coalesce into a single affecting narrative. “Shot frame-by-frame using models, multi-plane paper cutouts and traditional pencil-drawn cartoons… this labor of love from do-it-all animator Chris Sullivan has the same rough-edged, cantankerous charms as the characters that populate it.” — Variety

Cartoon College
World Premiere
U.S.A.; dirs. Josh Melrod and Tara Wray
This bittersweetly charming documentary introduces us to some of the world’s greatest graphic novelists, and the extraordinary college in White River Junction, Vermont, where the comic artists of tomorrow get inspired and get to work! Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Art Spiegelman, Françoise Mouly and Scott McCloud are among the many artists to take us into their imaginative inner lives and craft. The fabulous soundtrack includes an original score by Jason Zumpano.

Persistence of Vision
World Premiere
U.S.A./United Kingdom/Canada; dir. Kevin Schreck
Stupendous! After toiling on his masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler for 28 years, top British animator Richard Williams — famous for Who Framed Roger Rabbit — saw it wrested from his control and savagely recut. Pairing unreleased scenes from Williams’ virtuoso fairy tale with horror stories of creativity falling prey to commerce, Kevin Schreck takes us inside “the greatest animated film never made.”

Wrinkles (Arrugas)
Spain; dir Ignacio Ferreras
By turns moving and funny, Ignacio Ferreras’ animated tale of two elderly men who become friends at a care facility for the aged “has heart and humor…. Wrinkles ranks as an extraordinarily involving and poignant film… likely to inspire laughter and deep sympathy for the characters, if not tears, in equal measure.” — SBS Film.
Winner, Goya Awards, Best Animated Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, 2012.

Sneak preview guides of the Vancouver International Film Festival hit the street September 1, while the VIFF Advance Box Office opens September 10. The Official Program Catalogue is on sale September 15.

Watch for the fabulous Hayao Miyazaki series coming to the PCP and Vancity Theatre in late fall!

Vancouver International Film Festival film info is available at (604) 683-FILM (3456). The VIFF office is at (604) 685-0260.

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