Toon-Up Your Inner Child

What is it about our perpetually adolescent minds that makes the most psychedelic, implausible, alternate-universe cartoons seem completely normal and something sensible from which to extract life lessons? In any other world, SpongeBob SquarePants would be set in a psychiatric ward. And sure, Rocko’s Modern Life was filled with sophisticated social commentary and innuendo — if you could get over the title character’s status as an anthropomorphic wallaby. Nonetheless, someday you’ll put your kids in front of the same surreal Saturday morning lineup, just to see whether there’s some value left in the tradition. In the meantime there's the Holiday Animation Film Festival: Fun and Fantasy, where a collection of cartoon and stop-motion animated shorts will channel the child within. Nina Paley’s 2001 short, Fetch, is something of an homage to the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, and also a clever exercise in line-drawing and artistic space exploration. Paley substitutes a dog and a banana for said fast bird and predator, the dog chasing a ball and the banana chasing the dog through a 2-D, ever-changing jigsaw puzzle. There's also Academy Award–winning filmmaker Jessica Yu’s Sour Death Balls, which is almost exactly what it sounds like. Yu parades in a series of brave taste-testers to duke it out with a sour Gobstopperlike ball, and we feel their pain as one after the next puckers and squints, desperate for an antidote. Even though the characters are in agony, your juvenile brain won't want it to stop.
Dec. 26-30, 12 & 2 p.m., 2010

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