Greenpoint Gazette
Courtesy of Animation Block Party

Animation Block Party Arrives in Williamsburg

BY McCarton Ackerman

Summer in Brooklyn is full of characters and block parties, with the most animated coming to Williamsburg this Friday.

Automotive High School, in conjunction with Rooftop Films, is celebrating opening night of the 2011 Animation Block Party (ABP). This annual event is dedicated to showing all genres of the world’s best independent, professional and student animation.

“We wanted to do something different from other festivals, so opening night has always been outdoors for us,” said founder Casey Safron.

The first ABP took place in September 2004 at former coffee shop The Archive, located off the Morgan L stop. What was supposed to be a small showing quickly became one of the most talked about festivals in the city.

“New York Magazine found out about us and it took off from there,” said Safron. “Once they published their write-up, we had about 300 people show up.”

Since then, the festival has morphed into an international affair. In addition to partnering with Brooklyn Academy of Music and Rooftop Films, ABP now features films from across the globe and has added new events including an animation trade show and animation for kids’ screenings.

There are also additional perks for movie ticket buyers throughout the weekend, including an after-party with free beer each night. Attendance is expected to multiply tenfold this year from the 300 who attended the original ABP to 3,000 people anticipated this year (versus 2,500 a year ago).

Safron said the biggest challenge in putting on the event is narrowing down the entries. Over 650 were sent in from seemingly every art and film school in the country, as well as countries including Brazil and the UK. They were ultimately whittled down to 97.

“I ended up watching every single one of them since they’re generally in the four minute range,” said Safron. “Once you get down the final 125 or so, you’re looking at things like running time and the region the film is from because they’re all good.”

Winning films at ABP are selected by a panel of four jury members who make the picks on the festival’s 10 categories, including best in show, best student film and best experimental film. The winner for the student film category also gets a production grant to create a public service announcement for ABP, which will open the festival next year.

Safron added that many of the animators shown at ABP have gone on to great heights in their field. Ben Meinhardt had a show on MTV in 2008 called PerfectLand, an adaptation of the film he showed at ABP entitled Binge and Purge.

“It’s a leaping off point for a lot of the animators,” said Safron. “We’ve had people go on to work with all of the big networks or get commissioned to do commercials.”


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