Cinemadope: Tooning In

An argument could be made that today is the true golden age of animation. Certainly there is more of it available than ever before, in a dizzying array of styles and viewing formats. (Look up 1A4Studio on YouTube for one of my favorite formats—feature films like Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski condensed into one-minute hand-drawn animations.) But the classics never really go away, and when I think golden age, my first thought is always the same: Looney Tunes.

Maybe it’s my age, but watching Bugs and the gang was a rite of passage a few times over. When I was a kid, it felt like a victory to make it to Saturday morning, and a Marvin the Martian cartoon was the reward. Little did I know that all those gags were stuffed with a secret intelligence, preparing me for a love of higher culture. (Seriously, what kid didn’t first hear Wagner in a Looney Tunes cartoon?) So it was that the older I got, the better the jokes were, and even today I marvel at the depth and richness of a good Looney Tunes episode. I can’t say the same for those hours I burned watching Thundercats, that’s for sure.

This week, kids of all ages have a chance to revisit those great cartoons when Shelburne Falls’ Pothole Pictures hosts the return of the BBDDPPRREFSFFF (that would be the Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck Porky Pig Road Runner Elmer Fudd Shelburne Falls Film Festival) at the town’s Memorial Hall on Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. A 90-minute program, the best-of-the-best collection is a hand-picked assortment of toons spanning three decades of animation—a veritable history lesson, given the timeliness of those classics. And while the youngest viewers might enjoy them simply as big, bright cartoons, they will thank you, later, for introducing you to them. Trust me.

The animation extravaganza continues back in Amherst, which continues its Hayao Miyazaki festival with two screenings of My Neighbor Totoro, one of the most internationally renowned of the director’s films. While not all his work is entirely kid-friendly—some of his imagery can be a bit eerie for wee ones—Totoro, based on Miyazaki’s own childhood dreams, is a safe, soft cocoon that envelopes anyone who watches it.

In it, Satsuki and Mei move to a new house in the country, where they discover the Totoros—woodland creatures that resemble oversized pandas with rabbit ears—living in a nearby forest. Visible only to children, they take the young girls on wild adventures through the tree tops, reminding them—and us—of the incredible elemental power of the natural world. The cinema will also feature two of Miyazaki’s works dubbed into English (Totoro is in Japanese, with English subtitles) at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday as part of its Family Week screenings for younger viewers.


Also this week: The Zigzag Kid is screening at Amherst. Bringing David Grossman’s popular novel to the screen, it stars Thomas Simon as Nono, the son of a famous police inspector. He longs to follow in his father’s footsteps, but his impulsive nature often lands him in trouble. When, just before his bar mitzvah, he is once again sent off to his uncle’s as punishment, he finds he has one last chance to prove himself to his dad and learn the truth about the mystery of his absent mother.

Teaming up with suave thief (and dad’s arch-enemy) Felix Glick, the young detective-in-training follows the clues to the French Riviera, where he dives into a world of double-crosses, disguise, and divas like Lola Ciperola—a famous singer played by Isabella Rossellini. A magical take on what it means to cross into young adulthood, The Zigzag Kid has the chance to become a treasured memory for a generation of filmgoers.•

Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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