For artists, theater actors and musicians, Chico is a pretty wide open art town, with fun venues and an established support network in place. But for filmmakers—an arts niche that has been growing steadily locally over the past decade or so—there have been very few outlets. Other than the annual Shortz! Film Festival—which celebrated its fifth year of showcasing short films this past September—and the occasional screening at the Pageant Theatre, there are only sporadic opportunities for showing off locally made films.
This Saturday, Dec. 12, at the El Rey Theatre, Chico will take at least one more step toward building up the film scene with the debut of Animation Chico, an international animated short-film festival created by two local filmmakers, Shawn Dyer and Josh Funk.
“There are a lot of filmmakers around here and they’re all looking for a place to show their work and most of them go to either Redding or Sacramento because there’s nothing in their town to support them,” said Dyer.
The two grew up in Chico and have been friends since high school. Dyer, a co-founder of the Shortz! festival and creator of last spring’s Ha! Fest comedy film festival at the El Rey, has been making and showing his original full-length and short films for nearly a decade. Funk, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the scene, having moved from making music in local bands to creating his own stop-motion animated films since 2012.
“The main reason behind [Animation Chico] is actually to bring more people from other markets to Chico,” Dyer said.
The duo started accepting festival entries mid-summer, and received 71 submissions from around the world over the course of three months. They settled on 36 shorts in a variety of animation styles—traditional, computer-animated, stop-motion, even 3-D—that will be spread among four roughly one-hour blocks during the festival.
Naturally, especially for Funk, another goal of Animation Chico is to shed light on the art of animation.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand all of the different forms of animation that are out there and also don’t understand the amount of time that goes into making these,” he said.
Chico State has a large and celebrated animation program, and Funk pointed out that a lot of those students go on to work on big blockbuster movies, but many locals aren’t aware of all that talent. And though they didn’t get any entries from the university this year, the hope is that Animation Chico can be a showcase for student works in the future.
For the inaugural event, viewers can expect a wide variety of films from many different countries, Funk said, including a six-minute piece directed by French animator Gilles-Alexandre Deschaud titled “Chase Me,” which was produced using 2,500 pieces created on a 3-D printer. Other countries represented include China, Brazil, Thailand, Canada, Hungary and Israel.
“A lot of the content that we’ve received is wonderful, from perspectives other than the average American perspective and you’d be surprised what people come up with outside the U.S.,” Dyer said.
“A lot of times with animation, there are no words, which is kind of nice that it translates all over the world,” Funk added. “You can say a lot with just body movements of a character.”
For its awards, the festival is divided into three categories of animated films: student, international and stop-motion, and a $150 prize will go to the winner in each category. For the jury, Funk and Dyer brought in three artists: animator and Chico State instructor Mark Pullyblank, local graphic designer/comic artist Aye Jay Morano and animator Clayt Ratzlaff.
Also on the program (but not eligible for the competition) is the world premiere of Funk’s stop-motion music video for local band the Michelin Embers’ song “Diggin’ On,” which will be followed by a three-song performance by the band.