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25 Jul 2018

Movies That Are a Real Draw: The Palm Springs International Animation Festival Is Returning

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Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is one of the 10 feature films at the Palm Springs International Animation Festival. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is one of the 10 feature films at the Palm Springs International Animation Festival.

What has a dog and historic significance—and required a whole lot of hours to create?

The answer is Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. It’s one of the 10 feature films that will be presented as part of the 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, taking place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26.

Sgt. Stubby is based on real events that took place during World War I. It is a beautiful story about a stray dog who finds himself with the American 102nd infantry Regiment. Stubby served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western front. Because he could smell better than his human counterparts, he prevented them from walking into attacks; he also found and comforted wounded soldiers. He’s even the subject of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution.

If you’re more of a cat-lover, there is also a film for you: “Marnie’s World is a fantastic story about a spoiled house cat. All of the sudden, Marnie gets caught in an adventure with these dogs and wild animals. They steal a car then go on the run.”

That’s how Brian Neil Hoff, the festival’s director, described the film as he gave me the rundown of the festival’s offerings, which will include both features and short films.

Hoff said he and his crew received more than 3,000 submissions this year.

“We get submissions from around the world. This year, we have many films that are by Oscar winners and talents,” he said. “(Beyond) the 10 features, there will be 230 shorts available for viewing. They range in time from two minutes to 25 minutes, with all various styles and plot points.

“Not only (will the festival be the) U.S.A. premiere for a lot of these films; the films’ home countries range from Russia, Germany and Indonesia to Australia. This adds to the diversity, too.

“We are going to have special themed screenings, like for Sgt. Stubby. … We are inviting veterans and their families for the screening at the Palm Springs Air Museum.”

Another feature about which Hoff is excited is Wall. The 82-minute animated documentary features two-time Oscar nominee David Hare as he examines the impact of the wall between Israel and Palestine.

“This is a topical film for the environment today,” Hoff said.

He has steered the festival from rather humble beginnings into the world-class festival it is today.

“The festival started in my backyard nine years ago. That was the name of it: the Backyard Film Festival,” he said. “In fact, it may be the first festival to have started like that. I really didn’t know what I was doing. We had a few hundred people show up. This year, we’re looking at 25,000-30,000.”

Hoff is in the film industry himself, and he’s been able to tap into his network of animation filmmakers and artists.

“Animation just really stuck with me,” he said. “I am really impressed with the art form. People work on these projects for, like, five years. Oftentimes, this is their premiere for their hard work.”

The 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, being held in partnership with Comic Con Palm Springs, takes place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26, primarily at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Ticket prices vary; watch www.psiaf.org for a complete schedule and ticket information.

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