The cartoon, a form too often left to Saturday morning television, can amuse, disgust, persuade or shock -- all of which is amply confirmed by "The 16th International Tournee of Animation."
A presentation of the International Animated Film Association and FilmWright of San Francisco, it's a survey of a score of recent prizewinners, from delightful to pretentious and arty to commercial.
Although it draws heavily on American, Canadian and British animators, the exhibition also offers a few peeks behind the Iron Curtain, whence some of the most potent and disturbing cartoons are coming these days.
There is, for instance, "The Fly," a Hungarian production that gives a fly's-eye view of the world; and "The Alternative," a Bulgarian look at going to hell in a handbasket, or, in this case, a tour bus.
An East German offering called "The River," meanwhile, seems positively subversive. It's an allegory about pain, separation and a formidable obstacle, a thinly veiled reference to that wall in Berlin.
Less on the grim side, there's "Sunbeam," from Great Britain, a cheery mix of modern and "Betty Boop," all singing and dancing on a space-age landscape; and "The Sweater," a funny boyhood reminiscence from Canadian Sheldon Cohen. Grimmest of all: "Ubu," from Great Britain, a treatment of a play by Alfred Jarry about the life and times of a despot.
The technology of animation, as reflected here, has come a long way since the days of Tex Avery, who died in 1980 and to whom the show is dedicated. But it's nice to see how Avery, whose 1949 cartoon "Little Rural Riding Hood" is one of those shown, can easily hold his own.
THE 16TH INTERNATIONAL TOURNEE OF ANIMATION -- At the Biograph through June 14.