Once upon a time a beautiful blond penguin lost her glass flipper when she waddled rapidly off the dance floor and down the stairs just at the stroke of midnight. This fishy tale called "Cinderella Penguin," a 1981 Oscar nominee, is one of 21 films in the 17th International Tournee of Animation.
This year, the two-hour film festival is all-Canadian, mostly light, sometimes topical and occasionally dull. Artistic styles range from traditional to manipulated-wax to oil- on-glass. Some works are in French, some in English and some are bilingual.
Norman McLaren, the father of Canadian animation, begins the "Opening Speech," but his microphone walks offstage. He recaptures it, throttles it and nails it to the floor. In the end, he's absorbed by his own film and his speech, "messieurs et mesdames/ladies and gentlemen. . ." goes on without him in subtitles.
It's a good start, followed by some pointed short-shorts -- one-minute films like "Instant French," which mocks some English- speaking Canadians' prejudice against Francophones. Then in "Oh/O Canada," cartoonist Barrie Nelson pens a wry portrait of the North Country's neonationalism. And Eugene Fedorenko's "Every Child," a 1980 Oscar winner, tells with gentle wit the bittersweet story of an abandoned baby.
Along with the wonders come visual indulgences only an art student could love, such as a flashing, screaming montage of "nos" called "Negotiating a New Constitution." Some topics are grim: "Death in Spring" is a commentary on killing baby seals. If you're in the mood for Mickey and Minnie, this Tournee is definitely not for you.
SEVENTEENTH TOURNEE OF ANIMATION -- Through January 13 at the Biograph.