Accomplished animator honored at ELAC

By Ivan Cazares

East Los Angeles College collaborated with Cinema Without Borders and the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles to present ELAC’s Polish Animation Night festival and pay tribute to Greg Jonkajtys.

Jonkajtys was presented with an outstanding achievement in animation award by Cinema Without Borders at the end of the night.

Jonkajtys is an accomplished Polish filmmaker, animator and visual effects artist. He is well known for his work on movies such as “Hellboy,” “Sin City” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” as lead animator.

Several animated short films were showcased at the festival, including Jonkajtys’ second film “Ark.” He used painted household items such as plastic containers and straws to create the inside of a ship.

His use of both stop-motion animation and digital animation created a visually appealing world and told a compelling story of a man contemplating suicide.  He did this with only sound effects and no dialogue.

“Our goal is to introduce international animation to an American audience. We want to expose people to what we are doing here,” Animation Professor Mike Libonati said.

A panel consisting of Director and Founder of the Annual Polish Film Festival Los Angeles, Animator and Story Artist Cinzia Angelini, Editor of Animation magazine Tom Mclean and Jonkajtys discussed the differences between American animation and European animation.

Animation produced in the United States is mostly targeted at children and are founded by private enterprise.

In contrast, directors and creators  in Europe have to work with a production company to provide some of the money and apply for government grants for the rest, which results in animation that targets adults and often incorporates a political message.

“Not all animation in Europe is political. There is children animation,” Juszkiewicz said. The process varies depending on the country and there are many more collaborations, due the lack of funds in Europe.

European producers of animation are forced to experiment a lot more because of the lack of funds.

They also address issues such as war, the human psyche and poverty in an imaginative and creative way.

“ It would be a mistake to consider the U.S. as only commercial. They deserve credit for their animated features. It’s the best and only original content in the industry,” Juszkiewicz said.

Some American animators accuse Japanese animators of being lazy for using still characters in an action pose and highly stylized backgrounds moving at high speed to create the illusion of motion.

Japanese animation enjoyed a boost in popularity during the ‘90s  and has become a phenomenon in the United States, thought there is a large number of Japanese animation or anime being produced just for profit.

Polish animation and animation from other European countries has gone largely unnoticed, which is why those who create it have creative freedom. They don’t have a dedicated audience and create their films as art.

The movie “Little Postman” was featured at ELAC. The film brings graffiti to life and tells the story of a young postman delivering mail during the Warsaw uprising.

“Little Postman” is a great example of what can be done with animation and proves that someone doesn’t need a lot of money to tell a compelling story.

“Poland has an amazing history in animation and artists around our planet have been inspired by their strong, but still simple character design and new approaches to storytelling,” Bijan Tehrani said, the editor-in-chief of Cinema Without Borders and Director of the ELAC International Animation Nights Festival.

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