Cartoons on the Bay busy in opener

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SALERNO, Italy -- The 11th edition of the Cartoons on the Bay festival got under way in its new home Thursday, with nearly 1,000 international visitors on hand for a low-key but busy opening day that saw five major trade presentations and the first-ever nonstop screening of all 40 films in competition.

For the first 10 years of its existence, Cartoons on the Bay was held in the coastal villages of Amalfi and Positano. But as the four-day festival grew, it forced a move to Salerno, a bustling and cosmopolitan port city east of the festival's previous homes.

The new location meant that the festival's main points would be more spread out, with participants shuttling back and forth between the headquarters at the cliffside Lloyd Baia Hotel and the historic Augusteo Theater in the heart of the city.

But facilities also were larger and more modern, allowing for a wider participation than ever before and the continual screening of every film in each of the eight competitions: TV series for infants, for children, for all ages, action and adventure programs, educational programs, television series pilots, television specials and short films.

"This is the kind of festival I always had in mind," Cartoons on the Bay director and founder Alfio Bastiancich said. "These superior facilities allow us to do much more than we could have ever done previously."

Thursday's highlights included the showing of Walt Disney Feature Animation's "Meet the Robinsons" and an unscheduled two-minute preview of the children's film "My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuths Christmas" -- a Disney Channel project currently in production.

Organizers also announced that Italy's Maga Animation Studio and Germany's Cartoon Film will be honored as the studios of the year. And the festival hosted a special "Focus on Germany" program featuring German producers.

"Meet the Robinsons," from director Stephen J. Anderson, screened at the picturesque Augusteo to an enthusiastic reception Thursday. The film was introduced at the theater by 8-year-old actor Edoardo Miriantini, who provided the Italian voice for the character of Grufolo.

The Italian Disney Channel held a briefing ahead of the Italian premiere of the television program "My Friends Tigger & Pooh," which will be on the air in Italy starting May 14. But Disney writer Brian Hohfeld attracted additional attention by screening a short clip from the work in progress "Super Sleuths Save Christmas," a straight-to-DVD feature film. Hohfeld said he brought the clip along in order to work on it during his flight from Los Angeles, only deciding to show it at the last moment.

Both the TV program and the film are made using computer-generated 3-D animation.

In the discussion with German producers, several talked about the need to increase the number of co-productions in Europe.

"The U.S. and Asian markets are big enough to sustain themselves, but Europe is more fragmented and so we have no choice but to cooperate," Michael Coldeway, director of Munich's Trixter Animation and the president of the German Association of Animation Producers, said during the "Focus on Germany" event.

Monza-based Maga Animation Studio and Cartoon Film from Berlin will both receive the prestigious Italian and Foreign Pulcinella Awards, respectively, as studios of the year.

The final days of the festival will feature the winners in the eight competitive categories and lifetime achievement awards to Italy's Pagot family and Croatian Zlatko Bourek, one of a small handful of Eastern European animators recognized internationally during the Cold War.
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