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St. Louis Children's Film Festival Returns

Kyle Jacoby
St. Louis Public Radio


Credit Erica Smith / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Brad Schiff, animation supervisor at LAIKA films, sets up puppets Friday that were used in the stop-motion animated film "ParaNorman." The film is part of the St. Louis International Children's Film Festival, and will be shows Saturday night.

The St. Louis International Children's Film Festival not only showcases kid-friendly films, but teaches them how to create their own movies and shorts.

In its second year, the festival will feature 19 films over two weekends at six venues, with workshops throughout the week.

“We have plenty of animation, but we do have some live-action films,” said Cliff Froehlich, executive director of Cinema St. Louis. “We’ve got a couple from Germany — those are two of our subtitled films. We have a really charming film called ‘My Dog the Champion’ that’s an independent American film. Then of course we have a classic: We have the 50th anniversary of ‘Mary Poppins,’ which is a combo of live-action and animation.”

Credit Cinema St. Louis
The second annual St. Louis International Children's Film Festival starts tonight with a Charlie Chaplin program.

The festival starts tonight at Webster University with a Charlie Chaplin program: four Chaplin films, live music and clown performances.

But it’s not just about watching movies. Children also will have an opportunity to make films and learn from professional filmmakers and animators.

St. Louis native Brad Schiff, animation supervisor at LAIKA films, will participate in a Q&A after a screening of “ParaNorman,” a stop-action animation film, on Saturday.

“‘ParaNorman’ is about a little boy who can see ghosts,” Schiff said. “He’s a bit of an outcast. It kind of has an anti-bullying theme throughout the film at the core.”

Schiff manages a team of animators and helps develop characters. Stop-motion animation uses puppets — or “hi-tech action figures,” as Schiff said.

“Stop-motion is one of my favorite kinds of animation,” Froehlich said.

“It’s one of the oldest forms of filmmaking,” Schiff said. “One of the ways we’re pushing the medium forward is we do replacement animation. We design the faces in the computer first, so it’s modeled in the computer, all of the expressions are built in the computer. Then they’re printed out on a 3-D printer.”

When creating a film, Schiff’s team of 24 animators works on more than 50 sets at the same time. He said each animator is responsible for 4.3 seconds of animation each week.

In addition to “ParaNorman,” Schiff has worked on “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and soon-to-be-released “The Box Trolls.”

“I had an instructor whose philosophy was you don’t have to draw great to animate great,” Schiff said. “Now with computer animation and stop-motion animation, drawing helps, but it’s not a necessary prerequisite.”

St. Louis native Shawn Krause of Pixar Studios also will participate in the animation workshop, as well as a behind-the-scenes program. Krause will participate in a Q&A after a screening of “The Incredibles.”

The festival’s animation camp and live-action camp take place next week. Students will create their own shorts or animations; their projects will be shown at the end of the festival. Advanced students can participate in a documentary camp the following week.

The film festival is an offshoot of the St. Louis International Film Festival, which is held annually in November and started in 1992. The children's film festival runs through Aug. 10 at a variety of venues; download the festival schedule.

Related Events

Cinema St. Louis presents "SLIFF/Kids," the second annual St. Louis International Film Festival 
Aug 1-10, 2014; various times
Various locations

St. Louis International Children's Film Festival presents "Behind the Scenes with Brad Schiff" and screening of "ParaNorman"
7 p.m. Aug. 2, 2014
COCA, 524 Trinity Ave.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.