April 13, 2007
Sprockets, the Toronto International Film Festival for Children, celebrates its tenth anniversary from April 13-22. Although the features programme this year is more strongly rooted in live-action film than animation, animation fans should take note of these titles*:

The Reef: Saturday, April 21, 11:00 AM, Canada Square Cinema 2. Directors: Howard E. Baker, John Fox, and Lee Kyeong-Ho. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, John Rhys-Davies, and Rob Schneider. After Pi, an ordinary little fish from Boston, is orphaned when his parents are snared by a fisherman’s net, he travels to an exotic reef to live with his Aunt Pearl. As he tries to orient himself in this new world, Pi meets the fish of his dreams, the beautiful and kind Cordelia, but things do not go swimmingly. Troy, the meanest shark in the ocean, is not only tormenting everyone in the reef community, but also has his eye on Cordelia.

Brave Story: Saturday, April 14, 10:30 AM, Isabel Bader Theater and Sunday, April 22, 2:40 PM, Canada Square Cinema 2. Director: Koichi Chigera.
While exploring an old building, energetic eleven-year-old Wataru catches a glimpse of a strange doorway floating atop a spiral staircase. It vanishes in an instant, but Wataru is certain of – yet perplexed by – this vision. Having heard the new kid at school, Ashikawa, refer to a mystical realm where wishes come true, Wataru is anxious to learn more.

Azur and Asmar: Sunday, April 15, 2:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theater. Director: Michel Ocelot. Azur, the son of a nobleman, is raised by a nurse alongside her son Asmar. Both boys adore the nurse’s whimsical tales of the beautiful Djinn Fairy who, captive within the black mountain, awaits a loving prince. Growing and living together as brothers, Azur and Asmar share the dream of one day marrying the mystical nymph – but this dream becomes a cause of sibling rivalry. Eventually, their habitual scuffles and one-upmanship create a rift that appears irreparable.

Michel Ocelot is set to direct Bjork's latest music video, and watching A&A will show you exactly why. It's hypnotic and beautiful. Moreover, it's one of the few films currently available in North America -- especially animated ones -- that touches on the complicated relationship between France and North Africa.

The afore-mentioned films are all features, but I would be remiss not to mention The Little Short-Sighted Snake, an eleven-minute animated film from Estonia directed by Aina Jarvine and Meelis Arulepp. It's featured as part of the "Animated Animal Tales" block, but I predict it will outshine the others on offer. LSSN's neo-retro designs, broad colour palette, snappy music, and closing sequence make it irresistible.

Have a fun festival, everyone!

*Full disclosure: Madeline Ashby is a Sprockets volunteer. She received no compensation for this blog post, and had nothing to do with the any Sprockets programming decisions.

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