(Source:  The Advocate)

Kids played a variety of tailgate-style games while clowns twisted balloons into crowns for the girls and swords for the boys, artists painted faces and air-brushed on washable tattoos, and actors portraying cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants and comic superhero Spider-Man elicited peals of laughter.

All of this was going on Saturday afternoon at the Cartoon-a-Palooza in the Shaw Center for the Arts. The free family event, which had to be moved indoors due to inclement weather, was part of the seventh annual Red Stick International Animation Festival.

The three-day festival, which featured more than 20 animated films produced by professional and student artists, is sponsored by the Laboratory for Creative Arts & Technologies, a research facility within the LSU Center for Computation and Technology.

It wraps up Sunday with a 2 p.m. showing of the latest Disney/Pixar animation “Brave,” which doesn’t hit theaters until June 22, said Amanda Moody, associate director of the festival.

“What is so awesome about that is that Disney has entrusted us to bring it to a community-type of theater and there are only five places around the world that are getting this screening before it comes out and we are one of them,” Moody said.

Six short films were shown Friday night to sold-out audiences, Moody said, and she estimated more than 200 attended in spite of the downpour that soaked the Baton Rouge area and delayed the completion of the LSU baseball game until Saturday morning.

“It was probably the best turnout for a single screening ever,” added Stephen Beck, festival director and an LSU faculty member at the Center for Computation and Technology. “Part of this festival is about linking technology with creativity and we found this to be the perfect vehicle to do both.”

The festival’s growing popularity, Beck said, is just one indicator of how Baton Rouge is becoming a hub in the field of video and digital technology.

“It is taking off in Baton Rouge, especially with game development animation and film production,” Beck said. “We’ve done a really good job of getting some good companies to get a foothold here. It’s getting to the point where people can live here and work full time in Louisiana and not have to go to Los Angeles or New York for work.”

Beck often used the word “convergence” to describe how high-powered, computer-driven technology is being used to create spectacular animation productions.

“For many years, animation was done by drawing on individual pieces of paper or painting on animation cells and special effects were done by painting on glass or using models and different camera angles,” Beck said.

“The technology for animation is the same technology to do special effects and the same technology for film production,” Beck said. “They have converged into a uniform platform, so when you are doing video editing, you are also doing special effects. They are all converging into the same technology.”

The winner of the “Best of the Fest,” contest, featuring two dozen films, will receive the Red Baton award.

People were enjoying their visit to the festival, too.

“This is a good activity for the kids to do on a rainy day,” said animation festival visitor Anthony Doty, accompanied by his friend, Paula Walker, and Paige Walker, 10; Terius Alex, 10; and Princess Alex, who was celebrating her eighth birthday.

“She loves animation,” said Princess’ aunt, Paula Walker.

“We went to Golden Corral to eat,” Princess Alex confided, “and I’m eating cupcakes and ice cream here.”

Hundreds of free cupcakes were provided by Sweet Wishes gourmet cupcake shop, and kids lined up for free scoops of ice cream courtesy of Kleinpeter Dairy.

Marcie Cummins and Del Anselmo drove over from Denham Springs after they read about the event in the newspaper, they said. Madison Cummins, 7, got her photo taken with “Lollie” the clown (Jami Pyle in real life), and Cassidy Anselmo, 9, got her face painted before they attended the afternoon movie Disney’s “Tangled Ever After.”

“We wanted something for the children to do that would be fun,” Del Anselmo said.

Tim Spinosa, owner of Xtreme Talent, provided the clowns, artists, games, karaoke system and the SpongeBob SquarePants and Spider-Man costumed performers. Spinosa estimated the crowd at around 200, “pretty good since it’s pouring rain.”

LeaAnne Landry, who was selling tickets for the afternoon feature, said more than 200 had been sold, “a good mix of families and couples.”

But 10-year-old Terius Alex didn’t really care that much about the details of all the new technology displayed during the festival. He just wanted to see the movies, but only after he finished playing some of the games.

“We’re having fun,” Terius said with a big grin, “a lot.”

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For more information on Red Stick 2012, visit www.redstickfestival.org

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