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Mary and Max opens Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival in Park City started last Thursday night, kicking off with an independent animated feature by Adam Elliot. The first reviews appearing online are intriguing – catching many veteran festival goers by surprise. Check out these quotes from Scott Foundas’ review in the LA Weekly:

For the first time in its 25-year history, the Sundance Film Festival opened Thursday night with a movie from Australia. It was also the first time the festival has opened with a feature-length animation — one, I feel confident in saying, that is among the strangest animated films ever made.

Pixar this most certainly isn’t. In fact, where most feature-length animated films, by sheer virtue of the painstaking labor involved, aim to reach the broadest possible audience, Mary and Max — which took over a year to produce, at an average rate of five seconds of finished animation per day — is as insular and private as any live-action “personal filmmaking.”

In the eight years that I’ve been covering Sundance, this is one of the only times the opening night film has been less than a calamitous failure, and maybe the only time it has been a movie of serious ambition, worth talking, thinking and arguing about afterward.

Mary and Max is in negotiations for theatrical distribution and will hopefully open in the U.S. in 2009.