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Aspen native’s short film catches on at Comedy Fest

Chad Abraham
The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival is showing Aspen native Andrea Stern's animated short, "Catching Kringle."
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Growing up in Aspen, Andrea Stern attended the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.Well, most of it. She didn’t go to any of the movie screenings because she didn’t know about the festival’s film program.Stern does now. The Aspen High graduate will be in town for this year’s comedy event, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, to attend the screening of a short film she produced, “Catching Kringle.”The animated movie, which stars Danny DeVito and John Rhys-Davies, tells a clever version of Santa Claus and his annual run of gift-giving. In a not-so-distance future, America has become obsessed with home security, and Santa (Rhys-Davies) and his elves must use military precision to deliver presents.The big red guy, commanding a tank full of gifts, uses infrared sensors to pick up whether boys and girls have been naughty or nice. The animation has some nice touches, including a moment when the tank peels out and sends snow splattering onto the camera.

Santa’s nemesis is Gen. “Naughty” Norman Needham (DeVito), who tells Larry King (playing himself) that the “truth is, who knows what is coming down our chimneys?” It is Needham’s job to apprehend Kringle.DeVito’s character also has a line seemingly straight out of a Bush administration speech before a certain war.”Our request to tour his facilities have been repeatedly denied,” Needham bellows to King, about Santa. “The man is in flagrant violation of international law and he must be stopped.”But Stern’s fiancee, Adam Himoff, wrote the script in 2000, well before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The prescient piece of dialogue is “just a very big, fat coincidence.”The film has won numerous awards during its festival run, including Best Animated Short at IndieFest Chicago and Best Family Film at the Durango Film Fest.

The 14-minute movie was made with “a very cheap software, because that’s all we could afford, called Flash,” Stern said. The production team invented a way of using the software with another, more sophisticated animation software that a Canadian animation company donated.”We end up getting $250,000 worth of animation software for free because we were able to invent a way of combining their software with Flash animation,” she said.”Catching Kringle” involved a crew of 80 people from around the world, “who we never spoke to on the phone.” Conversations were strictly through e-mail and other forms of Internet communication.”And they were all working for free,” she said.Stern, 28, said getting such star power was part of the film’s “snowball effect.” The script drew talented animators and character designers. They were able to produce an enticing package to show DeVito and Rhys-Davies, who played the feisty dwarf in the “Lord of the Rings” films.

“All actors know about short films, and they know that young filmmakers like myself are doing them in order to gain experience and use them as a calling card,” she said. “So actors of that clout know they’re doing a short film in order to help someone out. It’s definitely a favor, and it’s incredibly generous of them.”Stern said the goal is to make “Catching Kringle” into a full-length film, in either an animation or live-action format.The film has played all over the world, but Stern said bringing it to her hometown is special.”It’s very exciting. We have tons of friends still back there, and they’re all excited to come and see it finally,” she said. “We couldn’t be more pleased with it.””Catching Kringle” will show at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday and noon Saturday; both screenings are at the Isis Theatre.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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