[DVD REVIEWS]You can forgive them the cartoon dinosaur

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[DVD REVIEWS]You can forgive them the cartoon dinosaur

One of the most surprising and successful movies this year has been "Spirited Away," the latest film by the Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki.

Korea, despite being a stone's throw from Japan and a heavy consumer of animation, has distinguished itself for its overwhelmingly poor animated films. While Korea does the art for many Western studios (including Nelvana studios and The Simpsons), local productions pretty much climaxed with the dreadful "Dooly the Dinosaur."

But that appears to be changing. A wave of creative and offbeat animated films is in the works. One is already on DVD.

"Mari Iyagi" (My Beautiful Girl, Mari, 2002)

Directed by Lee Seong-gang. Voices by Lee Hyung-hun and Ah Seong-gi.

Namoo grew up in a small fishing village. His father died when Namoo was quite young. His mother has been dating another fisherman, which upsets Namoo. And his best friend is about to move to Seoul for school.

In this trying time, Namoo finds a fantastic world that exists inside a marble. Or perhaps inside a lighthouse. Or maybe in Namoo's imagination.

In this world, clouds have substance, giant dogs walk the land, and a mysterious girl in white, Mari, haunts his dreams. Mari's world is conceived with that wonderful dream-logic that is so hard to describe but we all know. My only complaint is that the fantasy parts are too few.

The animation is distinct from Disney cartoons or Japanese anime: It's a soft, watercolor style, just right for both the realistic and nostalgic parts of the film and the fantasy sequences. With luck, "Mari" will lead a great new trend of Korean animated films.

by Mark Russell

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