If you wanted to know where the 14th annual  Cartoons on the Bay Festival in Rapallo was last weekend, all you had to do was follow the sea of yellow balloons that bobbed along the Lungomare, firmly held by young hands.  When I hear the word ‘cartoon’ I think of newspapers, The New Yorker and Gary Larson.  But of course I live in the papery past.  Nowadays cartoons are all about TV shows, videos and animated films.  The Festival’s subtitle should have made it obvious: International Festival of Televised and Cross-Media Animation.

The festival is, perhaps, the Academy Awards of animated television here in Italy, with Pulcinella Awards given in various categories, including TV Series for Preschool, for Kids, for the Tween generation and Young Adults; Educational and Social Products; TV Series Pilot; and Interactive Animation.  To my absolute delight, though, the shows the children evidently found most appealing were the ones that featured real, living people, albeit some of them disguised as giant mice.

or Star Wars Characters

or chickens

or one of my favorites, Batman!

I want the job where you get to dress up in a silly outfit and play with children!

One end of the Lungomare was given over to the Cartoon Village, a series of cheerful white temporary buildings that housed various displays, including several by sponsors.  (RAI, the state-run television, was the main sponsor of the event.  Other sponsors included Kinder Sorpresa (my favorite because they were the only ones to give me something – a white chocolate egg with a prize inside) and Monwatch, a clever and inexpensive water-proof item that can be slipped in and out of plastic watchbands of many colors.)  Here’s a photo of a display of Kinder Sorpresa prizes from the 1970’s.

The largest tent held several hundred people, most of whom happened  to be screaming youngsters at the time I dropped in.  They were excited about the stars of a famous TV show:

The din was extraordinary.  And though I really enjoyed watching the dancing, the crush of people and the decibels chased me out after about five minutes.

After Music Gate, a visit with the Police, who were present in great numbers, was positively calming.  Behind the young lad trying out a fast cycle below is the large bus which is used for education – it houses a bunch of computers that teach highway safety.  In addition, in a neighboring kiosk a policeman was giving a PowerPoint display on safety to a rapt group of older people – probably the grandparents of all the kids screaming in the tent.

Without a doubt, though, my favorite part of the Cartoon festival had nothing to do with cartoons and everything to do with fast cars.  I have never seen a cruiser like this in the U.S. (or such a spiffy police uniform, for that matter).

It’s a Lamborghini Gallardo capable of speeds up to over 200 mph. It lives in Rome and is driven by either the handsome gent standing next to it, or his partner, who was nearby. They sometimes use it to apprehend speeders on the Autostrada, but frequently it is put to a far better use: transporting transplant organs – hearts, kidneys, corneas and so forth. I asked how much of that went on and the policeman said sometimes they do as many as four in a day, sometimes none.

It was a grand festival, and it tied Rapallo up in knots for days.  There was a big bike race on the Saturday, called Cartoons on the Bike.  My sources tell me that some of the most important ciclisti of Italy participated.  In the weeks leading up to the race some of the main streets around Rapallo were re-surfaced, which led to horrible traffic snags.  But as our friend G said, the race is over, but we get to keep the improved roads. The link above to the bike race includes a great many fun pictures of the event, which included children as well as adults and took place between Rapallo and Portofino, on one of the loveliest and most famous stretches of road in the country.

Now… can you guess which person in the photo below is me??!