Cartoons Come to Life


If you’ve never attended the annual SacAnime festival— scheduled for Jan. 4–6 at both the Sacramento Convention Center (for the first time) and the Sheraton Grand right across the street—it may surprise you to learn that the viewing of animated features “isn’t that large an element of the show,” according to founder/director Dan Houck.

What people really come to the festival for is to share their love of animation via costume contests, panel discussions, workshops, video game tournaments, autograph sessions and karaoke contests, says Houck, a 47-year-old former Kinko’s employee who inherited five grandkids (and anime fans) by marriage. Asked how he got into producing a show that each year outgrew its various venues (Sunrise Mall, the Scottish Rite Temple, the former Woodlake Hotel), Houck says, “I collected comic books as a kid. Then, when I was a teenager, my dad bought me a collection of maybe 20,000 comic books for $1,000. I started going to conventions and selling them.” He also started producing comic book conventions. That led to his love of anime—which usually refers to Japanese animated cartoons but has become much more inclusive of other animation formats—and his creation of the local, wildly popular festival. Special guest stars at anime conventions pose a challenge since drawings, even if projected in 3-D, rarely know how to use water pitchers or microphones. That’s why Houck invites major voice artists to appear at his festivals. This year, Kevin Conroy and Grey DeLisle— the voices of Batman and Catwoman, respectively—will be on hand to discuss their careers. Apparently, they’re very animated speakers.

Tickets to SacAnime are available at the door: $40 for the entire weekend or $20 for only Friday, $30 for only Saturday and $15 for only Sunday