BUDAPEST — The 6-year-old Anim’est Intl. Animation Film Festival, which has become East Europe’s premier toonfest, opened its doors in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, Friday for 10-days of screenings.

Fest will screen 436 films to 150 industry professionals and an estimated 22,000 local visitors, who can choose from an eclectic line-up.

Most of the films are shorts, but there are 27 features, including U.S. fare like “Rango,” “Rio” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” and international pics like France’s “A Cat in Paris” and the U.K.-France’s “The Illusionist.”

The winning title in the fest’s competition will receive the Anim’est Trophy, and will be shortlisted for Europe’s top animation prize, the Cartoon d’Or, presented by the European Association of Animation Film.

With 511 films screened at Anim’est 2010, the fest’s shrinkage over the last year may be a reflection of the effects of the economic crisis. But toon professionals state that the genre is fairing better than most.

Jan Naszewski, head of Warsaw-based New Europe Film Sales, says the market for children’s cartoons is decreasing, but demand for animation overall is still strong.

“We’ve found there is always a market for animation,” Naszewski told Variety, particularly shorts, which more and more broadcasters favor because of their programming versatility. “For me as a distributor it is easier to sell animation than (fiction) features and documentaries.”

And in a world where international co-productions have increasingly become the norm, animation offers cross-cultural appeal.

“Animation often has little dialogue, and is easier to dub,” Naszewski said. “It’s a better fit for international co-productions.”

Fest rep Toma Peiu says the animation biz has been strengthened by technological developments and cross-fertilization with the VFX sector. “Animation covers a much broader range than ever before,” he said.

Fest wraps Oct. 16.