The 1916 silent film “Snow White” kicks off Seattle’s 11th Children’s Film Festival, which runs Jan. 21-31 and features 167 films from 42 countries.

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A couple decades before Walt Disney made his breakthrough with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he saw a 1916 silent film of “Snow White” that inspired him to attempt the full-length (and full title) 1937 movie that became his studio’s first blockbuster.

That earlier “Snow White” will be the opening-night attraction of Seattle’s 11th Children’s Film Festival, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, at Northwest Film Forum (NWFF). New that night will be a musical accompaniment created by local harpist Leslie McMichael, who will share the program with guest violist (and sister) Barbara McMichael.

“It’s one of those (turning points) in film history that isn’t that widely known,” said the festival’s longtime director, Elizabeth Shepherd, who likes to show a silent film every year because it invites young children who don’t have to deal with language.

Movie preview

2016 Children’s Film Festival Seattle

Runs Jan. 21-Jan. 31, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle. Some screenings take place Jan. 23-24 at Carco Theatre, 1717 S.E. Maple Valley Road, Renton. Admission to most programs is $11 for adults; $8 for children (12 and younger), students and seniors; $6 for NWFF members. Festival passes are $180 for adults; $140 for children, students and seniors; $90 for members. For more ticket information and the full schedule: 800-838-3006 or

Between Thursday and Jan. 31, the festival will show 167 films from 42 countries. Most will screen at NWFF, but the Carco Theatre in Renton will be added to the schedule for two days, Jan. 23-24. The lineup includes two feature films from India, “Rainbow” and “Crow’s Egg,” and a Macedonian/Croatian/Austrian coproduction, “The Little Gypsy Witch.”

Shepherd thinks the audience in South King County is “incredibly diverse.” But that doesn’t mean traditions will be ignored.

The festival’s annual all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, 1804 13th Ave., Seattle. The program includes live-action and animated shorts.

Another tradition, the pajama party, returns at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at NWFF. The schedule includes a DJ dance party, animated shorts and free cupcakes.

Shepherd calls this the largest festival of its kind west of the Mississippi. Among the countries represented are Canada, Russia, Uganda, Israel, Mongolia, Paraguay, Colombia and Thailand.

One recurring theme is kids forming bonds, and not necessarily with humans. From Germany comes “My Friend Raffi,” about an 8-year-old boy and his hamster (3 p.m. Jan. 23), and from Belgium and France comes “Bird of Passage,” a charming and surprisingly suspenseful tale about a girl in a wheelchair and her duckling (7 p.m. Jan. 23).

A jury of Seattle-area moviegoers, ages 9 to 15, will choose the winning films. And every festivalgoer will have the chance to vote for the audience awards.