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RUNNING TIME: 103 Minutes
- Gaelle Denis Interview
- Max Hattelr Interview
- “Abigail” Animatic
- Joanna Quinn Interview
- An Introduction to MTV’s The Maxx
- Full length text interviews with the artists
The best and brightest of both traditional and experimental animation worldwide all contained in one fantastic annual film festival.
Presented by Don Hertzfeldt and Mike Judge
The short dealt with the ‘fish out of water’ scenario with great subtlety and nuance.
The third year of the biggest tour of animated short films in US History, featuring Don Hertzfeldt’s hotly anticipated Everything Will Be OK along with work from the usual suspects (Pes, Bill Plympton) as well as newcomers to the program.
We live in a special, but unfortunate era. Pixar has completely dominated the realm of the animated film for nearly a decade now and with good reason, as they’ve ushered in a golden era of film with a nearly flawless hit to miss ratio. On the flipside of this, Pixar’s success and the relative ease of computer generated animation both financially and in terms of production speed have made it such that traditional 2-d animation has all but gone the way of the dodo, only reappearing infrequently in DTV sequels or the occasional curiosity (say, the squandered premise of Enchanted*). So thank Yaweh for Spike and Mike and The Animation Show for traveling the country on a yearly basis to spread the gospel and show a truly eclectic group of films with varied stories and techniques with the connective tissue usually being a high entertainment value or quality factor. And while both are entertaining, The Animation Show manages to collect the most sublime short animated features made each year into one exhilarating program, and the DVD here is the (mostly) complete result of their efforts.
32-bit England is one of the top tourist attractions these days.
Year three, though, was the biggest stumbling block so far for the program. Whereas years past had a real sense of pacing, intermingling short but sweet films with some of the more ambitious and sprawling works, year three’s programming lacked that sense of pacing and was more devoted to meandering than the programs of year’s past. This shouldn’t be read as a dig at the quality of the programming this year, as I still think the Animation Show’s weakest year is better than Spike and Mike operating at full blast (and I say that being a big fan of the Spike and Mike tour as well, it just has to cater to a particular sensibility that the Animation Show isn’t beholden to).
The centerpiece of year three’s festival lineup is Don Hertzfeldt’s follow-up to The Meaning of Life, Everything Will Be Ok, which follows that previous film down a similar road of experiment with both narrative structure and technique. He seems to have been energized by Rejected’s final anarchic moments as the fourth wall fights back against its characters and begins to unravel and has been following that aesthetic ever since. He isn’t trying to be as outright comedic as he has in the past, which isn’t to say that Ok isn’t funny, because it is. It’s trying to be something more than a joke, though, and although it might come across as self-absorbed or (shudders to type it) pretentious to some, it creates a mood through its style and narration that it carries throughout. I’m excited to see the next step his career takes as he continues to experiment with the limits of what he can accomplish.
Other short of note are Run Wrake’s Rabbit, which combines a Dick and Jane aesthetic with a seemingly timeless tale of greed; City Paradise by Gaelle Denis, whose dreamlike style perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the metaphorical fish out of water tale; and Versus by Francois Caffiaux, Romain Noel and Thoams Salas, which is nothing more than a Looney Tunes-esque romp between two rival factions trying to figure out the best way to obliterate the other with regards to their geographical positioning. The stumbling points are Dreams and Desires by Joanna Quinn and No Room for Gerold by Daniel Nocke, as the former ambles on long past its expiration date with the latter simply does nothing to merit its technique through its premise. It’s the rare short in this program that doesn’t necessarily justify its own existence. However, these are minor qualms with regards to another solid collection of shorts, just not as solid as those that have preceded it.
It helps that Bill Plympton manages to get two shorts on this disc (his second in the guard dog trilogy and a bonus feature exclusively on the DVD, which plays as an homage to Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People of all things), but even so the other additional shorts (except for the previously noted Plympton) put on to compensate for those that weren’t carried over from the theatrical program are severely lacking and only weaken the delicate balance and momentum the original lineup had created. However, it’s still a great collection of short films, and the only bar which it fails to meet is that set by the amazing programs they’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. It’s still a gift to get so much quality brought together in one place when the market is saturated with computer-generated anthropomorphized animals without an alternative. If you haven’t yet checked out The Animation Show, what are you waiting for? There’s a whole world of animation outside of Hollywood for you to enjoy.
“Yes, Billy, that’s how animated babies are made.”
The cover art is great, as it’s the program’s poster for year three, and every year the Animation Show advertising hits the spot. There are a nice little handful of extras in addition to the program itself with the additional shorts to compensate for those that don’t carry over from the theatrical release. You get interviews with Gaelle (City Paradise) Denis, Max (Collision) Hattler and Joanna (Dreams and Desires) Quinn which are interesting albeit short. There’s an animatic for the Oscar-nominated short Abigail by Tony Comeley which shows different levels of the film’s development side by side (live action, subsequent animations) and works as a piece in and of itself in addition to the original short. There’s also an animated introduction to MTV’s The Maxx, which looks spectacular, as I missed this show during its initial run (in my defense, I was eleven years old, so wild and intellectually complex animation wasn’t where my interests were at so much as groups of fighting teenagers who assemble to battle forces of evil for twenty minutes at a time before I go to school in the morning). One would hope this is a preview of an upcoming DVD release of the series, although Amazon has no release date for such a thing. Hopefully we’ll soon live in a world where this and The State coexist peacefully on our DVD shelves instead of being kept from us. Also included are some text interviews which can be accessed through DVD-Rom software.
*Man, couldn’t that movie have been great instead of merely entertaining?
7.7 out of 10