The Animation Show: Vol. 3
There has always been a certain fascination with people for animation. The thought of making images seemingly come alive and move has and undeniable charm. From the first primitive attempts made by creating a sequence of drawings on different pages each one slightly different and then flipping the pages to the computer winders we experience today this is an art form that will always be around. Unlike what you do in the real world the only limitation with animation is the imagination of the artists. Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt, both well known animators in the own right, have created a series of traveling exhibition featuring some of the best up coming animators around today. Called ‘The Animation Show’ it started in 2003 and now the third round of animated shorts has been released to DVD through MTV Home Video in conjunction with Paramount Pictures. The purpose of this show was to return animation to the theaters where it really began. So many of us think of the cartoons we watched as children when we hear the word animation. Of course, there have been feature length animated movies since Disney started the trend back in the late thirties. Now many people only consider the work of big studios and large animation companies but Judge and Hertzfeldt want to remind us all that the little independent animators richly deserve their chance to shine. As with any anthology collection like this most of the audience will react differently to each entry. Some you will enjoy, others, well, not so much. The whole point here is to expose the viewers to what is currently being done in this vibrant and richly diversified field.
Mike Judge is well known to the current generation of television viewers. He came up with ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’, it’s kind of, sort of spin off ‘King of the Hill’ and one of the characters from ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’, ‘Daria’ also received its own show. His was animation for a generation that was ready for something more cutting edge than the decade old cartoon we baby boomers grew up with. Hertzfeldt has working in animation for many years. He has submitted entries in literally thousands of festivals and has received well over one hundred awards for his work. He is able to take a simple stick figure drawing and provide the audience with a human experience that ranges from the very silly to deeply dark humor. Each of these men have ventured out from animation and have worked in just about every aspect of production from musical composition to editing, sound and cinematography. This is not just some cartoonists they are among the top members of their art. They have stated that the primary purpose of their animation shows was to ‘free these artists from the dungeons of Internet exhibition’. While the internet is a worthy and increasingly respectable means of artist expression there is nothing like watching these animated shorts in a real theater. Of course, if you can’t get to one of these venues your home theater is the next best thing.
Introduction by Beavis and Butt-Head
Directed by: Mike Judge
Butt-head is show in an opulent drawing room wearing a smoking jacket and holding a pipe. As a string quartet plays softly in the background he welcomes the audience to the show. Meanwhile Beavis is using a bellows to stoke the fireplace; he does have an unnatural obsession with fire.
Directed by: Run Wrake
The animation here is simplistic. It appears that stationary drawings were attached to movable limbs to create the effect of a rabbit running in a field. A little girl watches as the rabbit runs by. Everything is labeled as in a children’s primer with the same font all such books seem to have. Thee girl thinks about a muff, which floats by suitably labeled and picks up a knife and runs after the rabbit. The rabbit gets away from the girl but a boy hiding in a tree jumps on the lamentable creature. They take it inside and the girl slices the still struggling rabbit open. Inside is a little yellow man labeled ‘idol’. It dances around the table zapping flies into jewels. This is a strange, dark take on the ‘See Spot Run’ books every child is read.
Directed by: Gaëlle Denis
A little girl, Tomoko, has just arrived in London from her home in Japan. The style here is much more realistic but with a surreal look achieved by placing real human heads are drastically elongated animated bodies. The limbs are overly thin giving an odd juxtaposition to the realistic surroundings. Tomoko is in the London underground asking for directions. The voices are also odd; pitched upward and sped up. She gets to her little room and unpacks her suitcase which impossibly held an open fish tank. She sits around in a bathing suit and snorkel as she plays her English for beginners tape. While in the swimming pool she hits her head and goes down into a strange world inhabited by aliens.
Everything will be Okay
Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt
Done in his trademark stick figure way this is a story about Bill. He goes through his day and is forced to face just how meaningless his life is. This is an existential piece that may look primitive do to the form of animation but contains a multi-layered set of themes. Bill passes by someone that he thinks he knows and worries about his response. Bill worries a lot. He only picks fruit in the store that is at the back since the front one are at crouch level to the customers. This is a strange dark little film.
Directed by: Max Hattler
This is a more abstract work with Islamic patterns and American quilts mix and merge with colors and geometric shapes from different national flags. It appears that Mr. Hattler was inspired at least in part by the old Spirograph most of us had as children.
Directed by: Matthew Walker
An astronaut walks along an alien landscape. He gets back into the space ship where his partner is having a cup of coffee. The style here is mostly shades of grey with color highlighting the background. The characters are rounded, not rich in detail but nicely animated with fairly realistic movement. In space one astronaut looses his keys and while looking for them inadvertently pushes a button marked ‘Do Not Push’. It jettisons half of their oxygen but he decides not to tell the other astronaut.
Directed by: Neito
This is a mixture of live action with animation. The direct introduces himself and shows a setup of a camera and a box. Inside the box is a little mouse, actually the animated mouse is projected on a screen behind Neito. He proceeds to experiment on the little critter.
No Room for Gerold
Directed by: Daniel Nocke
Gerold is a crocodile who is rejected by his roommates, humanized forms of a rhino, hippo and a female wildebeest. The animation technique here appears to be some more advanced form of claymation with a nice three dimension effect.
Directed by: Bill Pylmpton
The style used here is pastels with cartoonish characters and shapes. The dog in question tries his best to help the blind with disastrous results.
Directed by: Mike Designed
Characters Bob and Diane go on a date in a one dimensional world. Everything here is brightly color bars.
Directed by: Guilherme Marcondes
Inspired by Robert Blakes’ ‘The Tyger’ a giant tiger suddenly appears in the city. The sets here are practical with some animated enhancements. The tiger is an oversized puppet controlled by a man in a black suit.
Directed by: Francois Caffiaux
A pair of samurai clans fights on two neighboring islands. The animation is a more simplistic form of ‘The Incredibles’ with stocky figures with an excellent movement and depth.
Learn Self Defense
Directed by: Chris Harding
Hapless George is mugged in a alley and decides to learn how too protect himself. This has the look and feel of the animation style popular in the fifties with geometric figures, muted colors and a voice over right from that era.
Directed by: Tony Comley
As a gospel group sings ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’ a plane plummets from the sky. The style here is strange but interesting. The heads of the people seem glued on the animated bodies and limbs with fairly static background.
Directed by: Bill Pylmpton
This is a film noir type murder mystery in a sleazy hotel. It has a surrealistic look featuring simple drawings and movement that relate an amazing effect.
Dreams and Desires
Directed by: Joanna Quinn
The main character becomes obsessed with their new digital video camera. The animation here is rough sketches with flowing lines and multiple lines merged together. The characters are rounded and at times there is almost a rotoscope feel to the piece.
Directed by: PES
A look at five old school video games done with clay figures. This is an eclectic collection of animated shorts that is bound to please. If you are at all interested in animation it is a must have.