The Animation Show 2005

"Excellent"

The Animation Show 2005 Review


Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt are making the rounds again with their pet project The Animation Show, a touring program of that artform so needlessly pushed out of the mainstream, the animated short. The 2005 edition streamlines its presentation - there are no interfilm bumpers and no unearthed classic shorts; the oldest film, the elliptical animal story When the Day Breaks, dates back to the good old days of 1999. If I missed the first collection's sense of celebration, this one gets away with dispensing it because the films themselves may be even better.

Mini-festivals like The Animation Show are inescapably hit-or-miss, but the only out-and-out shrugger here is the beautiful but inert The Man With No Shadow - no animation anthology, it seems, would be complete without the wordless and plotless moving-painting short, usually French, that feels as if it runs for about an hour.

Maybe the best -- at least the most conventionally entertaining -- piece is the confident Ward 13, in which a man wakes up in a creepy hospital and tries to fight his way out. It's a stop-motion film, and director Peter Cornwall makes better action sequences out of clay than most directors can fashion out of lumber, steel, and Vin Diesel.

Less narratively inclined but limitless in its experimental wonder is Pan with Us, which combines stop-motion, live-action, and relatively simple drawings; the result is the world's most beautiful flipbook. Another highlight: Hertzfeldt premieres his newest film, The Meaning of Life, which may startle those who have grown accustomed not only to laughing at his hilarious creations, but convulsing with them; Life is his most abstract, sort of a cross between his own Lily & Jim and 2001.

Only two of the ten main selections employ what has quickly become "traditional" CGI animation. One, Fallen Art, is an enjoyable perversion of the kid-friendly medium, a darkly funny (if somewhat confounding) military-industrial nightmare. Rock Fish, a brisk sci-fi adventure, is now in development as a feature film. The straightforward story will lend itself well to this adaptation: A muscle-bound cross between a fisherman and an exterminator (who may be voiced by Vin Diesel in the longer incarnation; he ought to enjoy his current silence while he can) and his Jar-Jar-ish sidekick arrive on a rocky planet to dispatch some sort of underground fish. Like its hero, Rock Fish only treads the surface -- but does so with skill.

What resonates here is animation's versatility, so infrequently appreciated as the big studios clamor for their own piece of the CG pie. In The Animation Show, the Looney Tunes-ish laughs of Bill Plympton's Guard Dog brush up against Jen Drummond's semi-documentary The F.E.D.S. and Jonathan Nix's sweet love story Hello. Those familiar with animation mainly as a medium for corporate-approved family entertainment (excellent as some of it may be) will be struck by how many of the shorts deal with sadness and loneliness. They display a genuinely adult sensibility, lacking the icky grandstanding of the "Sick & Twisted" editions of Spike & Mike. Film fans will watch it with the enthusiasm they once showed for hours of Saturday morning cartoons.



The Animation Show 2005

Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th February 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , Don Hertzfeldt

Also starring:

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