Friday, January 26, 2007

The Animation Show ~ Year 3

I have just returned with some friends (mostly the Pratt Key-Frame Club) from the New York screening of the ANIMATION SHOW. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a touring collection of international animated short films (hope you can take all that in). The founders of the tour are independent animator Don Hertzfeldt, and Mike Judge, the creator of BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD and KING OF THE HILL. Though neither were in attendance, the show did have two of the featured animators, Bill Plympton (GUIDE DOG) and PES (GAME OVER).

Below are my write-ups for most of the films. These are still fresh in my head, but my opinion is likely to change over time.

(Images are from the ANIMATION SHOW website:
you can also view clips of the films there as well.

Don Hertzfeldt’s films are amazing. Underneath the stick figures and pencil squiggles, his films are blessed with wonderful yet dark humor, priceless expressions, and a keen sense of surrealism. But this film takes all those elements to a whole new level. It tells of a lonely man who becomes ill, and all the confusion as to whether or not this is the end of his as he sadly knows it. In all the confusion, the film takes on a dark, almost psychotic undertone, in which the sound effects are deliberately louder than the voice over narration (brilliant!). A new level of sophistication on Hertzfeldt’s part. Truly one of my favorite filmmakers.

Director Shane Acker’s 9 is not new to me, but that does not mean I didn’t enjoy seeing it again. The first time I saw this was with my Dad at a screening for Academy Award nominated short films, and we were both blown away. This eleven-minute beauty takes us to a dark, dusty world with cute little men made of potato sacks and magnifying gear. The animation is as expressive as anything else done in the world of CG (and for me, it is always about expression). A truly remarkable piece, currently being turned into a feature with the help of my idol, Tim Burton.

The first time I saw this was here at Pratt when they were screening stuff from the Ottawa Animation Festival of 2005. It immediately grabbed my attention, and it still holds it. For one thing, it was the first CG film I had ever seen to be done completely in black and white. And the story was both inventive and touching. It tells of a group of sock puppets who come to life to mourn the loss of their maker. Now that is my kind of story. One with humor, expression, and real emotion.

In a single word: genius. British animator Joanna Quinn is one of my all time favorite animators, as well as one of my favorite all around artists. Her animated shorts are golden. This film shows her reaching a whole new level of sophistication in both plot and execution. With traditional drawn animation and computer assistance, she crafts a film that is mostly taking place from the viewpoint of a moving video camera. And the story is one of pure British charm (which I admire very much); telling of a woman who tries out her film making aspirations at a friend’s wedding, only to cause a shambles for the already dysfunctional family and wedding guests.
On a personal note, I am disgusted that this did not get recognized for this year’s Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Animated). Just goes to show how low these awards get.

Bill Plympton currently holds the titles of the most successful independent animator, and the godfather of New York independent animation. This is definitely one of his best films, mainly because of his appealing little dog character. According to Plympton, this dog has become his own “Mickey Mouse,” which I sort of agree with. I find the little fellow to be very appealing and, out of all Plympton’s characters, the one easiest to connect with. I enjoy watching it, especially in Plympton’s trademark style of coloring and animating.

New York animator PES is definitely an unusual talent. One whose talent is based off of his offbeat yet highly inventive way of animating food and assorted house hold items. Here, he inventively uses them to perform an old 1980’s style video game, famously known as Pac Man. I can’t really say anything else about this film, except that I love being amused by which food/objects play what.

I am not particularly fond of this film. On a technical level, the rendering is nice, and the concept is interesting. But overall, I found myself unable to connect with it. It was just too flat for my tastes, and personally, I don’t enjoy seeing children murdering innocent animals. That just doesn’t sit well with me.

Although I found this to be much more appealing than RABBIT, I have some difficulty with this film. I don’t quite understand what is going on in parts of it, and I find my attention drawn in too many different places. Something about the coloring didn’t feel right to me in certain areas. I loved the animated leg movements though. Those were nice.

Me with most of our group outside the Roseland Ballroom.