April 30, 2007

Welcome to The Animation Show 2007!

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I would like to imagine that the films featured in this year’s The Animation Show 2007 were hidden away in the same vault that appears at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark by a movie executive who watched these 12 eclectic and eccentric films, coiled back in horror upon thinking how to distribute them and then promptly ordered some stock boy to take the reels away to be lost in obscurity.
Only by luck, a misguided intern looking for the original cut of Gigli stumbled upon the animation collection and secretly handed it over to Don Hertzfeldt (creator of the cult classic Rejected) and Mike Judge (creator of Bevis and Butthead, King of the Hill and Office Space) so they could show the world this wonderful collection of animated shorts.
OK, I admit it’s a stretch (the part where I talk about Hertzfeldt and Judge is true, really). But after watching nearly an hour-and-a-half of mind-boggling, hilarious and visually amazing experiments in animation, I’m ready to believe that anything is possible. The Animation Show 2007 is a great reminder of the great possibilities of animation. While Disney, Pixar and Don Bluth have received their due credit in creating effective animation, the genre still has trouble escaping the categorization of “children’s entertainment.”
The Animation Show 2007 provides us with a somewhat artistic take on Adult Swim — more mature, just less Space Ghost. Hertzfeldt and Judge wisely mix together disparate animation styles that range from the rich, computer-animated, post-apocalyptic environment featured in Nine, to the entertaining and bright visual patterns found in Collision, to the mix of live-action, computer and traditional animation featured in City Paradise.
Some of the shorts are quite succinct. Game Over, the concluding short that pays homage to the early Frogger and Pacman video games found in pizza parlors, clocks in at under two minutes. Hertzfeldt’s own film, Everything Will Be OK, on the other hand, lasts for 17 minutes as we watch our poor, stick-figure protagonist Bill (who, when in the supermarket, avoids fruit in the front of the bins for being dangerously close to other customers’ crotches) slowly slip into madness. Everything Will Be OK treads lightly on the serious subject of mental illness and life’s general boredom.
Gaeell Denis’s City Paradise, along with Remi Chaye’s Eaux Forte, border on the surreal, as the protagonist in the former discovers an underground, magical city populated by ferries under London, while the main character in the latter can’t light his cigarette as a tidal wave destroys his city.
No Room for Gerold, by Daniel Nocke, also deals with the touchy issue of relationships and friendship betrayal, but skillfully distances us from the depressing subject by changing all the characters to random, anthropomorphic animals.
Death is the subject of multiple shorts, but no feature presents a more interesting study of it than Overtime. In the short, a group of frog puppets finds their creator dead, but they are not yet willing to cut the strings with their marionette master (sorry, I’ll punish myself later for that terrible pun).
I have to admit, my favorite shorts were the comedies. Run Wrake’s Rabbit takes the unique format of an outdated children’s book, with simple word labels and all, but twists the generally innocent genre into a somewhat darker (but certainly funnier) realm.
Guide Dog, by Bill Plympton, the sequel to the Oscar-nominated animated short Guard Dog, is particularly amusing. A somewhat lackluster but enthusiastic dog seeks to help the blind — with delightfully sick results.
A similarly absurd, but thoroughly enjoyable short is Dreams and Desires, by Joanna Quinn. While one can debate if the short’s main character, Beryl, is loosing her mind, it’s absolutely clear that she is losing her sobriety. Using her hand-held camera, Beryl documents the simultaneous self-destruction of herself and quite possibly the world’s worst wedding.
I haven’t had time to mention all the features. Others, including the hilarious short Versus, are well worth the price of admission, and I haven’t even started talking about the great music, especially Overtime’s cool jazz soundtrack.
I can’t imagine that The Animation Show 2007 will be easy to locate in the near future, so this week is the prime opportunity to see a great mixture of animation’s up-and-comings mixed with their eclectic veterans.

Cornell Cinema will be showing The Animation Show 2007 Monday, April 30 at 9:45 PM and Wednesday, May 2 at 9:30 PM inWSH.