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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Animation Show: Volume One
The Animation Show: Volume One
Other // Unrated // May 4, 2004
List Price: $25.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 13, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie

For the uninitiated, The Animation Show: Volume One is a collection of animated shorts from a variety of international artists. This "festival" was the brainchild of Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill) and Don Hertzfeldt (creator of such shorts as "Billy's Balloon" and the infamous "Ah, L'amour"). From simple stick-figure animation to well-rendered CGI, there's a great cross section of styles here...and you're guaranteed to see things that really stretch the imagination. Featuring work by such artists as Adam Elliot, Corky Quackenbush and more, The Animation Show: Volume One is an indispensable DVD release that is both thought-provoking and extremely funny. For clarity, the following guide will briefly explain more about each short contained in this volume (including a listing of each short's bonus features, if applicable), while the technical portion of the review will be covered later. With that said, let's get started!

Program Guide (Including Bonus Features):

Welcome to the Show (Don Hertzfeldt)
This short piece was created especially for this first volume, and features two fluffy stick figure guys as our "hosts" for the program. They'll pop up later! (3:00)
Special Features: Trilogy Optical Effects Commentary, Production Gallery

Mt. Head (Atama Yama) (Koji Yamamura)
This modern adaptation of a traditional Japanese rakugo story depicts the fate that befalls a greedy man who eats cherry seeds. This interesting production was nominated for a 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (10:00)
Special Feature: Gallery of Concept Art

Brother (Adam Elliot)
This is one part of a trilogy (the other two parts are also included in this volume), and pays tribute to a young man's sickly older brother. Although this was completed in 2000, it received an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2003. (7:50)

Parking (Bill Plympton)
This 2002 short tells the story of a parking lot attendant's fierce battle with a blade of grass that invades his parking lot. It's not his best work, but Plympton's trademark style is in full effect here (see the top photo for proof). (5:16)
Special Features: Commentary by Bill Plympton, Trailer for the upcoming Plymptoon, "Hair High"

The Adventures of Ricardo (Corky Quackenbush)
This short actually contains three cartoons featuring Ricardo, a misguided and troublesome 4-year old boy. These three adventures are from 1996, and were mildly amusing despite a somewhat crude style and execution. (3:26 total)
Special Features: Commentary by Corky Quackenbush, Early "Ricardo" short

Moving Illustrations of Machines (Jeremy Solterbeck)
This 2002 project was inspired by the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, and is absolutely fascinating in detail and production. This dark, surreal concept piece took nearly 4 years to complete, and it really shows. Easily one of the best shorts in this collection, and an inspiring work of art. (9:30)

La Course A L'Abime (The Ride to the Abyss) (Georges Schwizjebel)
This is another high-concept short, and utilized a very painterly style to depict two riders as they musically "interact" with other animated images. This was another stunning highlight of this collection, and a truly unique viewing experience. (5:16)
Special Feature: Storyboard and Scene Comparison

Billy's Balloon (Don Hertzfeldt)
This well-known 1998 effort depicts young Billy and his balloon troubles. It's not as good as Ah, L'Amour, Hertzfeldt's first production, but it's a pleasant and simple diversion. (5:22)
Special Features: Production Art Gallery, Optional Surround Sound Mix

Cousin (Adam Elliot)
Another part of Elliot's trilogy of shorts, this 1998 piece depicts a very special young boy who dresses up like a superhero and has a left arm with a mind of its own. On top of that, he "always smells like licorice" (ick, hopefully not the black kind!). (4:40)

The Cathedral (Katedra) (Tomek Baginski)
This stunning 2002 short depicts a mysterious man who discovers a cathedral at night. Upon exploring this strange building, he discovers its true purpose. This was nominated for a 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (6:30)
Special Features: "Making Of" featurette, Art Gallery, Trailer for "Fallen Art"

Intermission in the Third Dimension (Don Hertzfeldt)
The return of those cotton candy guys, this was another short created specifically for the compilation, and is presented in glorious 3-D (well, sort of…)! (3:00)
Special Features: Trilogy Optical Effects Commentary, Production Gallery

Fifty Percent Grey (Ruairi Robinson & Seamus Byrne)
This 2001 short is one of the most intruiging of the bunch, and depicts something of an afterlife. It's not Heaven, Hell, or even Purgatory, but it features a few widescreen TVs and many (successful and/or unsuccessful) suicide attempts. This was nominated for a 2001 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (2:46)

Uncle (Adam Elliot)
The third (but actually first) part of the trilogy, completed in 1997, depicts a very eccentric uncle whose story is recounted by a nephew. Consistent and unique in style, the three parts show an excellent overall effort by Adam Elliot. (6:08)

Early Pencil Tests and Other Experiments (Mike Judge)
Ah, Mike Judge, how we love thee. Although this is much rougher and doesn't follow a continuous plot, this short contains a series of early 90s stuff by Judge. One particular highlight includes a monologue by Milton (above), the original character most people might remember from the Judge-directed comedy Office Space. (5:00)
Special Feature: Deleted Pencil Test

Bathtime in Clerkenwell (Alex Budovsky)
This visually striking 1996 short depicts the Great Revolution of the British Cuckoos, who have taken over the city of London. In rebellion, the birds force the people to live inside cuckoo clocks. Awesome style, and a real head trip (see the image under "Video Presentation"). (3:15)

Aria (Piotr Sapegin)
This is another piece with an extremely distinct style, and is actually based on the well-known opera Madama Butterfly. Created in 2002, this has the most "epic" feel of all the shorts included in this compilation, and it's a sight to see! (10:32)

The Rocks (Das Rad) (Chris Stenner & Heidi Wittlinger)
This excellent short tells the story of Hew and Kew, two stone-age people who live on top of a mountain and are threatened by the eventual "evolution" of mankind. This was nominated for a 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (8:30)
Special Feature: Behind the Scenes Production Gallery

The End of the Show (Don Hertzfeldt)
This awesome, action-packed end to the show depicts our cotton-candy friends at war with an invading force of robots. Yippee! (3:00)
Special Features: Trilogy Optical Effects Commentary, Production Gallery

Well, there you have it: a stunning assortment of animation to entertain and inspire! Although there were one or two low points in the program, the good most certainly outweighs the bad…there's some absolutely classic stuff on here, and any respectable fan of animation would enjoy this lineup. Also, it's worth noting that this release is Unrated, and contains a few scenes of violence and nudity. Depending on your tolerance for clay boobies and fake blood, this may not be something that younger kids should watch. Remember, cartoons aren't just for kids---that's something that every Best Buy employee should learn before they stock Akira right next to Pokemon. In any case, it's time to move on to the technical portion of the review. Let's see how this disc stacks up:

Quality Control Department

Video Presentation:

This collection of animation features an assortment of aspect ratios. While the majority of these cartoons are presented in their original 4:3 fullscreen, a select few are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 and 2.35:1). Although some of these may look a little rough, remember that we've been spoiled in the visual department by Disney, Pixar, and the like. These are independent productions, and there's no way they're going to look as sharp as Toy Story or Futurama. The bold colors are reproduced faithfully, and the black levels are generally solid throughout. If you've seen these cartoons before, this is likely the best they're going to look.

Audio Presentation:

The audio also gets the job done, although it varies for each presentation (much like the video). The bulk of this material is presented in either Mono or 2.0 Stereo, which suits the material just fine. A few cartoons, such as "Billy's Balloon," offer a Dolby Stereo Surround Mix, but nothing here is meant to test the limits of your home theater system. Dialogue, sound effects, and music are generally clear and easily understood, but I'd still have liked to see optional subtitles. Still, this is about as good as these cartoons have ever sounded, and we're lucky to have them in any condition.

Menu Design & Presentation

As expected, the menu designs were fun and creative, and capture the "festival" feel nicely. Each of these cartoons has its own "bio page" (under the "Select a Film" menu), complete with running time, credits, and individual special feature selections. While this is an especially helpful inclusion, I'd have loved to see complete biographies of the artists, including filmographies. The packaging style itself, while cleanly laid out, was surprisingly sparse---especially when compared to the menu designs---and might not grab your attention on the shelf.

NOTE: The bonus features for this release are listed in the Program Guide above.

Final Thoughts

For fans of animation, this release is simply a must-have for your collection. No matter how familiar you are with these cartoons, The Animation Show: Volume One is chock full of excellent animation from artists all over the globe...despite a few low points, the shorts that succeed are absolutely off the charts! Although I'd have liked to see much more content, I'm sure there will be future volumes to look forward to...but this is quite a nice start in the meantime. For both aspiring artists and long-time lovers of animation, this compilation will be worth every penny. Help support these hard-working independent creators, and give this disc a spin immediately! With a nice assortment of material and a few choice extras, The Animation Show: Volume One comes Highly Recommended.

Additional Information

The Official Site of The Animation Show

Randy Miller III is a moderately affable cartooning instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.
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