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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Animation Show, Vol. 3
The Animation Show, Vol. 3
Paramount // Unrated // June 3, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted October 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Product:
During the late '60s and early '70s, hot on the heels of the successful counterculture revival of Fantasia (sold as a psychedelic experience to the potent hippy demographic), animators were looking for an avenue to display their often overlooked wares. Using a road show approach and targeting arthouses nationwide, cartoon compendiums from Europe and the US crisscrossed the country, providing artists an avenue to feature their films. With names like The Fantastic Animation Festival and the Tournee of Animation (and later, the '80s Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation), these sensational showcases gave mainstream audiences a chance to experience what only a select few used to view and enjoy. Now modern filmmakers Mike Judge and Don Hertzfelder have started their own enterprise. Following the model set out before, they present The Animation Show, a wandering anthology of cartoon shorts. Thanks to Paramount and MTV DVD, we get a chance to see the third volume in this breathtaking showcase. Within its collection of 16 masterworks, we wind up with some truly amazing animated movies.

The DVD:
Spread out over a single DVD, the best way to approach this package is to look at each film separately. That way, a consumer can decide whether the subject matter interests them, and if, in their mind, this set is worth a purchase. Let's being with:

Director:Run Wrake
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:Two little children discover a magic, gem-spewing genie inside a furry bunny.
Review:Like looking at a kid's primer gone perverted, this amazing opening entry (the sweet but too short Beavis and Butthead intro not withstanding) is driven by dark humor, a brilliant style, and a surreal sense of juvenile justice. It's something quite startling and original.

Title:City Paradise
Director:Gaelle Denis
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:A young Asian girl discovers the perils and pleasures of life in the big city.
Review:The mixture of live action, CG, and traditional animation leads to a slightly confused tone. On the one hand, there is a ridiculousness to the characterization that lightens the mood. Then, we are faced with real life issues like loneliness and alienation and thinks turn dark and disturbing. Intriguing, if not very successful in the end.

Title:Everything Will Be OK
Director:Don Hertzfeldt
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:A stick figure named Bill has all manner of misadventures.
Review:As one of the cofounders of the Animation Festival, you expect something out of the ordinary with Hertzfeldt, and we get it with this surreal saga of a social sad sack whose life slowly degenerates before our eyes. Very funny, and somewhat frightening at times.

Director:Max Hattler
Score: **1/2 (out of *****)
Plot:Random symmetrical shapes react randomly to various noises.
Review:Like a kaleidoscope on crack, this is a beautiful experiment in form, shape, and design. Not particularly memorable, but powerful upon first glance.

Director:Matthew Walker
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:Two space cadets discover there is only enough oxygen to keep one of them alive.
Review:Basically, a wicked one liner left to go on a little too long. Walker's decision to render the entire CGI spacescape in dull, dimensionless grays (with just a splash of maroon here and there) takes away from his satire. Still, we laugh at the denouement, and enjoy some of the more subtle shadings in the characterization.

Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:A scared gerbil is part of an unusual experiment.
Review:Ahhh...like monkeys and kittens, you can't go wrong with small, furry rodents going nutzoid. In this case, a scientist explains certain bizarre theories using a cutesy fuzzball as his subject. CGI does the rest - very effectively, one might add.

Title:No Room for Gerold
Director:Daniel Nocke
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:A group of animals discuss their failed friendships and couplings.
Review:In a kind of upside down indie cliché, a group of roommate animals have a love life heart to heart, including make-ups, break-ups, lusts, and uncomfortable silences. Aside from the novelty of the presentation, the material is rather unexceptional.

Title:Guide Dog
Director:Bill Plympton
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:A hyperactive pup proves incapable of helping the handicapped.
Review:Plympton takes us back to the days of Looney Tunes and psychotic animals as his drooling canine crackpot tries - unsuccessfully - to keep his various charges out of harm's way. Most of the jokes work. A few are forced.

Title:One D
Director:Mike Grimshaw
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:The residents of a 1D world discover the mystery of the second dimension.
Review:Like the previous entry, once we get over the notion of everything rendered in a single straight line (with some very evocative results), the purpose kind of disappears. There are some clever gags, but for the most part, this is an underwhelming entry.

Director:Guilherme Marcondes
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:A gigantic tiger roams a dirty metropolis, bringing nature back with every stride.
Review:Gorgeous in both approach and realization, the juxtaposition of the shadow puppet tiger against a miniature cityscape accented with photorealistic art and CG is quite stunning. The return to nature theme is explored without becoming preachy, and the beauty of it all makes the point even more powerful.

Director:Francios Caffiaux, Romain Noel, and Thomas Salas
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:Two warring samurai factions try to take over a tiny uninhabited island.
Review:Like 'Spy vs. Spy' set in feudal Japan, this is nothing more than sunny, slapstick insanity. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Title:Learn Self Defense
Director:Chris Harding
Score: *** 1/2 (out of *****)
Plot:Learn how to protect yourself from unclear international threats - USA style.
Review:Our protagonist is named George (hint, hint). The '50s style educational material - complete with angular characterization - hopes to mock America's foreign policy, thus our hero's familiar moniker. The gags may be obvious, but Harding definitely gets his message across. Very timely and rather witty.

Director:Tony Comely
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:During a fiery plane crash, a man reflects on his life.
Review:Using something akin to Rotoscoping, color-splashed individuals revisit events in their lives as they prepare to die. Without being forthright and clear, Comely connects with his audience. We understand what is going on, and why it's important, without having it all spelled out for us.

Title:Shuteye Hotel
Director:Bill Plympton
Score: **1/2 (out of *****)
Plot:Something sinister is happening on the top floor of a spooky hotel.
Review:Plympton's second piece here is less successful. It could be the neo-noir set-up, or the dreamlike reveal involving the "source" of all the scary business, or maybe the lack of narrative clarity, but it just doesn't work right. Even the look seems like a step backward for the famed artist.

Title:Dreams and Desires
Director:Joanna Quinn
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot:While preparing for her sister's wedding, a plump participant mans a video camera.
Review:A cacophony of witty dialogue, unusual directorial choices, and flawlessly executed line drawing, Quinn captures the madness of matrimony (and those surrounding the nuptials) in an amazing fashion. Her rotund heroine, as sexy as she is stout, sells the entire wacked out extravaganza expertly.

Title:Game Over
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot:Using various foodstuff, the endings of famed videogames are recreated.
Review:Pes's modus operandi is simple - take visual memories we have and render them in food. In this case, it's classic arcade games like Pac-Man, Frogger, and Space Invaders. Good stuff.

The Video:
With both volumes presented in a 1.33:1 full screen image, it is safe to say that the transfer of these titles is professional, if problematic. Several are shortchanged by not being presented in a non-anamorphic letterboxed style. Specifically, Rabbit, Collision, Carlitopolis, Guide Dog, Versus, Abigail, Shut Eye Hotel, and Dreams and Desires all appear to have widescreen ambitions, but are only given the top and bottom black bar treatment. Still, the colors are vibrant and the details rich and resplendent - especially in the several stop motion and CGI efforts.

The Audio:
Again, all titles are given the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 polish, whether they want it or not. It would appear that, for the majority of these short films, such a sonic situation is perfectly fine. But a few of the movies here have big screen aspirations (Tyger, Versus) and the limited channel choice really dampens the overall effectiveness of the filmmaking.

The Extras:
Not much in the way of added content here. There are excellent interviews with three of the artists participating - Gaelle Denis, Max Hattler, and Joanna Quinn, the animatic for Abigail, and full length text Q&A's with the filmmakers. Toss in some typical MTV marketing, and you've got a basic, if not quite compelling, bonus material.

Final Thoughts:
Easily earning a Highly Recommended rating, The Animation Show has a little of something for everyone. From old fashioned cartoon cleverness to the latest in cutting computer technology, the talent and techniques on display here argue for the artforms place amongst the highest categories of cinema. It's a shame that animation has become so synonymous with children and kid vid programming. In some ways, there is more in the pen and ink effort to enthrall adults than a wee one could even comprehend. It is clear that when ideas meet innovation, magical things can happen. Thanks to individuals like Mike Judge and Don Hertzfelder we get a chance to witness this motion picture prestidigitation first hand. The Animation Show is a marvelous moving picture treat. Fans of the genre should snap it up immediately, while newcomers can simply sit back and enjoy a compendium of creative wonders.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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