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The Bottom Shelf by Adam Jahnke

The Animation Show: Volume 3

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Animation Show: Volume 3

The Animation Show: Volume 3
2008 Ė MTV Home Entertainment/Paramount

Cartoons! Everybody loves 'em. You doubt me? Try this simple test. Watch the Academy Awards with a group of people. Wait until the awards for short films are handed out (this part of the show is also commonly referred to as the First Major Lull). After the nominees for Best Animated Short are announced, you are guaranteed to hear at least a couple people say, "Hey, I'd like to see some of those." You are just as guaranteed to not hear that following the Best Live Action and Best Documentary Short nominees.

But for such a beloved art form, it can be difficult to track down new, innovative animation. Sure, the internets have helped narrow that gap but purists like myself still resist watching any film, no matter how short, on a three-inch mini-screen.

In an effort to bring animated short films to a wider audience, Beavis and Butt-Head / King of the Hill creator Mike Judge and acclaimed animator Don Hertzfeldt founded The Animation Show in 2003. The program is similar in style to the late, lamented International Tournées of Animation, whose theatrical screenings I attended regularly in the 80s. Unlike the worthwhile but uneven Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, both the Tournées and The Animation Show are more diverse. Spike and Mike focused on shorts that were... well, sick and twisted. The Animation Show isn't going for shock value. It's dedicated to furthering the art of animation. With the release of the third volume, it's clear that the medium is as limitless as the filmmakers' imagination.

Following an amusing introduction by animated elder statesmen Beavis and Butt-Head, the show gets off to a great start with Run Wrake's Rabbit, a marvelously animated fable in the style of the old Dick and Jane books. It's followed by GaŽlle Denis' City Paradise, which isn't as successful but is certainly lovely to look at. This establishes the pattern for the whole program and it's one that will be familiar to anyone who has watched a compilation of short films. Obviously not every single film is going to be your favorite. But The Animation Show is never boring and even the lesser films have enough going for them that you're glad you watched them.

Additional high points of the third volume include Guilherme Marcondes' Tyger, an absolutely gorgeous piece of animation featuring one of the most amazing puppets I've ever seen; Bill Plympton's Guide Dog, the very funny follow-up to his Oscar-nominated short Guard Dog; Chris Harding's Learn Self Defense, somewhat reminiscent of a 21st Century version of the old Goofy How-To cartoons; Nieto's Carlitopolis, which is very short but funny and technically, quite impressive; Joanna Quinn's Dreams and Desires, the latest in her series of Beryl cartoons that began with Girls Night Out back in 1987; and Game Over by PES. The high point of the collection comes from Don Hertzfeldt himself. Everything Will Be OK shows just how limitless animation can be. It's a one-of-a-kind piece of work, morbidly funny but with dark overtones reminiscent of David Lynch and underground comic book artist Charles Burns. I've been a fan of Hertzfeldt's for some time now but Everything Will Be OK shows him taking his artistry to a new level.

The DVD releases of The Animation Show vary somewhat from the theatrical exhibitions, presumably due to rights issues. Even so, this is a top-notch compilation of short films. The disc is presented in full-frame, despite the fact that some of the films are letterboxed for 1.66:1. Image quality would be improved if the disc was anamorphically enhanced and the 1.33:1 films simply windowboxed on the left and right. Sooner or later, studios will begin to realize that most televisions in homes are widescreen and will err on that side instead of designing discs for monitors that will soon be obsolete but until then, this will have to do. The audio quality is fineÖnothing to either get excited or complain about. Extras include brief but interesting video interviews with GaŽlle Denis (director of City Paradise), Max Hattler (director of Collision) and Joanna Quinn (director of Dreams and Desires). There is also an animatic for Tony Comely's Abigail, showing storyboards, raw live-action footage, a rough cut and the final version in split-screen. Also included are previews for a number of other MTV series, including Beavis and Butt-Head, Aeon Flux and Human Giant. Curiously, there's an extended preview for The Maxx, which hopefully means this series will be released on DVD soon. Finally, a dozen text interviews with filmmakers including Bill Plympton, Don Hertzfeldt and PES are included as PDF files. I'm not usually a fan of bonus features that require you to pop your disc into a computer but these are well worth checking out.

Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt have begun something quite impressive with The Animation Show. Most compilation discs have both high and low points. On this disc, there are simply films you might like less than others. All of the shorts included here are worth investigating. If you're a fan of animation (and if you say you're not, you're a liar), you'll find something to enjoy in The Animation Show: Volume 3.

Program Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/B+


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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