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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/4/99

Computer Animation Marvels
1999 (1999) - Image Entertainment/Odyssey Productions (Image)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Computer Animation Marvels Film Ratings: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B+

Specs and Features

57 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, film-themed menu screens with animation, scene access (18 chapters plus the bonus, only accessible through the menu screen), language: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

I thought that since this disc is really the sum of its parts, I'd discuss each short separately. For those with no patience, this disc is very good. The animation is all top-notch, and all are very well represented on this DVD from Image. There is no digital noise anywhere on this disc, and the sound is very rich for being a stereo track. The minute it hits the shelves, I think all the computer animation fans out there should line up at their favorite shop and pick this one up. Okay, for those who have the time, here's the blow by blow.

Pets (1996 - directed by John Lally and Valerie Mih for the University of Southern California) is pretty much a direct (and admitted) rip-off of the much better made claymation masterpiece Creature Comforts, done by Aardman Animation and Nick Park, who gave us Wallace and Gromitt. This time, the accents are American, and the animation is with computers. Essentially, it's real life human voices that were recorded and put under different cartoon animals. What they say is funny in the context we see them, like a hyper hamster with a club chick voice talking about talking with herself, or a porcupine that likes to give sensual message. Video quality is pretty sharp, with good colors and no artifacts, which is pretty much the norm. The animation is pretty good, but the audio more often than not sounds like it was recorded over the phone. The production looks like a college class project... and it is. But that doesn't really hurt it -- it's still a worthy tribute to Creature Comforts.

The Persecution (directed by Victor Garrido) seems like a video game outtake or a presentation piece. That's not meant as a slam. The animation is pretty sweet. A Tolkienesque elf is caught snooping around a tree fortress, and is chased by a band of monster lizards in battle uniform. There's no dialogue, but this is swift cutting-edge animation that isn't too cartoony or too realistic. I'd like to see more of this if there is more, or is going to be more.

Note: Ask and you shall recieve. Thanks to Bits reader John, we have a little more info about this short. The scene on this DVD is taken from a film project called Luna. There is another long scene (that really kicks butt), a face study, and 24 production stills from this project at Victor Garrido's web page. Check it out, it's pretty cool.

Vache Folle (1997 - directed by Samuel Tourneux) features a bored cow, who hears laughter around her, starts spinning her tail and shoots up into the air, where she finds a cloud city... which is occupied by other cows, those gag cans of cow noise, and mis-colored Barney clones. Eventually, she finds herself in space on a magic train, and almost getting hit by Starsky And Hutch, all to the music of The Divine Comedy. This is a very fun piece that takes you by surprise. I actually laughed a bit about it. The picture quality is nice and bright, but some parts of the image take on an overly digitized look, like when the camera pans across the grass. The sound is well done and uses the stereo mix very well.

Ticked Off (1998 - supervised by Ron Crown, Casey Kwan and Alan Harrison for Vancouver Film School) stars a wild boar and her husband, who debate the merits of joining Noah on the ark. Well, she debates the merits, and he just shuffles through the paper and states that he's not going. Of course, she has other ways of making him go. This isn't very funny -- more annoying than anything else. The animation is very good though. Plus the sound is well created as well. The rain constantly playing throughout is kept audible, but hardly noticeable unless you're listening. The image quality is top notch with good colors and a sharp well-created picture.

Carved Journey (directed by Jin Park) is one of those traditional "bright lights, sound effect heavy" computer animations The Mind's Eye is famous for. A ball of light travels through a cavern of prehistoric art, and as it passes, each image comes to life, until the light eventually meets others like it, and they combine to create a larger light which heads out into space. Ho-hum, good animation, great sound but too typical. It's very talented, and the images are wonderfully rendered, but with so many other fun things on this disc, you'd think this was an outtake from an early volume of The Mind's Eye computer animation series.

The Hungry One (directed by Steve Rawlins) is a laugh riot, and is totally original, with a great cartoony feel and a nice twisted sight gag. It's a short tale of two penguins, one of whom is expecting something from the other. I'm not going to say how this plays out -- suffice it to say that it's really well done. The animation is crude, but so fun to look at you won't mind -- it actually gives the penguins some great character. The colors are sharp and the video is clean. There's also some nice sound play with this one. Jump to The Hungry One right away when you get the disc.

The Physics Of Cartoons - Part 1 (directed by Steph Greenberg) is a college lesson of sorts, on how the physics of cartoons actually work. It's nothing fans of animation haven't seen a thousand times before in Tiny Toons Adventures, Animaniacs or Cartoon Network commercials. Two cartoon characters demonstrate how each element works, as a narrator gives the lesson. The animation is very traditional looking, but done with computers, and looks pretty good. The dialogue track seems a bit muffled (not a problem with the disc, but rather with the production). The other sounds are done a bit better, with music and sound effects befitting a traditional Warner Bros. cartoon.

H2O (directed by Aaron J. Hartline) features an unseen guy, who exits a bathroom after flushing the toilet, and accidentally leaving the sink running. Some of the water comes to life (a la The Abyss), and tries to turn off the faucet, only to find out a surprising discovery. Looks good, sounds good. It's very impressive, but hardly ground-breaking story wise. I think the title card (with the film credits) is longer than the short itself though.

Bowtie Blues (1997 - directed by Terry Sanderson for Vancouver Film School) is another cute one staring a snowman, whose bowtie gets blown off his chest, and sent scatting into the breeze. No self-respecting snowmen can live without a bowtie, so he heads after it, only to find a snowman graveyard of sorts. Look for the snowman from the Pixar short Knickknack (1989) to drop in for a cameo. Bowtie Blues is very well done and worth checking out. It features some great character animations, nice action, and it has a pretty cool look and feel. The music is also very nice, and the entire stereo track is well used.

In CPU (directed by Wayne Gilbert) a little man fights with a loud computer to get his work done, only to crash it and have go back to the drawing board -- literally. This is a great commentary on computer animation itself, and an ironic medium to do it in. The animation is actually very crude, but done well enough that it tells its story without any words. The picture quality is super, and the sound is grating (purposefully) and well created. It's a very nice addition to this disc.

Last Call (directed by Jaime Castaneda) What's a little Mexican shot glass to do when he gets separated by his buds in a closed bar? Well, the answer lies in this ingenious short. The little shot glass comes face to face with French wineglass nymphets, and German beer mugs, and finds help from a gallant straw. This is a nice extension of the tradition "night life" of inanimate objects idea, created by the early pioneers of animation, and it's incredibly well done, with it's use of light, shadow and glass. This is probably one of my favorites on this disc.

rockpaperscissors (produced by Matt Rhodes) is one I didn't think would ever end. Man, this short is about as thrilling as a real game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. A rock, a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors battle it out for control of the top of a desk. It goes on and on, and just when you think it's going to end, like a Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon it just stars up again -- but without a shot of the wit of an actual Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon. The animation is very typically rendered, and there are only a few moments that I could say I liked (like the paper repairing itself after being stabbed by a pen Terminator 2 style). The look of the short is fine, with sharp picture and good sound -- it just bored me. Quick, next one...

A Narrow Martian of Error (directed by Marcus Hart and Angela DiMeglio for Ringling School of Art and Design) stars a Martian, who is getting ready to send a present to Earth. His workshop consists of pyramids, Easter Island statues, and Stonehenge. But the party is crashed by an Earth probe, The Voyeur, whose robot pilot finds a rock in the hand of the Martian but doesn't sees the Martian. "No life forms present." And off he goes. The short is very cute, with some good animation and nice sounds to boot.

Love And Rockets (supervised by Ron Crown) features robots that fight over the love of a female robot in a Wild West of the future. In a traditional "high noon" duel, these robots go at it with huge guns, tons of ammo and nuclear arms. Of course, it would help if these robots had any aim. The winner is the one who doesn't die with his boots on, but when it comes to nuclear weapons, does anyone really win? In this well done animation, you won't really be surprised who ends up with the girl. There's some great light and shadow work here, but the best aspect of this is the subject matter. Some of the animation is a bit stiff and not as fluid as one would hope, but it's still pretty darn good.

Fly Hard (1997 - directed by Gino Della-Savia, Peter Haralabous, Greg Tareta and Nick Michaleski for Vancouver Film School) has another little penguin, who dreams of flying, and comes up with all kinds of ways to keep up with a flock of geese headed south for the winter. In another ode to Chuck Jones, the penguin falls hard, but always keeps his hopes up that someday he will fly. I do agree with the ending: sometimes it's easier to take a bus. The animation is more cute than incredible, but this is one of the toons on this disc that really uses the sound field. Nice music, heavy effects, and a few explosions thrown in, made this a treat for the ears as much as it's a treat for the eyes.

The Sitter (supervised by Lian-Yuan Wang) Did Ridley Scott do this one? No? Oh, well... if he was a computer animator he might have. There's a nice heaping spoonful of David Lynch thrown in as well, as we are shown an entertainment unit in the future, that takes care of babies locked in storage chambers with only television screens showing their crying faces. At least that's what I got out of it. It's pretty freaky, and some of it looks pretty real. It's a well-done short, with a solid picture and sound.

Bingo (directed by Chris Landreth) is definitely the big piece on this disc, and it's pretty sweet. Bingo is a vignette written by Greg Kotis for stage production by the Neo-Futurists in Chicago. Alias/Wavefront used it to show off their animation skills, and it's very impressive. It appeared first on the Film Fest disc we reviewed back in June. It looks pretty good here, but I liked it better on the Film Fest disc. It seems too dark here, but I'm not faulting this disc or that one, I just felt that the color and detail came out better on the other disc. It's definitely worth checking out on either disc. If you're a fan of computer animation, just get this disc now, because you'll enjoy this short enough to make it worth buying. The story is simple: a young man is barraged by a group of clowns who call him Bingo, ignoring his pleas that he isn't Bingo. Eventually he starts to actually believe he IS Bingo -- but it might be too late. It's very good, with some really great animation.

DVD Bonus Film: Jataka (directed by Neal Nellans) Jataka seems to be a spoof of sorts, of all those video games about treasure hunting. It has animation much like these games, there is problem solving, stunt work and a level boss -- but there's something different going on. Is it a moral? I dunno, but this is a pretty engaging animation. The camera seems to go into a Japanese painting, and we see a treasure hunter heading into a cave. He starts to collect these magic stones, until he notices he is being hunted by a tiger-like creature that is protecting the treasures. Will the hunter defeat the tiger beast, or will the tiger beast win? The animation is pretty solid, much like you'd see on a Playstation game, with cool sound design and great color, light and shadow work. The image gets a bit digital at times, but it's so fun you won't care. It's definitely worth picking up the DVD for.

There you have it -- another solid disc from Image, and another great set of computer animated shorts to show off the ol' DVD player for all your friends. It's amazing how far computer animation has come since The Mind's Eye first looked our way. My only question is: when is the next set coming out?

Todd Doogan
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