The Animation Show, compiled by star animators Don Hertzfeldt and Mike Judge, is a classier, higher quality version of one of those Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation anthologies that appear regularly in the Detroit area. This compilation offers new works and classics from eight countries and includes a brace of Oscar nominees among the lesser-known oddities. While a nod from Oscar isn’t a guarantee of anything, the creative level here is surprisingly high.
Judge — creator, animator and main voice of “Beavis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill” — is represented by some early sketches depicting various mouth-breathers, plus a short that is the seed of his feature film, Office Space. Academy Award-nominated Hertzfeldt’s offering is Rejected, previously part of one of the Spike & Mike tours, a bloody and bloody funny depiction of an increasingly frustrated animator sinking into dementia.
A lot of these shorts are about escalating situations, something they share with silent comedies. It’s a tried and true form, and the Japanese entry, Mt. Head, and the Canadian, Strange Invaders, bring a fresh panache to this old formula.
The show’s two best entries pretty much defy classification. Ident, a Claymation piece from England, depicts a day in a man’s life in a brilliantly reductive manner as he and his fellow wormlike creatures don masks to fit whatever situation they’re in and communicate in a surprisingly expressive series of murmurs and guttural exclamations.
The Rocks, from Germany, has two creatures made of rock observing human development, the genius touch being that we switch back and forth from their p.o.v. (in which time rushes by and cities spring up in an instant) and the humans’ viewpoint (in which time moves so slowly the rocks seem like, well, a pile of rocks).
From the vaults comes an excerpt from Disney animator Ward Kimball’s Mars and Beyond (’57), a very imaginative but somewhat dated speculation on possible Martian life forms; and Tim Burton’s Vincent (’82), his homage to Vincent Price. Price narrates the film, which combines a dour Edward Gorey-like lyricism with what we now can recognize as a distinctively Burton-esque baroqueness.
It all adds up to an entertaining mix of the very funny and the weirdly visionary. Judge and Hertzfeldt have set out to show that animation is a viable art form, and they’ve made a convincing case.
Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Friday-Sunday, Oct. 3-5. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].