Festival of Animation (1999)



Along with the fairly well-known 1998 Academy Award winner Bunny, this year’s Spike and Mike’s Classic Festival of Animation features some low-profile yet stunning short animation films. As a body of work by a variety of artists, the only common thread is a penetrating cynicism about the world and a tireless effort to uncover something about human beings through drawn or computer-generated "things" that take on enough characteristics to be tragic and funny all at once. While some of the enactments – such as a baby penguin getting stuck inside a polar bear’s anus – are a little tough to swallow, the cleverness behind them is strangely reassuring.

Tightrope – created by Digital Domain, the company that won an Oscar for Titanic – is the second film in this year’s series. A female clown and a suited man in a Zorro mask face off on a tightrope, wanting to bypass each other, but they only end up turning their powers of determination against each other. The facial expressions of the two characters in this computer animation film are slightly haunting. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the man kicks the clown from the tightrope, which is similar to the bizarre, silent story line in the German film Balance, almost a mathematical equation in the form of five mannequinlike men in long, gray coats with numbers painted on their backs. The men balance a large thick slab of floor suspended in midair by moving around on the edges and keeping the square level. That is, until a mysterious red box appears and proves that curiosity does indeed kill the cat or, in this case, the alien-looking mannequins.

Hum Drum is nearly divine by virtue of its double-parked concept of having shadow puppets as main characters who spend most of the film creating shadow puppets on their wall, one of which – a mutant cow – shows up later at their front door. Bingo, another computerized clown film, is based on the neo-Futurist play, Disregard This Play. Bambi Meets Godzilla makes an appearance to precede Bambi Meets Godzilla II. CarrHot is another film to keep your eye on – just watch out for the grater porn scene. You might never want to make coleslaw or explore your dark side again.

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