Ah, another day and another hip collection of animated shorts. While each coming sunrise doesn't actually herald the arrival of a new festival of inventive, funny and edgy cartoons, it sometimes feels like it, and helping to foster the illusion is the appearance of the third installment of The Animation Show, hot on the heels of this year's Spike and Mike Festival of Sick and Twisted Animation. The two events do share a mild cosmetic resemblance, and even a few of the same creators, and likely similar fan bases, but there are significant differences. Compiled by highly touted animators Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt, The Animation Show is on the whole a bit more cerebral and far less dependent on senseless violence and free-flying bunny viscera. Which is not to say it's violence free; no, there's more than enough freaky imagery and dark themes to satisfy everybody's inner Goth kid, while also providing a bit of stimulation for other parts of the brain. The opening segment is called "Rabbit," and does indeed feature some bunny carnage, but director Run Wrake plays it for weird chills and not just an easy gag. The piece cleverly uses a children's reading primer backdrop, where every object is named on screen, to spin a tripped-out silent tale about a little boy and girl who cut open a hare only to find a tiny demon inside, who runs around turning things into gems and creating general havoc.
It is as odd as it sounds, and serves as the perfect introduction to a series of works that sidestep narrative in favor of a more dreamlike atmosphere. One of the better examples of this approach is City Paradise by Gaelle Denis, a super-cool mix of live action, 2D and 3D techniques, wherein a Japanese woman finds a colorful alien kingdom underneath her drab London flat. Other pieces play off embedded pop-culture elements, like Game Over, which charmingly recreates arcade classics like Frogger with stop-motion household items like pretzel rods and watch faces.
Also intriguing is a black and white French entry Overtime, featuring an army of Kermit-inspired creatures who must come to grips with the death of their creator. The other highlight is Hertzfeldt's witty Everything Will Be OK, in which a stick figure has an existential crisis. Unfortunately, not everything in the collection is equally captivating, and over time the pretty pictures begin to bleed together, and the improved nature leaves nothing for the viewer to latch onto, drifting away on a tide of 'toons. If that's your thing, than surf's up.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.