REVIEW: “The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows” – Animation Scoop

REVIEW: “The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows”

On Monday, October 17th, I attended the ASIFA-Hollywood screening of Ron Diamond’s annual 18th Animation Show of Shows, at the DreamWorks Animation Campanile Theater at the studio in Glendale.

The Show of Shows is different this year in that fewer films than usual are actual winners of an award at a previous international film festival. In fact, some are too recent to have been shown at an international animation festival, and at least one was shown in advance of its theatrical release.

The Animation Show of Shows always present excellent films, but the subjects and animation techniques are so varied that each viewer has different favorites. One thing’s for sure, screening these on the big screen – in a movie theater, the way they were meant to be seen – is a real treat. It’s an experience I urge to you partake if you get the chance at a movie house or museum near you.

The 17 films this year are:

Stems, by Ainslie Hendersen (Scotland, 2’). Winner of the 2015 BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Short Animation Film; 2015 McLaren Award at the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival. Henderson shows the building of his puppets using found trash, through stop-motion animation to music by Poppy Ackroyd. Technically interesting.

Shift, by Cecilia Puglesi & Yijun Liu (U.S., 5’28”). Winner of the 2015 VIEW Award at the 2015 VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy. 3D computer; School of Visual Arts, New York. A staid woman from the city learns from a nude, free-living woman in a forest how to enjoy nature, eventually running free herself. Well-done, and the theme of an unconsciously-repressed individual learning to uninhibitedly express their emotions is well-worth revisiting.

Pearl, by Patrick Osborne (U.S., 5’38”). 360º virtual-reality cartoon animation for Google by the director of Disney’s Feast, presented in a standard screen format here. A free-living dad guitarist takes his young daughter in a hatchback back & forth across America. As she grows up, she goes through teen rebellion and comes to replace him. Both artistically realistic and impressively experimental.

Crin-crin, by Iris Alexandre (Belgium, 4’19”). A live-action quartet plays a lively, free-wheeling improvisation to a cartoon-&-construction-paper-animation children’s story of a fox and hare tricking and being pursued by a glutinous boar and a vain horse. Simply done, charming and very amusing.

Mirror, by Chris Ware, John Kuramoto, and Ira Glass (U.S., 3’31”). Cartoon animation. The New Yorker and This American Life expand upon the mother-&-daughter cover for the December 7th, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, through humorous shifting, often absurd viewpoints & commentary of the featured two women. Beautifully designed.

Last Summer, in the Garden, by bekky O’Neil (Canada, 4’13”). Cartoon animation. “Ink on paper, Pastel on paper, Pencil on paper, Rotoscope & Watercolour on paper. Two young city-dwellers travel to rural Ontario seeking a deeper connection to their roots. A hand-painted animated documentary about life, love, and the growing season.” From the program notes of the 2016 Ottawa International Animation Festival. Very pretty; very surrealistic; a personal journal of a very personal journey.

Waiting for the New Year, by Vladimirs Leščovs (Latvia, 8’11”). Winner, National Film Festival “Lielais Kristaps”, Best Animation Director Award. Cartoon animation. A lonely woman street cleaner writes a letter on the first day of a New Year. She spends the year watching the changing seasons and dreaming of a miracle for the next New Year. She gets it, thanks to Grandfather Winter – or is it her postal deliveryman dressed up? Sweetly touching, in either case.

Piper, by Alan Barillaro (U.S., 6’). Superb computer animation by Pixar; preceded the Finding Dory feature. A baby sandpiper fails to retreat from the seashore waves in time and is drenched, leaving her with a fear of the water. She learns from hermit crabs to conquer her fear. Funny and very cute.

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Bøygen, by Kristian Pedersen (Norway, 5’49”). 2D computer animation, with a live-action explanation by Pedersen of his philosophy of animation. “An animated abstract and musical interpretation of the battle between Peer Gynt and the Bøyg, known from Henrik Ibsen’s epic poem. Visualizing composer Erik Hedin’s recomposition of Edvard Grieg’s original music score.” I preferred Hedin’s music and was dazzled by Pedersen’s very abstract animation.

Afternoon Class, by Seoro Oh (South Korea, 3’50”). Winner, the 23rd Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film’s Lotte Reiniger Promotion Award for Animated Film; winner, SIGGRAPH Asia 2015 Jury Prize. Humorous cartoon animation. A student tries to stay awake in a class so boring that the other students are all falling asleep. He finally fails. When the teacher sees that he’s put everyone to sleep, he takes a nap himself. Hilarious ideas, great animation and a very satisfying conclusion.

About a Mother, by Dina Velikovskaya (Russia, 8’). Abstract childlike black-&-white cartoon animation. An African tribal mother with extremely long hair uses it for all purposes for her three sons’ needs. When they grow up and leave to become a sailor, a pilot, and to live in Moscow, and have emergencies there, she cuts her hair and sends it to them. But she is rewarded. Reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree; very touching. The Show of Shows adds a live-action postscript, with animator Velikovskaya showing how she was inspired to make the film – growing up with her large, loving family.

Exploozy, by Joshua Gunn, Trevor Piecham, and John McGowan (U.S., 1’47”). 2D computer animation. A humorous demonstration of the directors’ fictional “Exploozy” app that enables the user to create a stunning, 90-second video in just ten seconds. Hilarious.

Inner Workings, by Leo Matsuda (U.S., 7’). Cartoon animation by Disney; to precede the Moana feature next month. A man’s inner organs rule his life to enforce timidity and conformity, until they realize that they are killing his love for life and permit him to run free. Very well-made (naturally; it’s Disney), but shares similarities to Pixar’s Inside Out, and echo’s the “message” of Shift seen earlier in this program.

INNER WORKINGS

Corpus, by Marc Héricher (France, 3’30”). Winner, Court Métrange Rennes festival, Court Format Award. A Rube Goldberg-esque machine with a mixture of mechanical devices and live human organs ends with a hand that plays a piano. Presumably the viewer is supposed to wonder if the machine itself is alive?

Blue, by Daniela Sherer (Israel, 2’42”). 2D computer animation. An abstract cartoon animation to lush music of a woman in a bathtub, and a man cutting himself with X-ACTO knives. The program notes say the man is surgically removing his past while the woman contemplates the pleasures of pain. If it wasn’t for that explanation, I’d say that the film is abstract to the point of meaninglessness. Pretty music, though (by Duncan Thum).

Manoman, by Simon Cartwright (U.K., 10’43”). Excellent stop-motion animation of rods & puppets. Glen is a man who attends a Primal Scream therapy class. It releases something worse than screams from him. The audience laughed continuously, although the wordless narrative is visually dramatic to me; an exercise in really black humor. The voice actors must’ve worn their vocal chords out.

All Their Shades, by Chloé Alliez (Belgium, 5’46”). Stop-motion animation of puppets, animated objects, clay animation, etc. Two visions of women are presented, one idealized showing them as objects to be loved (all the idealized women here are abstractly grotesque), the other presenting them more realistically (equally grotesque). The film is another exercise in exaggerated surrealism.

Thank you Ron Diamond. Animation fans and the animation community appreciate your commitment to making these films more widely available to a general audience – in the format they should be presented in. For more information on the 18th Animation Show of Shows and dates and venues on where you can see it: click here.

Fred Patten

Fred Patten

Fred Patten is an internationally respected comics and animation historian. He has written about anime or comic books for publications ranging from Animation Magazine and Alter Ego to Starlog.
Fred Patten
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