The 18th Annual Collection Defines the State-of-The Art from Around the World
Opening exclusively in theaters across America- details below
“Let’s face it. Professional animation and storytelling is hard work. It requires trained and talented human beings,” explain Joshua Gunn, Trevor Piecham, and John McGowan in Exploozy, their hilarious parody of “explainer videos.” In it they hype their revolutionary new animation app that they claim is “like a team of gifted writers and artists in the palm of your hand, working for free.”
Fortunately, we don’t need Exploozy to experience high quality animation, thanks to Acme Filmworks 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows. Founder and curator Ron Diamond has once again assembled a wondrous and varied collection of 16 short animated films, ranging from individual student projects to big studio productions, from the silly to the sublime, all showcasing the incredible range and variety possible with animation created by artists from Belgium, Canada, France, Israel, Korea, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Scotland, the U.K. and the U.S.
At best, animation can take complex human emotion and experience and distill them to their essence. The power of imagery is such that often, no language is required. And success is not necessarily dependent on large budgets and sophisticated technology, as proved by this year’s collection which includes everything from simple line drawings and paper cutouts to sophisticated computer graphics created with complex rendering software.
The program begins appropriately with Ainslie Henderson’s Stems, a stop-motion musing on the process of bringing inanimate objects to life. It is a brilliant commentary on the act of creation and rather than hide the process, Henderson focuses on it, with his hand often visible in the frame.
One of my favorites in the show is About A Mother, a student project by Russian animator Dina Velikovskaya, using simple black and white line drawings to tell an African-themed fable of the power and sacrifice of motherhood. In the accompanying live action “behind the scenes” portrait, Ms. Velikovskaya explains that she “wanted to express the complexity of becoming older for a woman whose entire meaning in life is to give everything she has to people she cares for.” This love letter to her mother, and to all mothers, is a visual and emotional delight.
Mirror by New Yorker cartoonist Chris Ware, animator John Kuramoto and Ira Glass, also explores mother-daughter relations with a story that began as an audio piece on NPR’s “This American Life.” In it, Glass interviews Hanna Rosin (co-host of NPR’s “Invisibilia”) about how a casual comment may or may not have scarred her daughter for life. The visuals perfectly compliment this humorous rumination on the ever-present threat of the dreaded “parenting error.”
The companion subject of fatherhood is explored in Patrick Osborne’s Pearl, a poignant tale of the relationship between a musician and his daughter, played out over many years. Osborne (creator of last year’s Academy Award winner Feast) and his team originally created Pearl as an interactive mobile VR experience for Google’s “Spotlight Stories” program and then edited it as a theatrical short.
(For those interested in the particular challenges presented by VR animation, check out this informative behind-the-scenes article)
For sheer, wacky fun, there’s Iris Alexandre’s Crin-crin a wild chase in which a narcissistic horse and goofy donkey pursue a nefarious rabbit and his raccoon accomplice who have made off with the horse’s tail. The film mixes a live virtuoso performance by the band Zakouska, playing the infectious title tune, with colorful cut-out stop-motion animation. (This painstaking technique required moving all the pieces in each shot twelve times to produce one second of finished film.) “Crin” means “horsehair” in French and “crin-crin” refers to the squeaky, sawing sound that results from playing a violin with a single horse hair, as illustrated by the band.
Alan Barillaro’s gorgeous Piper from Pixar Studios gives us CGI state-of-the-art married to a story of childhood fear, learning and discovery. The first shot, of an ocean wave’s gentle foam hissing up the beach, is so realistic that you might easily think you are watching a live-action film. But the sophisticated techniques that give us every grain of sand, feather, and drop of water are always in service to the story, a sweet, touching tale that will charm every age.
As early as 1906 Stuart Blackton, in his Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, illustrated that the versatility and power of animation is rooted in its freedom from the constraints of reality. This allows physical comedy to be taken to extremes, a dimension early cartoons delighted in. Following this tradition, Seoro Oh’s Afternoon Class is a hilarious exploration of the inability to keep one’s eyes open. I guarantee you will recognize the sensations.
The program, most of which is family-friendly, includes four adult-themed shorts, which Mr. Diamond has thoughtfully positioned at the end. These include Marc Hericher’s Corpus, the love-child of Rube Goldberg and Mary Shelley, as delivered by Tim Burton, Simon Cartwright’s Man-o-man which uses rod puppets to illustrate the horrors of giving your id free reign, Daniela Shere’s impressionistic Blue which graphically explores the pain and pleasure of love, and All Their Shades, Chloe Alliez’s gently satirical paean to womanhood.
Robert Bloomberg is a stereo photographer, filmmaker, musician and graphic artist whose award-winning 3D shows have been presented worldwide, including local showings at The Exploratorium, Mill Valley Film Festival, and Oakland Museum. He has been honored with a lifetime fellowship “For Distinguished Scholarship and Extraordinary Knowledge of Stereoscopy” by the National Stereoscopic Association, and served for many years as its Regional Director for Northern California as well as being Stereo Technical Advisor for the Photographic Society of America. His 2D animated film, Animation Pie won Best Educational Film at the Zagreb International Film Festival and was shown on the BBC. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Marilyn Freund, and three cats (some of whom are famous). Samples of his work can be seen at www.rgb3d.com.
Robert has written about animation and 3D for EatDrinkFilms.For 16 years, THE ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS, founded and curated by Ron Diamond, has been presenting new and innovative short films to animation studios, societies, schools and festivals around the world. 32 of the films showcased in the Show of Shows went on to receive Academy Award® nominations, with nine films winning the Oscar®. The only downside was that only a relatively small number of people, primarily in the professional animation community, had the opportunity to see these cinematic gems in a theatrical setting. So, in 2015, the 17th edition was expanded to include public screenings in cities around the world, allowing general audiences to experience these singular works of art on the big screen, as they were meant to be seen.
THE 18th ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS San Francisco area engagements start October 28, 2016
Curator Ron Diamond in person with Directors (TBA) on Oct 29
Curator Ron Diamond in person with Directors (TBA) on Oct 28
Information about all the films and where to see them is at Animation Show of Shows website where you can also learn about past shows and buy DVDs of hundreds of classic and contemporary independent animated shorts. At $7.95 for three films they make great holiday and birthday gifts.