by Robert Bloomberg
In the classic Roadrunner cartoons, Wiley Coyote could always depend on the Acme Company to deliver exactly what he needed. Fortunately, when it comes to our own animation needs, we can depend on Ron Diamond’s Acme Filmworks to deliver the goods (anvils not included). Their 19th annual Animation Show of Shows is a delicious buffet of 16 animated treats — something for all tastes, with equal parts hilarity, inspiration, and cautionary tales. It is starting its national rollout to cinemas around the U.S. and Canada.
Quentin Baillieux’s Can You Do It opens the show with a gorgeous juxtaposition of cultures and styles: horse-racing elite meets the hood in abstract graphics animated with cinematic camera moves and editing. It all comes together in this driving, racing, music video. Charles X’s infectious tune was also used as the soundtrack for the trailer (above).
Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s The Burden answers the oft-asked question (as stated in the press kit), What would it look like “if Ingmar Bergman had made stop motion animations with singing, dancing animals?” An angst-filled homage to classic Hollywood musicals (“Sinking in the Rain?”), this was one of my favorites and certainly the most entertaining depiction of despair you’re likely to see this or any other year.
And while we’re on the subject of despair, Parallel Studio’s Unsatisfying crams a lifetime of little frustrations into a mere 1 min 17 sec.
Need a lesson in curbing your dangerous appetites? Tomer Eshed’s Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon is just what the doctor ordered. Warning: Do not watch this film with your mouth full.
Several of the films appear to be influenced by or pay homage to classic animation of the past. Steven Woloshen says he was inspired to forego a camera and draw directly on film stock after seeing the work of Canadian Film Board legend Norman McLaren, a pioneer of this technique. Woloshen’s Casino is beautifully realized and stands alongside McLaren’s work as a stunning example of the form.
Alexanne Desrosiers’ multi-leveled Les Abeilles Domestiques (Domestic Bees) features a grid of overlapping, repeating domestic scenes in which characters enter and leave various rooms, interacting and affecting each other. In its hypnotic repetition and layering, it brings to mind Zbigniew Rybczyński’s brilliant short Tango (1982), which used a similar concept within a single room to create a panoply of domestic life.
Pete Docter, known for his Academy Award-winning Pixar feature films Up and Inside Out is represented here by a film he made as a student at Cal Arts, Next Door (1990). He used recordings of a child’s fantasies as his soundtrack, then animated the images, just as John & Faith Hubley did with recordings of their own children in the 1950s (Moonbird, The Hole).
Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati would feel right at home in the Japanese mall depicted in Gokurosama, a delightful team effort from France, co-directed by Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, and Romain Salvini.
I’d like to give a shout-out to the sound artists responsible for the audio on some of these remarkable films. (There’s a reason they call it “Audio/Visual”). I cannot imagine the visuals of Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel’s Island without sound designer David Kamp’s toe-tapping, inspired score of buzzes, chirps, tweets, and squeaks which breathes life into the island’s fantastic inhabitants. Another of my top favorites in the show.
The Show also includes a beautifully restored print of Paul Julien and Les Goldman’s 1964 film, Hangman, based on the poem by Maurice Ogden. The theme is better known today as expressed in Martin Neimöller’s familiar quotation (“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out…”). Unfortunately, it is still a timely message, and the Di Chirico-esque drawings evoke an appropriate sense of dread and warning.
The last film in the Show, David OReilly’s Everything, attempts the ambitious task of visualizing the work of philosopher Alan Watts, who explored the interconnectedness of the universe and the multiplicity of perspectives that underlie reality. Watts, who was instrumental in popularizing Eastern religion in the West, provides the film’s narration. It’s one thing to listen to Watts speak, quite another to create a visualization of what he’s saying. OReilly achieves this brilliantly and his film is one of the most thought-provoking in the show.
19th annual Animation Show of Shows is showing around North America and if past shows are an indication, there should be some Oscar-nominees in the collection. For complete details including where you can see it and a press kit with details about every film and their makers, go to the Animation Show of Shows. Their Facebook page is a great place to read what others are saying and add your own comments.
Robert has written about animation and 3D for EatDrinkFilms.