The Animation Show

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07/30/2008 11:00 AM |

The L’s Benjamin H. Sutton saw the latest installment of The Animation Show, which is playing at the IFC Center through at least tomorrow, and features such titles as Yompi The Crotch-Biting Sloup and such subjects as “drugs, BDSM and disco-dancing pink elephants.” You know, FYI.

By Benjamin H. Sutton

Short form animation might be the most accessible art form for imaginative computer-savvy minds working with less-than-Spielbergian budgets. The jumble of mostly wonderful shorts in this year’s Animation Show – a mix of high-tech, high-concept, economic and low-brow currently showing at the IFC Center – certainly attests to that accessibility.

As is invariably the case with broad annual surveys of a medium or genre though, this fourth edition of The Animation Show is an uneven affair that occasionally seems far from its stated mandate of highlighting “the world’s greatest independent short films.” Comedy fails the show’s weakest entry, Steve Dildarian’s Angry Unpaid Hooker, which is not only sexist beyond recuperation, but also one of the least imaginatively crafted shorts. Awkward situational humor works much more nicely in Matthew Walker’s Operator, a shy guy’s hilariously banal telephone conversation with God.

Upholding The Animation Show’s stated standard, Gobelins (a French animation school) takes the cake for sheer volume — at least three entries (I lost count), but each could stand alone as a beautifully computer-animated little tale of sweet whimsy. This is indie fare, though, not Disney, and they don’t take refuge from violence in cute imagery, as Gobelins’ perspective-hopping hold-up vignette Blind Spot turns a fatal robbery into a terrifically implausible case of mistaken identity. Another short, Stefan Muller’s Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker, also takes advantage of animation’s cameraless-ness to fly between points of view and cut up continuity, retelling a hilarious series of neighborly coincidences (involving drugs, BDSM and disco-dancing pink elephants) from four perspectives.

Two recurring series supply some sort of continuity amid the disjointed successions, one more successfully than the other. Yompi The Crotch-Biting Sloup is a claymation series about people of different sorts and stripes having their crotches bitten by a maniacal Pillsbury Doughboy clone. There must be more deserving films out there for Animation Show judge Mike Judge to deliver to the masses. Usavich by Satoshi Tomioka, a kind of videogame/anime hybrid starring rabbit-like creatures, weaves its road trip throughout the Animation Show, providing recurring bouts of nearly-car-crashing physical comedy. The pleasure is also in the journey (chases and races proved to be very popular narrative structures in this year’s show) in Smith and Foulkes’s This Way Up, an elegant and epic father-son funeral procession.

The series’ best entry also deals in death (another popular trope this year, several shorts ending with life-ending blows) the beautiful noir pastry-popping existential diner stand-off Key Lime Pie by Trevor Jimenez (pictured). Such beautiful artistry and clever writing makes ball-biting claymation blobs seem particularly pointless, but also well-worth enduring.