THE 24TH INTERNATIONAL TOURNEE OF ANIMATION surveys 14 animated short films produced in 1992 and 1993, primarily in the US and England, by a mix of animation professionals--some quite well-known--and independent filmmakers, including students. An uneven blend of lightweight one-joke
pieces with more ponderous abstract works, this package is typical of recent animation festivals in its emphasis of style over content. In order of presentation, the shorts are:
GET A HAIRCUT (Mike Smith/EMI Records, US). Harking back to the '60s, frenzied cartoon imagery propels a music video about a young man hounded by parents and authority figures to "get a haircut and get a real job."
THE STAIN (Marjut Rimminen & Christine Roche, UK). Stylized painted cels combine with three-dimensional model animation to depict a dysfunctional family of four siblings with a dark secret, living in an oppressive house by the sea.
WE LOVE IT (Vincent Cafarelli & Candy Kugel, Buzzco Associates, US). As studio executives at a "pitch" session sing, "We love it, we really adore it," a quick succession of brightly painted animated scenes depicts a series of "high concept" alterations applied to a simple story about a boy and
THE RIDE TO THE ABYSS (La Course a L'Abime) (Georges Schwizgebel, Studio GDS, Switzerland). An excerpt from Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust" accompanies two horsemen racing through a succession of painterly scenes of village streets, birds flying, children playing, a carousel turning, and a circle
of skeletons dancing around the orchestra, all delineated in thick paint strokes and bold colors.
THE SQUARE OF LIGHT (Le Carre de Lumiere) (Claude Luyet, Studio GDS, Switzerland). In an homage to RAGING BULL, a boxer, seen from the point-of-view of his opponent, is rendered in monochromatic rotoscoped shots adorned in swirling red and blue strokes.
PREHISTORIC BEAST (Phil Tippett, US). A sunny prehistoric woodland is the setting for a confrontation between two dinosaurs, a one-horned herbivore and a two-legged carnivore. Three-dimensional model animation by the animation director of STAR WARS and JURASSIC PARK.
THE MAN WHO YELLED (Mo Willems/New York University Tisch School of the Arts, US). Simple caricatures, minimal graphics and bright colors recall the UPA cartoons of the 1950s in this tale of a man whose only sound is a loud yell, a trait which leads to success in TV, records and movies.
I THINK I WAS AN ALCOHOLIC (John Callahan, US). Simple black-and-white line drawings, caricatured figures, and the filmmaker's voice-over convey an alcoholic's road from comical drunken antics to tragic accident to permanent disability to recovery.
GAHAN WILSON'S DINER (Gahan Wilson, American Film Technologies, Inc./Marvel Productions/20th Century Fox, US). A rookie trucker stops at a nightmare diner where a reptilian cook tries to put him on the menu. Traditional cel drawings combine with computer animation to bring Playboy cartoonist
Gahan Wilson's macabre vision to life.
BILLY NAYER (Cory McAbee & Bobby Lurie, US). A rotoscoped nightclub singer seeks requests from an off-camera audience, responding with a bizarre composition of his own after a patron asks, "Does a bear shit in the woods?"
LITTLE WOLF (An Vrombaut/RCA, UK). Gently animated in children's picture book style, a young wolf delights in howling at the moon long after the rest of the pack has resumed its pursuit of a taunting sheep. When the moon plucks him up, he finds he cannot get down.
THE SANDMAN (Paul Berry, UK). Detailed period sets, atmospheric lighting and fluid three-dimensional model animation tell the ultimately gruesome tale of a late-night visit by the birdlike Sandman to a young boy sleeping fitfully in his attic bed.
WORDS, WORDS, WORDS (Reci, Reci, Reci) (Michaela Pavlatova, Czechoslovakia). In a sprawling cafe, colored imagery and musical sounds convey the words and emotions of the varied patrons, depicted in black-and-white line drawings.
A TRIBUTE TO THE DIMENSIONAL ARTISTRY OF WILL VINTON STUDIOS (Will Vinton Studios, US). A packaged compilation of recent work from the studio of the acclaimed pioneer of "claymation" includes four complete pieces, "Dino Floss," "Mr. Resistor," "Cool Tools," and "The Art of Freeway Crossing,"
along with several TV commercials (including one for California Raisins) and linking segments featuring Siskel-and-Ebert type dinosaur critics.
Varied styles and techniques are on display here, although painted cel animation predominates (computer animation is barely in evidence). Viewers are left impressed with the animators' hard work and technical skill, but mostly unaffected by any play on their emotions or funnybones.
A handful of the shorts are worth singling out for their masterful creation of self-contained worlds. THE SANDMAN, by the lead animator of TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993), is arguably a more accomplished piece, evoking 19th-century-style gothic horror and a child's fear of the
dark far more suspensefully than Burton's noisy, pop-grotesque musical. THE STAIN, a stylistic tour-de-force, employs brightly painted, childlike images to convey the flights of fancy of a disabled adolescent; life with her abusive siblings, by contrast, is depicted through stark model animation.
Phil Tippett dispenses with the sterile computer animation of JURASSIC PARK in PREHISTORIC BEAST, vividly reimagining dinosaurs via animated models and stunning miniature sets. Mark Gustafson's MR. RESISTOR, included in the Vinton tribute, is a clever, exciting display of pixilated basement
objects and animated models, featuring a light bulb resistor in mortal battle with household tools and sports trophies.
Eight pieces, more than half of this "international" package, are from the US, while another three are from England. Of the remaining three, two are from Switzerland and only one is from Eastern Europe, a region which used to dominate international animation festivals. The presence of the
slickly produced Vinton tribute (at 21 minutes, nearly a third of the 96 minute program) adds an animation "name" to the package to attract a bigger audience. While the Vinton work is amusing and technically superior, American animation buffs would have been better served by 21 minutes of work by
new and lesser-known animators, preferably from other countries. (Violence, profanity.)
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