Creatively successful animators have the peculiar ability to transfer exactly what they see in their heads onto the page (or, increasingly, the computer screen). Among the select few who actually can pull this off, the list of financially successful animators is far smaller. Fortunately, Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt created The Animation Show, which makes a stop at the Crest Theatre on Friday, to help with that whole “getting paid” thing.
Judge is a name many will recognize as the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill. Consider him the “famous guy keeping in touch with his roots” portion of the partnership. Hertzfeldt, while far from a household name, is a big presence in the animation field with his award-winning and crowd-pleasing stick-figure style. For their third traveling cartoon show, the duo has teamed up with MTV to exhibit the best in short-form animation all across America. (Don’t look so surprised. With shows like Liquid Television, Beavis and Butt-Head and The Head littering its broadcast schedule in the early 1990s, music wasn’t the only thing the network eventually ditched in favor of crass reality programming.)
This year’s Animation Show is a resounding achievement overall. The most exceptional pieces are Hertzfeldt’s Everything will be OK and Overtime, directed by the French team of Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland and Damien Ferrie. Both deal with the topic of death. Everything will be OK is a bizarrely narrated tale of a man approaching what he believes is the end of his life. Overtime, a silent piece of fluid computer animation designed to look like puppet work, follows a troupe of Kermit-like dolls trying to understand the death of their maker. Shane Acker’s 9—currently being revamped as a feature film with Tim Burton producing—provides another morbid visual highlight, although it fails to get its plotline across coherently. (Something about rag dolls battling a demonic construct?)
Technology is not avoided, nor is it a pre-requisite. City Paradise utilizes an advanced blend of live action and animation to create a psychedelic hyper reality for its main character to frolic in. In contrast, the irreverent stop motion of Game Over, a brief plotless homage to video games of days gone by, is as rudimentary as can be.
One running theme is a lack of dialogue: all the animators seem intent on proving that their ideas can be transmitted solely through visual means. As a result, there’s a lot less hilarity than a Spike and Mike’s festival of animation, but The Animation Show still manages to sneak a few laughs in amongst all the artistic merit. At $10, Friday night’s screenings (there’s one at 7 p.m. and one at 9:30 p.m.) are a bargain as well as an eye-opening visual experience. For more information visit www.animationshow.com.