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Review: The Animation Show

Independent animation finds audience in new DVD By Stephen Schleicher

Were all familiar with PIXAR, Disney, DreamWorks, and Warner Bros. animation.  Big feature films, Saturday morning fare, and fodder for the Cartoon Network.  But what about the independent animator?  Where do they go to get their work seen?  The Animation Show of course.

If you are familiar with Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill) and Academy Award nominee Don Hertzfeldt, youre aware these two know independent animation and know how to get it seen.  Their animation film festival The Animation Show is a collection of some of the best animated short films from around the world.  The problem with the collection of films is it is often difficult to see the work because of the limited venues where it can be seen. It was a nice surprise when The Animation Show Volume One showed up on my doorstep.  Finally a chance for the masses to see something different that they would not normally see in the local theatre.

The Animation Show DVD contains a mixture of traditional hand drawn, stop motion, and 3D animation with a broad range of topics.  When you watch the 20 films you will experience a range of emotions from complete joy and laughter, to sorrow, to contemplation, and maybe even misunderstanding.

The DVD contains four pieces by Hertzfeldt; three are part of the festival program, while the fourth a stand alone story.  ?Welcome to the Show/Intermission in the Third Dimension/The End of the Show are a riot of hand drawn giddiness as two pieces of fluff explain what animation is, try to define 3D animation in a cell drawn world (no 3D in the piece by the way), and finally bring the show to a close battling giant robots.  After all, dont all great animated pieces have giant robots in them?

?Billys Balloon starts off very simply, a boy and his balloon, but then takes a very twisted turn as the balloon turns on its owner.  The pacing, timing, and ultimate end of this piece are a perfect example of Hertzfeldts work.

As far as Mike Judges work goes, ?Early Pencil Tests and Other Experiments is a unique look at some of early work of the King of the Hill creator.  At first the animation looks very much like what you would expect from the Beavis and Butthead creator, but quickly you begin to see what direction Judge will be going.  In fact, if you pay attention you will see early models of both Hank Hill and Bill Dauterive.  Also included in this random collection is Miltons first appearance in the short ?Office Space, which later inspired the live action film of the same name.

For the stop motion fan, you will really love Adam Elliots trilogy of films ?Brother, ?Cousin, ?Uncle, from Australian filmmaker Adam Elliot.  Seen in over 300 festivals and with numerous awards, it recounts childhood memories of people in the narrators life.  The human condition is both humorous and wrenching, and Elliot brings both of these out in these three shorts.  On the one hand you smile at the situation each of the characters face, and then are ultimately saddened by the results.

Also high on my list of ?must sees from this DVD is German stop motion/CGI film ?Das Rad.  ?The Rocks tells the story of two stone people who witness the rise and fall of civilization in ?rock time.  The rocks move at an incredibly slow pace, so when a tree suddenly pops up and then promptly falls over, it is because we are witnessing what a rock considers a second in its life.  This is one of those films that make you contemplate life, the universe, and everything. 

Finally, for the 3D fan, ?The Animation Show contains two award winning pieces.  The first is ?The Cathedral, the award winning Sci-Fi short based on a Polish story of the same name.  If you are a follower of 3D, then you have probably seen bits and pieces of this film floating around the net.  The story follows a pilgrim who reaches the end of the world and finds a cathedral, but as we find out, the pilgrim is not just a man and the cathedral is not just a cathedral.  You can purchase this short in a stand alone DVD that contains a bunch of behind the scenes stuff, but you can spend nearly the same amount of money on the ?The Animation Show, get motion tests, animatics and production art of ?The Cathedral in the Special Features section, and get 16 other animated shorts to boot.

The other 3D short is ?Fifty Percent Grey, where a dead soldier wakes up to discover his is alone with only his gun, a television set, and a whole lot of time. I really dont want to spoil the story for you, but I will say it is a great 3D animated film that was worth of its Academy Award Nomination.

The other shorts in this compilation include:
Mt. Head by Koji Yamamura
Parking by Bill Plympton
The Adventures of Ricardo (three separate shorts) by Corky Quakenbush
Moving Illustrations of Machines by Jeremy Solterbeck
La Course A LAbime by Georges Schwizgebel
Aria by Pjotr Sapegin
Bathtime in Clerkenwell by Alex Budovsky

?The Animation Show: Volume One is not something you have to watch in one sitting, but it is something you can easily do.  If you havent been exposed to independent animation before, this collection is a great introduction to the genre with some of the best examples out there.  If you are a fan of animation this is a definite ?must have in your collection.

?The Animation Show: Volume One is available now from for $24.95.

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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (, where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at [email protected]

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