Review
The Animation Show 2005
Courtesy National Film Board of Canada
René Walling · June 13, 2005 | After a year of watching effects-filled features, it is with great pleasure that I welcomed The Animation Show back again this year.

Unlike last year, Mike Judge and Don Herztfeldt did not play it safe with their selection of films: there are only two Oscar nominees, unlike last year's more than half dozen. Like last year, we are offered a variety of films from around the world, using a variety of techniques covering everything from 3D computer animation, to cel animation and puppetry. All of the films are excellent, each in their own way.

With the variety and quality being so great, trying to pick only a few films to highlight is like being a kid in a candy store. From Guard Dog's frantic walk in the park with a dog whose imagination rivals that of Bill Plympton himself, to the final revelation of The Meaning of Life, the entire screening was a fascinating exploration of the best animation has to offer.

Guard Dog is followed by two films with very different touches of the surreal: F.E.D.S. and Pan With Us. The first uses the same rotoscoping technique found in Waking Life to explore the (sur)reality of working as a F.E.D.S. (Food Education Demo Specialist), while the other uses live action and innovative object and time-lapse animation filmed in black and white to illustrate a poem by Robert Frost. The surreal continues to accompany us when we visit Ward 13, set in a hospital that makes torture chambers look welcoming. Luckily, all these trips in the strange minds of animators are alleviated by Hello, a sweet film where a tape recorder tries to meet a cute CD player. Can the analog world seduce the digital one?

The Animation Show 2005
The Animation Show, 2005

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The next film, Rockfish, looks at an unusual fishing trip. A fine example of digital character animation, as is Fallen Art, which also uses the same technique. The latter is more interesting and the script is more unusual, as it presents a whole new way to animate, provided you can find enough collaborators. In between these two films is L'homme sans ombre. Rendered in Schwizgebel's painterly style, this fine piece of traditional animation is strong enough not to be overshadowed by the two shorts that frame it. Its quieter and more playful mood also contrasts nicely with them.

Viewers then take a quiet, reflective look at life in When the Day Breaks, before getting a brief jolt of energy with PES's Fireworks. This last very short object animation is followed by Don Hertzfeldt's The Meaning of Life. Hertzfeldt not only adds to his drawn animation of simple stick men with a host of traditional effects, he covers a more ambitious theme than ever before. He also comes up with an answer to the meaning of life that rivals that of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

While I had problems with the quantity of Mike Judge's and Don Hertzfeldt's works included in the show last year, the inclusion of The Meaning of Life does not bother me. It is only one film, and more importantly, it is a strong film that should have made the selection of any animation tournee worth its salt.

The good balance between films in this edition of The Animation Show shows the organizers have worked hard to improve on last year's offering. Overall, I was much more pleased with the selection of shorts presented this time around and I look forward to seeing what they will have to offer next year.
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