I've always wanted to see the Animation Show but it was typically too far away for me to ever really have a chance to see it, I caught it on MTV2 once at 2 am and I thought it was pretty neat. This year my local Avon Theatre had a screening of the show tucked away in their Cult Films series for August, I'm typically not a big fan of the place for their overly pretentious attitude, high prices and simply not knowing enough about film to really warrant such an attitude but I figured its better than dropping the $18.50 and two hours of my time to go to New York to see it.
As a huge fan of both Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt I was hoping they'd have more of an influence on the films screened there (both of which surprisingly did not have any films in this year's Animation Show). Its not like Don didn't have any new films in his queue, because he did and it was absolutely fantastic. I don't know why they didn't just top off the show with his short film Everything Will Be OK. I saw it at an ASIFA screening at Pratt and it was easily his deepest film yet if they couldn't fit it in the show's lean 90 minute run time they could have EASILY taken out some of the weaker shorts in the festival.
This year's festival was totally worth seeing but not all the shorts were a home run or anything. Luckily, the bad ones were forgettable enough where you couldn't hold it against the festival and were equally weighted out by some good shorts. Its obvious that they held off their heavy hitters like Bill Plympton until the end, they ended it with a fairly lengthy 3D animated short commissioned by the festival which was pretty cool considering it was from some fairly unknown Polish Animators.
The first real surprise was Angry Unpaid Hooker this crudely animated short didn't really have more than a few drawings in the entire piece but that was what made it all the more endearing. It reminded me a lot of UPN and later Adult Swim's mildly successful series Home Movies where a long string of improvised and frank uncomfortable dialogue made the short funny in the most deadpan sort of the variety (here's a link to the short off of someone's blog). PES's Western Spaghetti was also very good much like his other stop motion short films but its one of those things that I've already seen on YouTube though it was a lot cooler to seen on a theater screen without questionable compression. This Way Up was one of the few CG entries in the Animation Show that I actually liked, there were parts that reminded me a bit of the land of the dead moments of Corpse Bride but overall I was won over by its morbid sense of humor and level of exaggeration that you rarely see in 3D animated shorts. My other favorites included the noire comedy short Key Lime Pie, Bill Plympton's Hot Dog short and the incredibly artsy and meticulously crafted Jeu from the National Film Board of Canada.
Likewise, I found a few of the shorts just offensively bad. The first of which Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker was probably selected for its blend of 3D animation and 2D both of which I felt were kind of lacking, the animation was a little too limited for my tastes especially when up against the smooth frame rate of the computer generated backgrounds, this one was really just tailored for druggies and I didn't really find much artistic value in it maybe if it was a bit shorter. A series of Yompi the Crotch-Biting Sloup stop-motion short films were also sprinkled throughout the show and unless you find the title as the highest level of humor, you won't really get too much out of it. Lastly the French Prof. Nieto Show Ep 1 didn't really feature too much animation in it at the end of the day and really just came off as more prentious than it did funny for me. The rest of the short films were all in the "okay" category with Psychotown, Operator and Blind Spot providing a laugh here and there.
Ultimately the Animation Show had enough solid short films for me to warrant a recommendation and I'll see it again next year if they'd bring it back to Stamford. My theater was only about a third full and compared to the immense lines at New York City's IFC Center I doubt The Avon Theatre would really be a high priority for them. While I don't think I'd spend hours of my time to see it nor would really go out of my way to buy the DVDs from past festivals, it was enough fun with a crowd of people to have a good time.
I also saw a few of my classmates from high school there randomly at the screening. That was kind of rad.