The Animation Show 4
Not For The Kiddies, Please

This week, producer Mike Judge (of Beavis and Butthead fame) releases (in various markets) Version 4 of the venerable Animation Show. This year, the studio has commissioned some previously unseen artists and their works, introducing them to the American audience. When it comes to animation innovation, I imagine that this is the real deal.

I must confess my lack of knowledge about animation—honestly, it’s just not my thing. I see my share; I have grandchildren. But The Animation Show is not your grandpa’s Disney. Some of these short films are surprisingly edgy; others verge on a prank-like ridiculousness. Think Jack Ass in cartoon form. But they are the latest trend, and with each animator, another well-defined style enters the market.

Mike Judge, producer of The Animation Show

I imagine that efficient storytelling is the most difficult part of animation. I attended a short seminar last year conducted by Ken Priebe, a colleague who is not just an animator in his own right, but an animation instructor in Vancouver, B.C., as well. The most illuminating part of the talk was his explanation of how the storyboard process takes place. Couple the storyboard with the actual technical demands of the medium, and there are some long, long hours of labor. (I made a mental note to never attempt animation. Too easy to get permanently sidetracked.)

Ken shared a bit about some new technologies that will, indeed, revolutionize the way animation is currently accomplished. It sounded to me that some software developers are saving animators no small amount of time. In the end, I walked away from his seminar an admirer of animators; the medium no longer seems so mystifying to me.

However, I believe it would be counter-productive for me to attempt a detailed critique of these short—though creative—animated films. The time and effort required to make them pays off—they achieve their purpose: entertainment. Unexpectedly, some offer wisdom and meaningful “lessons,” though the majority are (not surprisingly) subversive and laden with irony. Since my opinions are generally favorable toward The Animation Show, I offer these words that Abe Lincoln is reported to have uttered: “For the people that like that kind of thing, that is just the kind of thing they would like.”

Still, here are some teasers.

The Animation Show 4 prominently features a series of short films born in the prestigious French animation college Gobelins: Burning Safari; Cocotte Minute; VooDoo (one of my favorites); and Blind Spot. Each one is cleverly and creatively crafted, boasting solid writing and intriguing storylines. Despite these creations, my particular favorite film in The Animation Show is a very clever and unusual film by BIF called Raymond, an inventive, animatedly-manipulated human. It is a must-see.

Dave Carter debuts three new shorts with Psychotown, whose pieces are similar in format but widely varied in effectiveness. They are obviously low-budget animation, but fairly humorous little stories nonetheless. I thought to myself: why not hire actors to do this? They might be funnier, but anathema to the budget.

This year, The Animation Show is also the first to share the work of Steve Dildarian (whose new TV series, The Life of Tim will debut in September). Of course, no animation show would be complete without a little something from the ever ironic Bill Plympton.

Those are just a few of the treats for the eyes. Have fun, animatrons!

The Aimation Show 4 is being released unrated, but I would recommend a PG-13. Fortunately, this year there aren’t a lot of crude adults-only cartoons… but there is some strong language, which usually earns an “R” from the MPAA. Ironically, the short with the worst language is the one slated for U.S. television next season. Ah, me.

Courtesy of a regional publicist, Mike viewed a screener of The Animation Show 4.