19th Annual Animation Show of Shows
by Hope Madden
Whimsy, melancholy, existential dread—the absurdity of human existence. What can tackle it all?
The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows returns, jam-packed with tales both celebratory and cautionary. Human interconnectedness becomes a theme that runs throughout the program, one that feels simultaneously contemporary and retro.
From the brief, flippant Unsatisfying—a quick montage of irritating moments—to the lengthy morality tale Hangman, the film finds a wonderful balance in tone and mood, shifts mirrored in the ever-changing and always wonderful artistic styles of the shorts.
Traditional hand-animation, chalk and pencil, computer-generated art and even animation drawn directly on film stock, the choices made by the animators create unique atmospheres where each story can breathe and show off.
Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning Dear Basketball figures into the film, but its real highlights include Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s odd and amazing My Burden, Max Mortl and Robert Lobel’s bright Island, Tom Eshed’s charming Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon and David O’Reilly’s philosophical mind-bender, Everything.
There’s not a weak moment, truth be told, as headier fare is punctuated with musical flourishes or a quick laugh. The variety within the program and the sequencing of the shorts strengthens not only the overall experience but the human-ness that underlies the program’s unifying themes.
It’s lovely—sometimes funny, often sad, genuinely nutty and forever charming. If you’ve seen these celebrations of the art and glory of animation in previous years, you know the treat being offered. If you have not, this is your year.