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19th Annual Animation Show of Shows

by Hope Madden

Whimsy, melancholy, existential dread—the absurdity of human existence. What can tackle it all?

Cartoons can.

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.

The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated

by George Wolf

Pixar – the veritable Meryl Streep of this category – is here again, and deservedly the favorite to win more hardware. But some impressive frogs may spring an upset, while fractured fairy tales, a sports icon and emotional baggage round out a captivating program.


Dear Basketball – USA  Dir: Glen Keane Wr: Kobe Bryant

From a distance, Bryant’s love letter to his sport may appear self-serving, but when brought to life through graceful, impressionistic chalk animation and a John Williams score, it becomes more. Vanity project? That’s fair, but it’s also a sincere farewell from a complicated legend.



Negative Space – France  Dirs: Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata

With Sam’s dad often leaving on business trips, father and son form a bond forged in a perfectly packed suitcase. The stop motion animation is arresting and well-played, setting fertile ground for the bittersweet emotions the film explores.


Lou – USA  Wr./Dir:Dave Mullins 

Look at you Pixar, charming us again with your gentle humor and effective poignancy. A cousin to the Toy Story universe, Lou finds a playground bully meeting his match, in a good way. It’s surprisingly touching, and, no surprise, the frontrunner of the group.


Revolting Rhymes – UK  Wrs./Dirs: Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Based on the much-loved rhymes written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, Revolting Rhymes counters its somewhat bland animation with a talented voice cast (including Dominic West and Rob Brydon) to give famous fairy tales some new, sinister edges. Part one of a British TV double dip, it wanders off in spots but rallies at the finish.


Garden Party – France  Dirs: Victor Caire, Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Theophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro and Gabriel Grapperon

In a deserted, well-appointed mansion, some amphibians explore their surroundings and follow their primal instincts to unexpected results. Practically bursting with wondrous CGI photorealism, this ambitious film – a graduation project from a French animation school – offers delight in every frame.


Also included in the program are these additional animated shorts:

Lost Property Office  – Australia  Wr./Dir: Daniel Agdag
Coin Operated  – USA  Wr./Dir: Nicholas Arioli
Achoo  – Japan

(rating for entire program)