PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Animation Show: Vol. 3

Collage (partial) of Rabbit and James Fox by Run Wrake

For all the computer-generate animation, puppetry, line drawings, and stop-motion work, these are straightforward tales.

The Animation Show: Vol. 3

Distributor: MTV / Paramount
MPAA rating: Unrated
Studio: www.animationshow.com
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2008-06-03

I had the pleasure of watching the first Animation Show in an actual theatre. At the time, I didn't know the Mike Judge/Don Hertzfeld-curated collection from any other collection of cartoons. And you had to wonder what kind of animation Judge, the mind behind Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, would select. But that first Animation Show was a bit of an eye-opener, including material that ranged from crass to elegant, from numerous parts of the globe.

Still, the experience of watching them was pretty much like other anthologies I'd viewed. Some of it worked for me, and some of it didn't. And the crowd around me felt the same way. You could feel their attention lagging during shorts that just didn't hit the mark, and some people laughed at work that left others stonefaced. Occasionally, something would seem to grab everyone, such as Hertzfeld's own Billy's Balloon, a hilarious and black-hearted depiction of malicious revenge visited upon stick-figure children by their balloons.

Things haven't changed with Volume 3, but that's not necessarily a negative. In the process of compiling the best work from the Animation Show's 2007 theatrical run, this latest collection seeks intriguing animation without losing its overall accessibility. So envelope-pushing technique and what-the-hell? weirdness aren't the point. Instead, story takes the forefront on many of the animated shorts featured here.

Granted, Volume 3 kicks off in surreal style, with the one-two punch of Run Wrake's Rabbit and Gaelle Denis' City Paradise. City Paradise, a mix of live action and animation, has all the feel of a Technicolor dreamworld where it's never clear what's real and what's imagined, while Rabbit, done in the style of an old children's book, tells the tale of two children scheming to get rich off of a jam-loving idol they find inside of a cut-open rabbit.

The highlights, for this viewer, at least, come from the more leisurely pieces. Stretching out for more than 15-minutes, Hertzfeld's sad tale of modern ennui and sickness, Everything Will Be OK, is the polar opposite of Billy's Balloon. Everything Will Be OK teems with dream imagery, medicine-induced hallucinations, and stick figure faces displaying a surprising range of emotions.

Likewise, Matthew Walker's Astronauts doesn't quite adopt the snail's pace of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, but its gentle humor effectively conveys quiet and isolation of floating through space. No Room for Gerold depicts a roommate conflict between a rhino, a hippo, a water buffalo, and an alligator that turns out to have an all too human theme. The William Blake-inspired Tyger is a stately mix of puppetry and animation that presents a city and its residents blossoming into a golden-lit jungle as the tiger passes.

Humor is well-represented by Versus, the tale of two samurai clans that concoct increasingly elaborate plots to control a sliver of land between their island fortresses. Carlitopolis meets the sick humor quota, depicting bizarre experiments on a (computer-generated) mouse in a box. Naturally, mainstay Bill Plympton is here as well, with the manic tale of a hapless mutt who aspires to be a seeing eye dog, with disastrous results.

Overall, the Animation Show's stories are a case of what you see is what you get. For all the computer-generate animation, puppetry, line drawings, and stop-motion work, these are straightforward tales. There are very few hidden messages or subtexts to be found. Chris Harding's Learn Self Defense, however, does set its satiric sights firmly on President George W. Bush with its tale of a man getting mugged, then learning very questionable self-defense tactics such as God is On Your Side and Preemptive Self Defense. Max Hattler's Collision, a commentary on the current conflicts in the Middle East, is far more abstract with kaleidoscopic clashes of noises and patterns.

Three volumes in, the Animation Show is still finding satisfying, quirky animation to share. Unfortunately, Volume 3 doesn't do all it could to help viewers understand the artists' techniques and thought processes. Three short video interviews help shine a little light on things (especially an entertaining piece with Joanna Quinn, which helps explain the continuum of her work that led to Dreams and Desires), but the majority of information must be found in text interviews in .pdf format, which must be viewed on your computer -- better than nothing, but a little unwieldy.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.