(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

After candy and dinosaurs one thing that everybody seems to love is animated films. There is just something about an animated film. We love to see these flat (and more recently three dimensional) images seem to come to life and have lives of their own. There are a number of animation festivals, or feature-length collections of what is chosen as the best animation of the year. These collections tour the country and my wife and I and a legion of other people sometimes travel great distances to see a handful of films brought to life with the magic of animated filmmaking. I have just finished seeing THE 17th ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS.

Most of my readers are used to me rating films on a -4 to +4 scale and for those who want it on a more standard scale I translate that rating to a 1 to 10 scale. But since this film is the work of (at least) eleven different production teams, I will rate each film individually. Each film will be graded on a scale with A for excellent, B for good, C for acceptable and D for poor. Recognize that there will be no films that get a C or D since a C or D film will not have been selected for THE SHOW OF SHOWS. Films will be rated on the basis of quality of narrative and artistic merit. (Take my style rating with a grain of salt--I am no artist.)

"The Story Of Percival Pilts", created by Janette Goodey & John Lewis

This is a clay animation story of a boy who walked on stilts everywhere he went. He kept getting stilts longer and longer and longer so he could see the world from a higher and higher angle. The question is why did he do it. Percival has separated himself from society, but his high life has its rewards. With the final words of the story we find out why he did this odd thing. The story is told in rhyming couplets. Rating: A

"Tant De Forets", created by Geoffrey Godet & Burcu Sankur

This is a short film suggested by a poem by Jacques Prevert. With geometrical images it shows us the beauty of the forest and what of value is gone when the forest is lost to development, in this case a paper factory. The film is narrated in thick French accent, a little hard to understand. The figures are shown as combinations of very simple geometric forms. The short film concludes with a plea to preserve the forests. Rating B

"Snowfall", directed by Conor Whelan

This film is technically proficient but does not build to any obvious point. It appears to be a story of a man who goes to a party during a snowfall. He appears agitated. What happens to him is inscrutable. In an afterward Conor Whelan, the director tells how to understand it, but it should have stood on its own without needing his explanation afterward. Rating: B-

"Ballad Of Holland Island House", created by Lynn Tomlinson

This is primarily a song by Lynn Tomlinson with her own animated illustrations done in a process called clay painting. It is the true story of a house except that it is the house telling the story in the form of a song. The story tells us of the last surviving house in Chesapeake Bay. The house is to be inundated by the waters rising. The house remembers how it gave shelter to animals, though that will soon be no more. Clay painting somehow has a melancholy feel suggesting that nothing is permanent. The clay paint style lends a melancholy tone. Rating B

"Behind The Trees", created by Amanda Palmer and Avi Ofer

"Behind The Trees" is illustrated in pen-and-ink sketches which are reminiscent of the style of Jules Pfeiffer and provided by Avi Ofer illustrate Amanda Palmer stories. When the Palmer's husband, Neil Gaiman, is very tired he mumbles in his sleep. This story is inspired by some of his mumbling. Palmer mumbles herself so it is not always easy to understand her. The art is crude but it is an amusing story. Rating: B+

"We Can't Live Without The Cosmos", created by Konstantin Bronzit

In the days of the old Soviet space program two cosmonauts in training become very close friends, preparing for space together and getting into mischief whenever they can. Both yearn for the stars and are inspired by the same book, "We Can't Live Without The Cosmos". A flight comes up and only one can go on it. The animation is two-dimensional, but the story is poignant. The images are fairly flat, two-dimensional, but the narrative is touching. Rating A

"Messages Dans L'Air", created by Isabel Favez

All the images in Favez's film are made of paper. Some is folded as origami, and some are cut pieces. But they are all montages of paper. Once that is said there is not a lot of story behind the images. The story may be more in service to the visual compositions than the visuals are in service to the story. Rating: B-

"Stripy", Written and directed by Babak Nekooei & Behnoud Nekooei

Two Iranian animators give us a short story that reminds one of ALLEGRO NON TROPO. In an urban metropolis workers are responsible to paint nice parallel black stripes on boxes. They are pretty much just parts of machines themselves. One worker rebels. He paints beautiful red curlicues instead. Can society handle people who refuse to be machines? Who will win the struggle of will and what does winning a conflict like this really mean? The visual images are flat and two-dimensional and the film is done to Hungarian Dances #5 Of Brahms. Rating: A-

"Ascension", written and directed by Thomas Bourdis, Martin de Coudenhove, Caroline Domergue, Colin Laubry, Florian Laubry

Fans of the myth of Sisyphus will enjoy this frustrating little tale of two mountain climbers clambering up the steep rock face of a mountain in order to plant a religious statue high so one and all can see their great faith. The story, the rocks, and the climbers are rendered in three dimensional computer graphics. Will man win or will the mountain? And will the religious statue be placed? Rating B

"In The Time Of March Madness", directed by Melissa Johnson and Robertino Zambrano

Rendered in what looks like animated scratchboard images we have Melissa Johnson pour out her heart about the pain of being a six-foot-four-inch tall girl in 8th grade. Her height was extremely useful on the basketball court, but it did not help her face the constant embarrassment of having longer arms and legs than she could manage. Walking with other people she towered over them, but being tall was no advantage. Johnson tells us about her love life and her sports life always being the tallest person in the room. This entry would make a good companion piece to the first film, "The Story of Percival Pilts". Rating B

"World Of Tomorrow", directed by Don Hertzfeldt

"World Of Tomorrow" is a full science fiction story animated with line drawings. A little girl, Emily, meets and is taken on a time traveling trip by her own granddaughter looks aged enough to instead be her grandmother. Most of the art is or appears to be just line drawings. Emily visits her own future. She is told, though she is much too young to understand, that she will have her mind and personality downloaded into a clone. This process will be repeated indefinitely giving her virtually eternal life. And that is just the start of what Emily's grandmother reveals to her. One after another Emily hears about the technological wonders of her future, marvels of dubious value. Rating: A

Let me take this opportunity to thank Ron Diamond, curator of the show, for allowing me to preview the show and review it. The show itself will premier in Los Angeles on September 24, 2015 and following that it will tour to more than 20 cities. See:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper