The Animation Show has traditionally been one of the high points of my year. I saw the first and third shows in theaters and own the first two on DVD. For all the occasional missteps, the overall effect of each show is overwhelmingly brilliant.
In case you don't know, The Animation Show was begun by Don Hertzfeldt and Mike Judge. It comes to theaters roughly once a year. And as I said, it's collection of short films has generally added up to one big WOWZA.
Not so this year.
So what went wrong?
I have a few thoughts:
1. Don left. I don't know why--no one seems to know why--but Don't left and so Mike Judge was the sole name running this year's show. Which means his taste dictated things without any checks or balances. Besides the fact that I just like Don's stuff a lot more than Mike's, letting one person's taste run a show means that it's much easier to end up with a show that doesn't cover all the colors of the taste rainbow. To mix my metaphors. Mike, get someone to help you out.
2. Nothing historical. Although the second and third years were brilliant, they lacked one of the first year's big pluses: history. The first year had old Disney short and Tim Burton's "Victor" and some older stuff by Don and Mike. And it all added up to a big fat AWESOME. Although The Animation Show's raison d'être is to showcase little known working animators, it should return to its secondary goal of educating viewers about the artform's history and victories. Next time show Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and something from the Communist Bloc c. 1965.
3. Overreliance on already discovered talent. Please. No more Corky Quackenbush. And yes, the PES short was brilliant and Georges Schwizgebel's was even better than his last one, but I'm afraid you're relying too much on what you've already found in the past. Go back to the slush pile. Find us something new and brilliant.
4. Too many from the same people. Like my last complaint, you don't need to use so much from the same people. Taking just one per animator opens up room for more. For instance, the God short was brilliant--one of my favorites. The polar-bear-and-penguin one from the same team? Not as great. Should have cut it and put in something completely different. More variety equals more chances at big success. And it's just better programming.
5. Too crude. I'm admit it. Angry Unpaid Hooker was pretty funny. But Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker wasn't funny enough. I'm not advocating for a kid-friendly show, but c'mon. The only reason to laugh at that is because you think drugs and S&M are funny. Boooring.
6. No bookends. Yes, there was the piratey opening sequence, but nice structures like shows 1 and 3 had really ties the room together, know what I mean? Ask Bill Plympton to do it for you. Or Jason Steele.
7. No standouts. This is harder to fix, but it's the single biggest problem. I hope that by dealing with the earlier problems, this one will solve itself, but who can say. But TAS4 hadn't a single short that left me gasping for air. Not a single short that blew me away by the beauty of its art. Not a single story that moved me. TAS3 had Versus, Rabbit and 9 respectively--and those are just three examples from that one show.
The Animation Show is an important part of America's cinematic landscape. I would hate to see it grow stale and die while still so young. Heal thyself, Animation Show! Heal thyself now!!!
If you're considering watching The Animation Show this year, do it. Then let me know what you think. I liked plenty of it--the undertakers, the paintballers, the pie--but those shorts shouldn't have been the best ones. The best ones should have been even better.