Spike & Mike's 1998 Classic Festival of Animation

1998, NR, 92 min. Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 3, 1998

Those titans of animation-festival programming are back again, this time with a well-rounded selection of contemporary animation from the four corners of the globe, including one Oscar winner and several other highlights. On the face of things, animation fests are a good way to keep tabs on what's happening in the industry as computers take an increasingly firm hold over traditional cel animation techniques. These 12 short films do just that, and reveal -- surprise! -- that CGI isn't dominating the world as much as you might expect. Tradition remains strong, with only the multi-award-winning Pixar studios (Toy Story) relying entirely on bytes to get the laffs. Still, several of the offerings here are mere shadows of triumphs past, notably the opening “Shock,” a German entry which tries to take a new spin on the old tale of the artist versus his creation. It's a nicely conceived mix of live-action, pixillation, and traditional cel work, but the story is as old as they come. Likewise Aardman Animation's “Stage Fright,” which looks spiffy at first glance but quickly falls short of the studio's better, wiser, Nick Park-directed shorts. Excellent work, however, comes from the U.S.A.'s Don Hertzfeldt, whose “Lily and Jim” chronicles a disastrous blind date using only the most rudimentary stick-figure animation. The sly vocal work by actors Robert May and Karen Anger is part improv, part scripted, and the whole of it works like a bitter charm. England's “T.R.A.N.S.I.T.” is jarringly original, the best in the bunch. Smooth, primary-colored art deco designs trace the movement of a sinister suitcase and an eerie man and woman as they travel to the world's darkest corners. It's less linear and more bizarre than a capsule description can impart here, but the film's use of differing artists and styles for each of the narrative's locales recalls the recent work of local animator Bob Sabiston. Pixar's entry this time out (“Geri's Game”) is less affecting than much of their previous work -- early examples from that studio such as “Red's Dream” and “Tin Toy” were marvels of content and stylistic equilibrium -- but still has that inescapable Pixar feel to it. As an old man plays a lonely game of chess by himself in the park, he resorts to manic cheating to win; original, yes, but hardly up to their usual emotive standard. Animation collections tend to be mixed bags, and this one is no exception. Certainly, there's some brilliant work here, and as always, it's a relief to see the animated form that has no ties to The Mouse.

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Spike & Mike's 1998 Classic Festival of Animation, Various

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