Article by Emmett Goodman.
October 28 has been named International Animation Day, and it was celebrated with a special screening on October 20th. Ron Diamond (Acme Filmworks) was the man behind this particular screening. There’s a brief synopsis right there.
This is one of the few events in which I am compelled to dress up (although as minimally as possible). But of course most people in the animation business have their own definitions of “dressing up.” This night at HBO in New York is exciting for many, but it was quite confusing for the security guards, who hadn’t the faintest idea of what the big deal of the screening was. It’s exciting, because in the business of short films, there’s something mesmerizing about watching them in a dark theater on a big screen. And as Mr. Diamond (as well as many others) put it, there aren’t too many venues out there to screen the best animated shorts.
The whole program was outstanding. There’s an unsaid art in putting together a good screening (but lets save that for a b-side, if necessary).
The screening was a total of eleven short films, done in traditional Hand-Drawn, Flash, After Effects, and CG (a couple of films mixed more than one medium). Among the films were some amazing stand outs; not just animation wise, but inventive story-telling, and complexities made to look so easy.
An emotional centerpiece for the program was The House of Small Cubes, a Japanese short done in traditional hand-drawn animation, created by Kunio Kato. It starts off showing an old man building an ascending/descending top floor of his house, while an unexplained flood rises to dangerous levels. Although I am sure the film was created with the assistance of computers (along with everything else animation), Kunio Kato successfully captured something very warm in both the story and look of this piece. It’s always a relief to see warmth and charm portrayed in this digital day and age.
Then, of course, there are two offerings from Disney/Pixar. The Disney short, Glago’s Guest by Chris Williams, features a bearded Russian Man being visited by some “outsiders.” The aliens look like either eyeballs or tadpoles, and the noise they make sounds more like a cat purring. It is a relief to see something simpler from somewhere as big and controversial as Disney. And the Pixar short, Presto, is funny as hell, and shows a sustained influence stemming from Warner Bros. cartoons. It seems almost natural now for everyone to be divided upon Disney’s offerings, considering what Disney has gone through the last 10 years. Pixar has always taken the time to do things right, and Glago’s Guest seems to be a recent bright spot.
Some of the biggest laughter of the evening was for a simple looking, yet very relatable story. That of an office run by rabbits, and what happens when one of them loses a wheel on their rolling chair. I won’t give it away, but I will say this film provided a nice icebreaker.
And icebreakers are needed when you have such thought provokers. Skhizen, by Jeremy Clapin from France, was possibly the most thought-provoking film of the evening. It tells of a man who is struck by a meteorite, and finds that he is 91 cm from himself. In other words, he can only make physical contact from 91 cm away. The final film of the evening, as well as one of the shortest, is a 2D piece featuring a musical group of three animals (one of my favorite subjects). The animals are a large bear playing bass on broken tree branch, a little rabbit drumming on a tree stump, and a wolf whining musical notes. Not only did I have the whining still in my head at the end, but it was charming enough to get a few people mimicking it as the theater emptied.
My biggest complaints of the evening: Why was there no food like last year? I later realized it must be financial cutback, which I can’t argue with. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to hold any big conversations. There were thirty minutes to say “hi” and enjoy the free drinks, but not enough time to make any connections or re-acquaintances. Not that it was a bad thing to say hi to friends from school and in general, but I think a lot of animators starting out saw this screening as an opportunity to make some contacts. Still, the screening managed to make up for it.