Spike & Mike's '97 Festival of Animation

Represented in this collection of more than a dozen shorts are many of the usual approaches to narrative that allow animators to flex their technical skills in less than ten minutes, as well as a couple of exciting variations. Canhead, by Tim Hittle, is an elegant fusion of simple drama and classic techniques. It's a refreshing contrast to the overblown ideas of other sparsely plotted stories, such as Pjotr Sapegin's Mons the Cat, an exhaustingly obvious fable whose rendering couldn't be—and isn't—stylish enough to compensate. Other tiresome entries, including The Great Migration by Iouriy Tcherenkov, take an expected form—setting up a situation and ending on an ironic inversion of it, as if this practice were inherently interesting. But Anthony Hodgson's Hilary, in which an adult tells a child a bedtime story, is a gem. This nine-minute narrative manages to develop three real characters in several boldly subjective and semirealistic environments, using expressionism that's neither ham-handed nor cagey to convey the characters' emotions better than many feature-length live-action dramas. The two-minute Touched Alive is the best of the nonnarratives, but the source of its interest may be the subject, painter Jack Shadbolt's work, as much as animator Stephen Arthur's transformations of it.

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