'Animation Show': Getting in Toon

By Curt Fields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005

There's something for everyone in the 2005 version of "The Animation Show," a collection of short animated films presented by Don Hertzfeldt and Mike Judge (yep, that's the Mike Judge behind "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "King of the Hill"). For animation fans, there are a variety of styles, including hand-drawn, CGI and claymation. For the casual viewer, there are a multitude of moods, from dark humor to sweet romance to tension-filled action. And since the running time for each short ranges from 25 seconds to just under 15 minutes, something new comes along quickly. Not that you'll be checking your watch. All of the dozen works featured are strong, with even the least engaging of the stories (i.e., "The Man With No Shadow") being visually compelling. Highlights include:

· The Australian "Ward 13," a claymation piece about an accident victim in a bizarre hospital, is full of humorous nods to the action-thriller genre -- including a high-speed wheelchair chase -- while evoking genuine tension and suspense.

· "Fallen Art," a twisted Polish short about insane military officers, becomes darkly beautiful when one character is moved to dance.

· The Oscar-nominated "Guard Dog" is about a goofy-looking mutt seeing the direst threats to his owner in his encounters with a girl jumping rope, butterflies, birds and even flowers.

· Hertzfeldt's own "The Meaning of Life" explores life and death and the passage of time using Tchaikovsky's music as a backdrop for animation ranging from crudely simple characters to breathtakingly beautiful images all created single-handedly by Hertzfeldt without the use of computers.

The Animation Show (Unrated, 87 minutes) -- Contains occasional animated violence way beyond an anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote's head, including decapitation, fights and monstrous creatures. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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