2008 is an exceptionally good year for The Animation Show, the traveling short-features tourney now curated solely by King Of The Hill/Beavis And Butt-head mastermind Mike Judge. The only problem is that it makes its 2007 program, now on DVD as The Animation Show Volume 3, look weak by comparison. The currently touring Animation Show 4 features several advanced works by animators still working out their kinks as of Volume 3. The new show also focuses on short, snappy, clever pieces; the latest DVD, by contrast, is more about longer works that showcase animation's incredible range, but disappoint in terms of coherent story.
Volume 3 does have some distinct winners: Run Wrake's "Rabbit" is a terrifically creepy morality tale about two greedy children and a magical idol, told in a style reminiscent of an old Fun With Dick And Jane book. Bill Plympton contributes two shorts, but his eerie murder mystery "Shuteye Hotel" is the better of the two, a dark, shadowy stylistic stretch for the prolific tourney fixture. "Versus" is poppy, creative, and eye-catching. And Guilherme Marcondes' gorgeous "Tyger" mixes puppeteering with a variety of animation styles for a visual tour de force.
But overlong and undercooked pieces still dominate. The biggest offender is "Everything Will Be OK" by Don Hertzfeldt, Judge's curating partner on this and the two previous installments of The Animation Show. Hertzfeldt has done winning work in the past with his quivery stick figures, notably on "Billy's Balloon" and the Oscar-nominated "Rejected." But at a draggy 17 minutes, "Everything Will Be OK" is shapeless and self-indulgent, and it squanders its trippy surrealism on punishing audio and visual experiments. Matthew Walker's CGI "Astronauts" pads a funny premise with dead air and lax comic timing. Daniel Nocke's visually interesting "No Room For Gerold" does nothing with its premise of anthropomorphic animals sharing a flat. Joanna Quinn's "Dreams And Desires" features gorgeously loose, expressive animation, hindered by muddy sound and all-but-unintelligible dialogue. As with most animation festivals, this one is a grab bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but mostly, it centers on the pretty-but-in-need-of-editing.
Key features: Blah interviews with a couple of the artists, MTV series trailers, and an incongruous but welcome eight-minute trailer summing up the old animated series The Maxx. When is that coming out on DVD, you MTV teases?