'3rd Animation Celebration' proves worthy of its name


January 17, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

'The Third Animation


Animated short features.

Produced by Terry Thoren.

Released by Expanded Animation.


*** Animation tournees and collections seem to come and go at the Charles faster than shipments of Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, and sometimes with almost the same range of variation between the parts. But the new edition, "The Third Animation Celebration," is unquestionably the best in many a moon.

This 90-minute collection opens today, and it hails from Expanded Entertainment, the same co-op of animation entrepreneurs who've released no less than 23 "Animation Tournees" in the past six years. The tournees were characteristically sober and avant-garde: I feel like I've seen 46 of them, and I'd swear they all feature the same Czechoslovakian masterpiece from a guy named Jan of Zagreb, derived from a fragment of Kafkaesque prose where two amoeba-like blobs of abstract color swirl to the madness of the universe while bad atonal music imitates nuclear war in the background.

Thank God such nonsense is absent here. The "Animation Celebrations" are billed in press notes as a haven for lighter pieces, and if ever there was a moment in history when we needed lighter pieces, this is it.

For my money, the most stunning piece is "This Is Not Frank's Planet," probably the best computer-generated animation I've ever seen, and one of the few where the eerie reality of the imagery isn't the point, but rather is part of an overall story strategy. In this hilarious little number, two hip space voyagers explore a new world that is majestic and amusing and in almost complete polarity from the laid-back banalities of their dialogue.

"Snowie and the Seven Dorps," by Candy Kugel Vincent Cafareill, updates the Snow White fable into a vividly funny '90s revision, where the seven dwarfs have become agents named, among other things, Sleazy, Geeky, Scummy and Thanks-I'll-Get-Back-to-You.

The ever-amazing Bill Plympton, who works with colored pencils and an imagination greater than the entire southern hemisphere, contributes more of his ingenious "Plymptoons," short-takes in which exquisite technique turns brilliant drawings into liquid, witty surrealisms in a split second.

And, for sheer technical brilliance, "Still Life" watches as a knife and fork spring to incredible computer-generated life and begin to track down the fruit in a variety of still lifes hanging on the wall. Literally magic!

There are a few clinkers. Glasnost may have helped Soviet internal life, but their two animated films here -- "Welcome" and "Poumse" -- seem to have arrived from a time machine in the

'50s. But on the whole, "The Third Animation Celebration" is something to celebrate.

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