The Animation Show Volume 3

If you’re not already a fan of Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt’s The Animation Show, you should be. Every installment delivers the beautiful, insightful, and strange world of some of the most talented animators in the world. Volume 3 is no exception, and it all kicks off with a special, brandy-sipping in front of a fire message from our old friends Beavis and Butthead.

Luckily, they’ve only cleaned up their act to inform the audience that some of the shorts have some strong language and adult content. And possibly fire.

The DVD version of this year’s theatrical tour boasts 17 animated shorts, including new work from Hertzfeldt; Everything Will Be OK is the first installment in a three-part series he’s creating. It also has some fantastic work from the legendary Bill Plympton, who gives us Guide Dog, an update on the idiotic mutt he featured in Guard Dog for 2005’s Animation Show. Joanna Quinn also delivers an incredible piece called Dreams and Desires-Family Ties that has already achieved an intense amount of awards and praise.

With such a diverse group of talent, it’s hard to pin down The Animation Show as being any one thing. In a way, it’s Fantasia for the Ren and Stimpy Generation. In another way, it’s worthy of standing ovations from men and women in formal wear. It’s disgusting brand of reality is often heart breaking and sweet, combining the simple and the fantastic to tell penetrating stories or to brush the dust off the audience’s corneas.

Rabbit by Run Wrake, a murderous Dick and Jane story about greed and bug-zapping idols, is a standout. It’s visual style is a mash-up of actual Dick and Jane images, complete with simple text-labels for the nouns of the world. This butchering and reformation of nostalgia turns something innocent into something dark and gorgeous.

Of course, Hertzfeldt’s own Everything Will Be Ok is incredible. Using his signature stick figures and warping effects, he introduces us to Bill, a walking existential crisis that you can’t take your eyes off. His story is mesmerizing, with meaning carved into every simple sentence that’s narrated over Bill’s paltry world.

You won’t love every short, but you’ll be amazed by them all. The style is all groundbreaking yet strangely familiar, and most of the stories achieve more without dialog than the best Hollywood director can do with a 200-page script and a billion-dollar budget.

For the most part, you won’t be sure what you’ve just seen when the credits roll on each short, and you probably won’t have enough time to brace yourself for the next onslaught. The Animation Show: Volume 3, like its counterparts, is best viewed in a group. You might go crazy without someone there to discuss these films with immediately afterward. If nothing else, Judge and Hertzfeldt have succeeded once again in creating a freakish menagerie of provocative shorts that will have you shaking your head, laughing, calling your mother, and will cause some of your friends to disown you for showing it to them. Trust me, you’re better off without them.

Plus, there’s fire.

The Animation Show: Volume 3 is out on DVD today – June 3, 2008 – and I highly recommend picking it up. In addition to the shorts, the DVD features several solid interviews with the animators that shed some light into the darker corners of their minds. Plus, the crew is gearing up for a new theatrical tour that starts crossing the country this month. To check if it’s coming to a hole-in-the-wall near you, head over to their Animation Show website.

If you dig animation or you’re just looking to expand your horizons, The Animation Show is a great place to start.

Grade: A


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