Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation 1999

Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation is a far cry from its Sick and Twisted counterpart. I saw the 1999 version at the UC Theatre in Berkeley. There's something to be said for combining romance, technology, suspense, mystery, intrigue, humour of various kinds, and completely different plot lines that last no longer than ten minutes each, in less than two hours.

My favourite animations were ones that represented cutting edge technology: Tightrope by Daniel Robichaud and Digital Domain; Bingo, by Chris Landreth and Alias Wavefront which depicts the surrealist and Orwellian vision of a boy in a circus who slowly becomes convinced he's a clown; The Art of Survival by the students of Computer Animation at the University of Washington; and the Oscar-winning Bunny by Chris Wedge and Blue Sky Studios which features the death of a rabbit. All these films were animated brilliantly. Geri's Game by Jan Pinkava and Pixar (which won the 1997 Oscar) should have been included in this list but wasn't.

The most amusing animations, however, were the least fancy ones. These included Billy's Balloon (which should have been titled Revenge of the Balloons) by Don Hertzfeldt; the perversely-humourous VHX/Carhot by Luc Otter and Behavior Productions; and Hum Drum by Peter Peake and Aardman Animation showcasing two professors playing with shows.

Other cool animations included The Blue Shoe, an interesting but nauseatingly sweet tale of a blue show and a green boot; the beautiful water-colour based The Queen's Monastery by Pearly Oyster Productions, and the chuckle-inducing Bambi meets Godzilla classic by Mark Newland along with its sequel, Son of Bambi meets Godzilla by Eric Fernandez.

The problem with the high-tech animations is that they try too hard to be "realistic". They try to represent their worlds in a three-dimensional manner. Most classic animations work because they're done in a two-dimensional manner (i.e., even though it's supposed to happen in three-dimensional space, you realise the images are "flat"). Compare for example Antz or A Bug's Life to The Prince of Egypt. The former has a greater feel of occurring in a three-dimensional world, but what makes the latter so magnificent is the amazing flourish with which the animation strokes are made.

Examining the contrast between the old style of animations and the new kind is in and of itself a worthy reason for watching Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation. I highly recommend it.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org