Ace Animation Anyone?

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Mark Slattery enjoys some cartoon cinema…

On Wednesday night I watched four comedies, three features and five musicals here at Cornerhouse. There was even time to fit in a couple of interesting adverts.

No, I didn’t invent time-travel machine nor did I lock myself in for a monster, 24-hour movie marathon. What I did do was watch the first of the British Animation Awards Public Choice screenings, a collection of animated short films that are part of this year’s competition.

Before you get the wrong idea when I say animation, these aren’t Saturday morning toons or the Disney features from yester-year. These are collections of animated shorts that vary as much in tone and subject as much as they do in style and length; drawn, computer-generated, stop-motion stories about OCD, drinking injuries and put upon bears.

Don’t be put off by the programme of short films either. Just like those tins of Christmas chocolates that are finally coming to end, watching 15 short films means there’s always going to be something you like; it’s a safer bet than the one ticket, one film gamble at your regular cinema outing.

So because you’ve missed the opportunity to watch this first batch of mini-movies, let me give you a short review of each and some links to the creators, trailers and websites behind the films. Hopefully I can convince you to go and see the second and third programme screening for yourself.

Bare by Helen Dallat
The story of a bear, frustrated by the untidiness of his home in the woods. The illustrated, painted style reminded be bit of Paddington Bear and the expressions really carried the humour of the silent central character.

Matter Fisher by David Prosser
A fisherman picks up a strange piece of flotsam that has some very attractive properties. The flowing, watercolour style was engaging but washed the story away from me by the end.

The Squirrel and the Penguin by Jens Blank & Anna Benner
Two animators discus how best to broach the Israel-Palestine situation and Jewish culture. The first of the shorts the have a voiceover and while the computer generated-animation is cute it never quite meshed with the socio-political humour of the narration.

Tchaikovsky – an elegy by Barry JC Purves
The story of the Russian composer’s intertwining life and music. A moving and emotional stop-motion animation mixed with a score of the composer’s music and some projected imagery, only let down by the hollow audio on the protagonist’s narration.

Slow Derek by Daniel Ojari
The Earth spins at 1070mph, something a simple office worker struggles to comprehend. Rough-edged stop-motion compared to previous piece but it captured the relentless motion of the character’s dizzying adventure very well.

Get Well Soon: Zoe by Kim Alexander
A broken legged girl regales us with the tale of how it happened and why it’s not the first time drink has been her downfall.
The sketchy-drawing style, while deliberate, suffered when compared to the polished look of some of the other shorts, but the talking head style reminded me of Creature Comforts.

Unorganised Crime by Dane Winn, Charlie Miller, Constantinos Mavromichalis, Daisy Hynes & Sophie Grimwood
Can this bank robber get away with the cash before his narcolepsy gets the bet… zzz. This computer-generated comedy got the second biggest reaction from the audience with its simple central gag and slapstick pace. It was let down slightly by the pre-vis look of the 3D animation.

Gorillaz: Stylo by Pete Candeland and Jamie Hewlett
A car chase and music video for Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon band. The first music video of the screening mixed live action cars with the animated characters; there was even a cameo from Bruce ‘Die Hard’ Willis. Smoothly done but this has been around for ages so I’m not sure of its inclusion in the awards.

Big Scary: Mix Tape by Alice Dupre

A music box turns making moving pictures in this second music video. The idea of computer-generated images re-creating the birth of animation with wooden cogs and zoetropes is thoughtful one. Sadly the repetitive nature of the animation meant I switched off half-way through.

TV on the Radio: Second Song by Mikey Please

A wolf-warrior travels through an ever-changing fantasy world in search of something. A mix of white, foam-looking stop-motion animation and swirling, volcanic oil painting. Stark and stunning and my favourite of the music videos by far.

Spin by Max Hatter

A Hollywood-style dance number featuring little green Army Men about the spectacle of war. Not one of the music videos, but this animation wouldn’t have been out of place in a big budget musical from the 50s & 60s. It took a dark turn at the end though.

Bertie Crisp by Francesca Adams

A caravan living bear is bullied into stealing a neighbour’s baby for his demanding wife. This British Film Council funded film was the funniest and most polished of all the shorts. It got the biggest reaction from the audience, which was probably was due, in no small part, to the voice talent of Mark Benton and Kathy Burke.

Toyota: Auto Biography by Julia Pott

A taking-head story promoting a good car over a miss-matched relationship. The animation was quirky in but neither the audio nor the visuals differed greatly from a dozen other ads on TV today.

Kia Soul: This or That by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet

Rapping hamsters hit the street to make sure you know the difference between a car and a toaster on wheels. The ad’s photo-realistic environment and track-suited rodents worked really well together and hit the cute button hard.

Intel: The Case by Smith & Foulkes

A woman runs through desktop windows, social media sites and computer application to keep a message safe. A surprisingly thrilling action sequence that really covered the whole spectrum of multi-media, both in a computer product and animation styles sense.

I hope these little reviews has piqued your interest in the British Animation Awards and you will join us for the remaining screenings on Sun 5 February and Tue 7 February. If you still need a little more convincing my fellow Digital Reporter Mugabi Turya has this little audio preview of the second programme…

Our 1 minute review of BAA Prog 2 (mp3)

And I’ll be back in a couple of days to give you a sneak peak at the third and final installment.