The Animation Show of Shows returned to the RISD Auditorium Sunday night for a night of independent award-winning animated shorts. Now in its 17th year, the show is curated by producer Ron Diamond each year and screened at colleges and studios each year to showcase the work of independent animators from around the world. For the first time this year, it will also be screened in theaters across the U.S., thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
The theatrical program features “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” (16th) and “Ascension” (15th), films screened in past Shows of Shows. The non-theatrical program features three films instead, “Edmond,” “Yul and the Snake,” and “Sanjay’s Super Team” (though “Sanjay’s Super Team” wasn’t screened at RISD). The screening also included artist bios of the creators behind “Snowfall,” “Stripy,” and “Love in the Time of March Madness.”
Hosted by the RISD FAV (Film/Animation/Video) Department, members of the RISD, Brown, and the Providence community gathered in the RISD Auditorium for a screening of this year’s show. Keep reading for recaps of what we saw — and click the titles for trailers!
The Story of Percival Pilts
Created by Janette Goodley & John Lewis (Australia)
Created in a beautiful pastel miniature stop-motion world, this story follows Percival Pilts, the narrator’s brother, who starts walking as a kid on short tin-can and wooden stilts. Percival’s stilts grow and grow as he gets older until he’s too tall for their family’s house. He takes off to a new town, facing ridicule from the townspeople until they realize the stilt life is the way to go.
Tant de Forets
Created by Geoffrey Godet & Burcu Sankur (France)
This short showed a forest being torn down for paper manufacturing, industry, and urbanization. With sort of a PSA feel, it did not have much of a definitive ending besides just ‘sad,’ though the papercut illustration style and shifts between 2D and 3D perspectives were interesting.
Directed by Conor Whelan (Ireland)
The first part of this short is a pretty generic party scene accompanied by electronic music with a thumping bass, all animated illustration of course. But there are quirks — the people move by morphing in and out of formless shapes across the room. Clips moved quickly through interactions amongst various characters, like from two men talking to a man and woman suspended in air. The subsequent segment profiling the director revealed that he wanted to explore the emotions involved in the rejection of a queer individual by a straight individual in a social setting.
The Ballad of Holland Island House
Created by Lynn Tomlinson (U.S.)
Set to music, this short follows the life of a house on an island, as it watches its residents grow up and eventually leave due to the rising water. Animated with textural, swirling paint and clay, scenes blend into one another, as the image shifts from the ocean to the house, from the exterior to inside. The house is eventually left with just the birds as company.
Behind the Trees (full short)
Created by Amanda Palmer and Avi Ofer (U.S.)
To all the individuals who mutter in their sleep, this one’s for you. “Behind the Trees” is a found voice memo animation by Amanda Palmer. Palmer’s husband, Neil Gaiman, sometimes says weird things while he’s asleep, and she found a recording on her phone, a couple years old, of a conversation she had with Gaiman about the “millions of others of me hiding in the trees,” as he sleepily explains. The style of the animation feels so gentle and playful, matching her whispered narration well. One of the more memorable moments: the tree trunks morphing into fingerprints as her husband argues that he is not unique.
Directed by Nina Gantz (U.K.)
Animated with felt stop-motion characters, Edmond follows the reversed life of a man living in the forest, who is revealed to suffer from compulsively eating other people. The short jumps back into different Lenny-esque stages of his life: when he accidentally ended up with a woman’s leg deep down his throat during sex, when he bit the ear off his classmate during a school play, when he swallowed his goldfish as a toddler, and finally to when he consumed his twin in the womb. The plot may sounds disturbing, but the short was extremely funny, and the felt character and set design created an expressive world.
Yul and the Snake
Directed by Gabriel Harel (France)
This French short illustrates a young boy, Yul, as he tags along with his older brother as he passes off a purse they stole from an old woman to his brutish boss, in a setting reminiscent of an animated Breaking Bad. As Yul waits while his brother and the boss argue, he finds a snake and chases it through the brush. The boss eventually lets his dog after the snake, catches it, and Yul’s brother pees on it. The snake gets away, but the boss sets his dog after Yul, who falls down a cliff into the snake’s den. He wrestles/dances with the snake, eventually taking control of the snake as it goes, and uses it to attack the boss.
Messages Dans L’Air
Created by Isabel Favez (Switzerland)
This short follows a cat trying to eat a fish, and the relationship between their two owners, a woman and her next door neighbor, a famous boxer. The woman keeps nonchalantly saving the fish from the cat, sometimes reaching in to pull it out of the cat’s mouth. She catches a paper bird and unfolds it, which reveals messages predicting love between her and the boxer.
Written and directed by Babak Neikooei & Behnoud Nekooei (Iran)
The characters of this film live in a city where everyone and everything wears stripes. Buildings are decorated with stripes and factories only manufacture striped products. Workers mindlessly paint stripes onto boxes as the conveyor belt moves, until one day a worker decides to spice his up with red swirls.
At first he is berated by his boss, but eventually, his creation starts dominating the city’s aesthetic. Soon, psychedelic red swirls are being drawn onto all of the boxes from the factory, until one day the worker gets bored, and decides to spice his up again, this time with neon colors. A commentary on social change, a reference to acid trips… whatever it was, this film was punchy.
Love in the Time of March Madness
Directed by Melissa Johnson & Robertino Zambrano (US & Australia)
As a 6’4’’ woman, the director of this animated short has experienced jabs to her body image throughout her life. She catalogs her story through her film, first depicting her teenage career as a basketball player and then showing her later years finding a significant other. The best received line by the audience was her response when someone told her that her boyfriend was shorter than her — “We’re all the same height lying down.” Fair point, Melissa.
World of Tomorrow
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt (U.S.)
This short was SO FUNNY. Animated in a simple line drawing, stick figure style, “World of Tomorrow” tells the story of a small girl, Emily (Prime), meeting the third cloned iteration of herself from the future. Future Emily tells Emily (Prime) all about the ways people in the future keep themselves alive. The well off can upload their memories upon death to a new clone, like Emily from the future, while the slightly less well off can upload their consciousness to a cube.
Emily reads a letter downloaded from the cube of her grandfather an hour after he entered his cube, which read, “Oh GOD. OH MY GOD. WHY. OH GOD OH GOD.” Emily tells Emily (Prime) all about the ‘outernet’ (the new internet), the abandoned robots on the moon programmed to fear death (who occasionally send back “really depressed poetry”), and about her past emotionally stunted romances with a pretty rock and slime monster.
The 17th Animation Show of Shows’ theatrical version is traveling to different cities through the end of the year. See the Animation Show of Shows’ website for ticketing information and updates, and watch this year’s trailer here.