M.I.F.F.F. 2010: Animation Shorts Review

The Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival (M.I.F.F.F.) takes place every year in Seattle, Washington and is dedicated to screening independent genre films from around the world.  As their website states, “The event was created to offer exposure to films that traditionally are overlooked by the festival circuit from genres including action, fantasy, horror, and science fiction.”  This year the festival was held over the weekend of September 17th through the 19th at the Seattle International Film Festival theatre in the neighborhood of Queen Anne.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend as many screenings as I’d hoped, the line-up looked great with several blocks of different themed short films playing on Saturday and Sunday such as, Animation, Fantasy, Horror and Action/Science Fiction, followed by four featured length Horror films in the evenings.  I was able to catch the Animation short film block on Saturday which particularly caught my interest since it wasn’t just an animation showcase, which I love, but a showcase of animation films dealing particularly with genre subject matters, which is something I love even more.

There were twelve shorts that were screened for us, some of them great, some not so great, and some had better animation or concepts than others, all in all though every entry had to a degree a flair of passion and devotion, two things I feel are important to animation storytelling.  The first short came quite appropriately to lead off the block from frequent Animation festivals contributor, animator Bill Plympton.  The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger tells the fun, yet tragic and suspense filled story of a calf that is seduced by the advertising sorcery of a billboard for hamburgers and desperately sets out to become one.  In true Bill Plympton fashion the story takes a satirical look at the basic concepts of the American meat industry, obviously the billboard which hypnotizes the calf is designed to do so, and it works as we watch our little protagonist desperately gain weight in order to make the requirements to be admitted to the butchering plant.  While the story sounds grim it does transcend its dismal premise and entertains thoroughly with that comic book action bravado that Plympton so often infuses in his stories, making for a short worthy of a solid, A.

The second short was called, SuperBattle (Episode 1) by animator Ethan Marak, most notably known for his work on the Adult Swim show Robot Chicken and the film The Matrix: Revolutions.  The story briefly begins what appears to be an ongoing serialized show set in a futuristic fantasy world where a strange creature known as, “The Chemical Kid”, is being held prisoner escapes using its acidic spit.  In response the creature’s jailers send in a genetically altered super-human awakened from cryogenic sleep to capture and return the escaped criminal.  It’s always great to see stop motion animation being used to tell a story, especially in this digital, computer obsessed age where even blood is being substituted by ones and zeroes.  In this case we have one the industry’s best stop motion animators putting his skills to work to bring us a saga of freakish personalities headed to a face-off battle in a hostile sci-fi environment.  My only complaint would be, it was too short.  I want more.  Grade: A

One Small Step was the third short.  Written and directed by Australian filmmaker/artist, Damien Slevin, …Step offers the hypothesis, “When man finally reached the Moon, 600 million people watched. They were not the only ones.”  The short gives a cute but technically limited look at the idea of inhabitants on the moon who also witnessed that fateful day on July 24th, 1969.  Here the computer animation seemed limited and out of date, most likely due to budget restraints, however it does present a fun concept that will most likely be appealing to a lot of children’s imaginations and utilizes the 3-D modeling to an immersive effect.   Grade: B


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Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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