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

A Complex Villainelle is another 3-D model computer animated short, this one was made by 20 students from the University of Colorado Denver’s Digital Animation Program.  Written and Narrated by Jonathon Goldstein of NPR’s This American Life, the story is based on his radio play, The Penguin Goes a Courting.  Taking place in the fabled Gotham City, …Villanelle tells a story of a young Penguine, before becoming “the overweight obsessive sadsack of his later years”, here a poet and a dandy, he flies from rooftops around town with his umbrella and throws lavish parties for Gotham’s elite.  His world is forever changed though when he learns of a beautiful female who also cavorts around town with an umbrella on the winds.  The short provides a fun ride through an alternate version of a legendary comic book mythos, which finishes off with a very appropriate cameo.  Grade: A (Note: the short can be viewed in its entirety via the link above)

Toothnapped is a fun children’s parable about a young girl with a loose tooth and a plan for the tooth fairy.  The computer animated 3-D modeling is comparable more to A Complex Villainelle than One Small Step, but I find the fact it’s a children’s parable to be much more of an aspect to focus on.  It seems this type of storytelling is becoming few and far between with children’s entertainment as of late, so it feels like a fresh breath to see that the all important, lesson learned, is not long forgotten.  Grade: B

The next short, DemiUrge Emesis is a demented gothic poem, narrated by Danny Elfman, and animated by MTV stop-motion veteran, Aurelio Voltaire.  Described as, “A mummified cat is tormented by the skeletons of past meals.” serves as a metaphor for the artist’s ebb and flow of creativity.  Grade: B

The Lift, written by Robert Kohr and Kathy Lien, and directed by Robert Kohr, is another parable, this time not using 3-D models but more standard cartoon computer animation.  A young woman is impatient and refuses to hold an elevator door open for a slow elderly woman.  What ensues after is a surrealistic experience in being taught manners.  Grade: B

Slap Back Jack: High Five Master is a stop-motion short from Animator Mark Newell, about a little-leaguer who’s good at playing ball but bad at high fives and hand shucks.  The story plays out like an old-timey story told by someone’s grandfather, complete with banjo theme song, and just like most of those stories, while littered with moments of humor and amusement, seem to run-on far longer than they ever should.  Slap Back Jack is at its finest when we are witnessing the craft of hand jiving in motion, almost like an animated kung-fu sequence; unfortunately this only really takes place in the short’s last couple of moments.  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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