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Written by: Claude Cloutier, Jean-François Lévesque, Jesse Rosensweet, Cordell Barker, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
Directed by: Claude Cloutier, Jean-François Lévesque, Jesse Rosensweet, Cordell Barker, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 221
Date: 03/18/2013

Animation Express (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Art Toons

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Released by Image Entertainment, Animation Express is a collection of 26 animated shorts on two DVDs (or one Blu-Ray), most of them produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The collection contains Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski's Oscar-nominated Madame Tutli-Putli (2007), which I never particularly cared for; it's creepy in an unpleasant way, very slow, dreary, and confusing. That short kicks off the first disc, and, sadly, it just goes from there. The next 12 shorts are all very artsy, expressionistic, dour, and a bit preachy. In some of them, the viewer is asked to watch a bunch of swirling colors and shapes for interminable lengths of 8 to 12 minutes.

Happily, the second disc picks up with some shorts that actually dare to be funny (gasp!). Claude Cloutier's Sleeping Betty (2007) is by far the best short on the set, mainly because it's the funniest. It depicts the extreme efforts of a king to wake his pretty, sleeping daughter. Some of the others start promisingly but end up as bleak parables rather than anything artistic, notably Jean-François Lévesque's The Necktie and Jesse Rosensweet's Paradise. I especially loved looking at the latter, which is designed like a complex child's toy, wherein figures and vehicles move about on tracks, as a way to comment upon the daily routine of life. Cordell Barker's Runaway was probably my second favorite of the set, a tale of greed and romance on a runaway train that has a wonderful sense of pace.

Many of these shorts are without dialogue, and most of them are not particularly for children. There's no denying that the artistry on display here is tops. The design and execution on each one of the films is nothing less than breathtaking. It just strikes me that most of them have the most mundane ideas and points to make, if they have any points at all. In other words, many of these shorts might make you say "wow" as they begin, but definitely not after they've ended.

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