Review: CalArts Character Animation Producers Show
By Jonathan Peters
Last night, CalArts put on their annual Producers Show, showcasing some of the best work created by the school’s character animation students. CalArts has cultivated the premier program in animation and to watch this show is to glimpse the future of the field. Little wonder industry types and students alike packed the expansive Leonard H. Goldenson hall to catch the 24 shorts included on the bill.
After faculty introductions, legendary director and CalArts alum John Musker (The Princess and the Frog) handed out awards for three deserving shorts. Skyler Page won the Peers’ Pick for Crater Face, an almost touching story of a crater-astronaut relationship scored to indie rocker Dan Deacon’s music. Eric Anderson and Michael Rianda shared the Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize for separate shorts. Anderson’s The Hardest Jigsaw, about a girl practically puzzle-obsessed was not only imaginatively animated and appealingly warm, but filled with humorous touches. Likewise, Rianda’s Work, about a boy who learns the hard lesson that work sucks after entering a workplace and receiving a job instantly, not only had a cute black-and-white aesthetic, but a decently funny script and some surprisingly comic moments.
Some other standouts included Glenn Williamson’s The H.C., an imaginative faux newsreel about a handicapped hero who wins at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then fights fighter pilots during World War II. Sabrina Cotugno’s Night Parade showcased a brilliant and colorful story world that felt much more thoughtful than many wide-release films. The closer, Shion Takeuchi’s When The Time Is Ripe, about a pear who learns that unlike his parents he is not a steak (you will have to see it to understand this), was surprisingly touching, and well, funny. Its combination of shtick and seriousness was unexpected for an animation show, but certainly not unwelcome.
Each short displayed a unique voice and style, and a wealth of skill. Every studio in attendance last night would be well-served to recruit any member of this group show. If this is the future of animation--and personally, I can’t wait.