Denver Film Society is running the 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows. This short animation festival, supported by industry giants from studios like Pixar and Disney, features a collection of the year’s most innovative and interesting animated shorts from around the world. This year’s collection includes shorts from everywhere between USA to Russia and on subjects as global as the environment to as personal as love, grief, and rejection. It is as diverse a group of films as you’re likely to see, with about as many different styles of animation showcased. The Show of Shows only runs in Denver through Thursday December 3 before moving on to other venues across the country, so if you want to spend an evening watching cartoons like a kid, I highly recommend you make your way to the Sie Film Center for a screening.
The Story of Percival Pilts – Australia
This stop motion animated film tells the whimsical story of Percival Pilts, a young man with a passion for stilting and a dream to finally reach the sky. While his stilting at first makes him unpopular within his community, his passion and determination eventually carve out a place for him as a beloved neighbor. The film shows us what we can achieve if we follow our dreams.
Tant de Forêts – France
This is a short, affecting film that explores the relationship between industry and deforestation and based upon a poem by Jacques Prevért. It starts by showcasing the colorful organic beauty of nature which is slowly overtaken and replaced by colorless, repetitive machinery.
Snowfall – Ireland
An intimate and moving story about a young man who forms a special connection to someone he meets at a house party. There is something so solitary about the main character both before and after his experience, but there is a distinct sense of connection – of not being alone – when he engages with his friend and an accompanying warmth and well-being.
The Ballad of Holland Island House – USA
Literally a ballad about a house from tree to near destruction, the ballad is beautifully sung by a pair of women against a backdrop of shifting clay paintings, morphing from one frame to another. The house is built by the ocean and abandoned as the seas rise to envelope the island on which it stands. The amorphous clay paint perfectly conveys the changing seas and the malleability of nature.
Ascension – France
This computer animated short tells the story of two mountain climbers ascending a mountain, carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. The climbers encounter unexpected and hilarious setbacks in their attempt to place their Mary at the summit of the mountain. “Ascension” obviously has an amusing double meaning.
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – Russia
This was my absolute favorite short of the night, the story of two best friends who are astronauts in training. They do everything together, including excelling in their training and tests, finally succeeding in being chosen for the mission to space. The friendship between the two men is so charming and beautiful. Russian film in general often has such a strange sense of pomp and optimism, and combined with the very funny and the ultimately very sad, yet hopeful, tone of the movie, this comes out as one of the most unique and enjoyable films of the night.
Message dans L’Air – Switzerland
The story of neighbors, a boxer with a fish and a woman with a cat, who harbor a secret love for each other. Thanks to the cat’s determined pursuit of the boxer’s fish, the two people come together. The animation style of over-exaggerated feminine or masculine features lends itself to a light humor, while the simple environment conveys a sense of intimacy and importance to the characters and the world involved.
Love in the Time of March Madness – USA/Australia
An animated adaptation of an article written by Melissa Johnson about struggling with body image as a 6’4’’ woman. Johnson narrates the cartoon, an elegantly and expressively drawn black and white animation that recounts her experiences with other people’s perception of her height.
Stripy – Iran
This film mimics the classic animation style of Walt Disney while creating expressive and unique characters. The story is set to the tune of Johannes Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 5 as the workers at a factory paint black vertical stripes on boxes. Work is disrupted as the quality control manager discovers a box painted with red swirly stripes and all chaos breaks loose. It is ultimately a story about breaking from tradition and being creative.
World of Tomorrow – USA
If there’s one name you’re likely to recognize out of this collection of animators and directors, it might be Don Hertzfeldt. If you can’t quite place the name, he has a film floating around Netflix called Its Such a Beautiful Day. In this film, a young girl is visited by her future third generation clone and taken on a tour of the future. This short is really quite funny and bizarre, not least because of the disparity of the girl’s expressive yet uncomprehending interaction with the emotionally stunted future clone. The girl in question is Herzfeldt’s then four-year-old niece who was recorded at play and then edited into the film. This is probably tied for first place favorite with We Can’t Live Without Cosmos.
To find where the 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows is playing near you, visit their official website.