Human heart shines in ‘Animation Show’

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Animation can tap into something within the human spirit that other mediums struggle to reach.

“Green Bird.” Courtesy photo.

For proof, look no further than the “Animation Show of Shows.” The annual compilation showcasing the best animated shorts of the year is back this weekend for another run at the Panida Theater, and it promises to awaken a little wonder in you.

“Animation is such a flexible and open-ended medium that it lends itself to exploring the innumerable aspects of what it means to be human,” said show founder and curator Ron Diamond. “And this year’s program, as much as any of our past presentations, really illuminates human strengths and foibles, and the bonds that unite us across cultures and generations.”

If this year’s show celebrates one aspect of animation, it’s the broad range of subjects and tones that the medium can capture. Hikari Toriumi explores deeply human themes of family in decidedly unhuman characters — specifically a young polar beer preparing to leave home — in “Polaris.” Veronica Solomon’s “Love Me, Fear Me,” meanwhile, captures the dark side of a deceptive, toxic relationship through claymation. And computer animation gets its due in “The Green Bird,” which uses classic comedy to tell an endearing story.

Those are just a few of the 15 shorts that altogether run 98 minutes and range from under a minute to a quarter-hour in length. “The Animation Show of Shows” has a track record of predicting future Oscar-winning shorts, and sure enough, four of the 15 films in the collection have received attention from the Academy Awards.

“In my view, at least, the best short-form animation — like the most memorable short stories — is daring in perspective and malleable in interpretation,” wrote Jeannette Catsouli for the New York Times, going on to describe the show highlights as “wonderfully original,” “dazzling,” “provocative” and “(sticking) a dagger in conformity.”

Catch the 20th annual “Animation Show of Shows” at the Panida Theater 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 31, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2. 

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