Animation Express

Animation Express
Thank goodness for the National Film Board. If it wasn't for them, Canada probably wouldn't have the flourishing animation scene it does, or the means to bring it all to the masses. This latest compilation collects 26 of their best short films from the past five years or so, and while it is a bit of a mixed bag, that's exactly why it's such an exciting collection. Animation Express is incredibly diverse, in terms of technique and theme of the animated shorts. From silly, family-friendly material like Invasion Of The Space Lobsters to the incredibly bizarre and surreal The Spine, it covers an awful lot of ground, even straying into abstract territory from time to time. It can actually be a bit jarring to sit and watch all the films in one sitting because it doesn't hold together well as a whole, apart from geography. Naturally, there are some standouts, including Madame Tutli-Putli, which was nominated for an Oscar last year. Set on a train, it uses stop-motion animation then adds other realistic elements over top to make something that's both hypnotic and alarming; it is a very impressive piece of work. Other highlights include Land Of The Heads, which is reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas, with its macabre theme and humorous use of severed heads set to a Tom Waits-esque soundtrack, and Runaway, which is only the third film made by Cordell Barker, the person behind one of the NFB's most famous cartoons: The Cat Came Back. Conspicuously absent are commentary tracks, which could have answered many of the questions bound to arise after viewing these films. Even short bios of the filmmakers could have provided some welcome background information. But as a sampler of all that recent Canadian animation has to offer, it's a wonderfully satisfying collection. Apart from four trailers for other NFB releases, there aren't any extras, although there is a Blu-Ray edition that features an additional 13 films, including the most recent Oscar-winning NFB animated shorts by Chris Landreth (Ryan) and Torill Kove (The Danish Poet), making that the preferred choice. (Mongrel Media)