Animation Express 2

Animation Express 2
The second anthology in the series from the National Film Board of Canada picks up where 2009's Animation Express left off. And just like its predecessor, the only thread connecting the 26 short films on the Blu-Ray is that they are all animated in some way. That translates into a variety of styles and subject matter, occasionally making for some jarring shifts in mood, but that diversity is also one of the collection's strengths. The absolute highlight is Andrea Dorfman's Flawed, the story of her struggling to come to terms with her alleged imperfections when she starts to date a plastic surgeon. It's told via some beautiful stop-motion animation of her creating watercolours, and is both utterly charming and moving. Flawed is a good enough reason to pick up this collection all by itself. The majority of the shorts clock in at about ten minutes, but there are a couple of exceptions. Rose & Violet is a 26-minute tale of two conjoined circus acrobat sisters that uses relatively conventional animation; it manages to sustain its narrative for its extended running time, plus it has a healthy dose of humour. The other longer film is Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More To Life, an adaptation of Maurice Sendak's book of the same name. It's a combination of animation and live-action puppets that also brings in some star power via Meryl Streep and Forest Whittaker, who supply the voices. The strength of the source material carries this one. With a running time of almost five hours, this isn't the kind of anthology to watch in one sitting. Some of the shorts work best in isolation, while there are some options on the title menu to bring together similarly themed films to make viewing a little easier. There aren't any terribly weak moments, but there are some genuinely strange films that are harder to get through. Just like its predecessor, Animation Express 2 is light on extras, with just the trailer for the original collection. Why they, once again, didn't take the time to add some interviews or commentaries with the filmmakers is beyond me because there are definitely a few of the short films that would have benefitted from hearing the creator's insights. (Mongrel Media)