- ZF Team
Zippy Frames presents 10 contemporary animation shorts to stream on the Criterion Channel.
There are old gems, like Karel Zeman's Journey to the Beginning of Time (1965, Czechoslovakia) and John Hubley's animation shorts like The Hole (1962), Moonbird (1959), plus the Oscar-awarded Neighbors by Norman McLaren (1952) at the animation offerings of the Criterion Channel.
For this short tribute, we picked up 10 recent independent animation shorts made since 2000 -and we dared to exclude David Lynch's animation shorts (who needs a tribute of his own). But there are names that still need to be widely heard and have contributed (and most of them will certainly continue to contribute) to the art of independent animation filmmaking.
So, here are our top picks.
In chronological order:
El Doctor, Suzan Pitt (US, 2006)
This is the film that puts the (so timid) Pixar's Coco to shame. The late Suzan Pitt knows her way in expanding the gallantly episodic script by Blue Kraning of a failed and drunk Mexican doctor into a visual feast of the always decaying, but never fully destroyed humanity. Everyone has their own emptiness to fill in; and the variety of things coming in and out of bodies is as entertaining as inventive. The light surrealism that Pitt invests her Mexican necessarily underperforming surroundings with and the stereotype mocking she gently performs (drunk Mexican doctors are not depressed but still happy doctors) makes it a non-stop sweet adventure into the birth, sickness and death -in reverse order. - Vassilis Kroustallis (VK)
The Pub, Joseph Pierce (UK, 2012)
A black-and-white tour de force into a North London pub environment, which gradually reveals its grotesquely unfamiliar character -in its various animal manifestations. The melting pot of a pub is intense, vulgar and sensitive at the same time, and Joseph Pierce's aesthetics circumscribe the interface between reality and dreaming - a terrain as terrifying as (at times) comforting - VK
Teeth, Daniel Gray and Tom Brown (United Kingdom, 2015)
Obsession, perfection and self-destruction go hand-in-hand in Teeth, a Dorian Gray portrait of a person whose teeth preoccupation makes him forget how to live. Yet it has to be said in the maiin character's favor that the visuals of the things he so much cares about are rigorous, almost inviting to watch and marvel at. Daniel Gray and Tom Brown direct the morbid parable with panache and precision - VK
Superbia, Luca Tóth (Czech Republic, 2016)
There are rules and breaking of rules in the archetypal context of Superbia, a land where strong women are visibly separated by the weak but musically cultivated men, and the Milk River keeps the two genders apart. In true Romeo & Juliet fashion, two characters defy the norms, and another female character needs to find her own adventure. Inverting the gender stereotypes, but also showing the powerlessness of revenge politics, Superbia is a film to be enjoyed in its grand scope (still the student film by Hungarian director Luca Tóth), lavish but symbolic details, and the pertinent world it creates in 2D animation. It is a complete experience - VK
Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs), Chris Shepherd (UK, 2017)
Chris Shepherd directs a Joe Orton homage and an animation documentary of Orton's letter of complaints (signed: Edna Welthorpe). The visuals literally tell more (exciting, dramatic) stories than the letter themselves, and provide the best counterpart to the film's tongue-in-cheek subject-matter. A love letter to letter writing as well -VK
Good Intentions, Anna Mantzaris (UK, 2018)
The story of how can guilt make a whole puppet feel invisible -and its consequences. Anna Mantzaris crafts her drama of a car accident in a meticulously escalating way, set in a gray environment where human care is absent. Good Intentions is a slice of the lack of self-assurance going terribly wrong -and hurting other people as well, in a fascinating storytelling process - VK
Pussy, Renata Gąsiorowska (Poland 2016)
A very sweet and humorous short film, in which a young woman decides to spend the evening pleasuring herself at home. This is a highly imaginative film, with playful imagery and a refreshing approach to depicting sex and bodily function. The design style evokes a sense of the desire and exploration of youth, with fluid transformations and a suggestively joyous line boil - Joseph Norman
Solar Walk, Réka Bucsi (Denmark, 2017)
Solar Walk by Hungarian director Réka Bucsi is not an 'experimental animation' film per se Divided into concrete chapters, it uses the narrative of a human journey to describe genesis, growth and decay in a single day. Giving her characters time to develop and learn, Bucsi proceeds at a leisurely but steadfast pace. The film makes a potent case for a universe which really can be recreated at will -if you really try - VK
Acid Rain, Tomek Popakul (Poland, 2019)
As usual in the Polish animation director's films, time has its own pace, but the 26-minute short won't rest its laurels in just a fanciful map of hallucinations -hence, it becomes more interesting as time passes by. Acid Rain is a carefully developed example of what happens when you're trying to retrieve yourself from misery. The story has been told many times before, but its execution here drives the audience along its rain-filled trip. Not a 'anything experimental goes' animation short; here it matters not what the characters see and experience for themselves, but what they cannot take it any more.. - VK
Kapaemahu, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson (US, 2020)
Kapaemahu is one of those happy, calculated accidents in independent animation where synthesis matters. Far from being a sole auteurist film, it gives the impression that all creative spirits, from the storyteller and narrator (Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu) to its co-directors and animation director and chant composer, want and succeed to tell the same story in a unified and multiply enriched way. Kapaemahu is a thoughtful film about connecting the past to the future, inviting understanding, and executed in a uniquely empathetic way. -VK