NZIFF animation line-up 'disappointing'

Last updated 12:00 29/07/2013
ANIMATION STATIONS: Oh Willy ... is a part of the film festival's Animation Now.

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I always, always go to see Animation Now at the New Zealand Film Festival. A new programme of animated shorts is chosen every year, and there is usually something that will spark you. It's like a packet of concentrated inspiration for anyone who is remotely creative.

Pure ideas are explored on the screen, without the constraints of the real bodies of real actors, or real landscapes, or real three-dimensional space. It's solid imagination, and it's the imaginations of multiple talented animators on display within one session.

That being said, this year's programme was slightly disappointing for me. Many of the inclusions were too abstract for my taste, and they seemed to be chosen for their complexity as animation, rather than their appeal to a broad audience.

I'm sure professional animators will marvel at how long it must take, and how difficult it must be, to achieve some of the work included here. In particular, one piece animated entirely on a pinboard seemed madly accomplished, from a technical perspective, but to non-animators, difficulty is not always the same as quality.

In previous years there have been stand-outs. For instance, I'm still reliving the brilliant NZ short Abiogenesis, and Finnish entry Swarming from last year's programme. In fact, the 2012 programme was so conceptually rich that I regretted not taking a notepad, and emerged with hands and arms covered in ballpoint notes instead. But this year, nothing struck me.

There were some neat images: drawn dancers' bodies morphing into skeletons, into birds, into each other; nudist puppets wandering in a fibrous forest; a mother swallowing her own hair to fill the womb left empty by a lost child; a body caving into brightly coloured sand. But ultimately, there was no one piece which left me gobsmacked.

I'll still keep going back for more, because Animation Now is like Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates. But this year, the box was heavy on turkish delight. Some will love it, but it's not for me.

See it: if you understand animation well enough to appreciate the technical brilliance of this year's selection.

Skip it: if you value clear story over abstraction.

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