Home > Uncategorized > A weekend of cartoons – Animation Nation 2008

A weekend of cartoons – Animation Nation 2008

Animation Nation 2008 is an annual festival that showcases animation from around the world. This year, they’ve got stuff from America, Japan, East Europe. Aardman Studios of Wallace and Gromit fame put in an appearance and workshop as well.

I watched three films — Dead Space, Fear of the Dark (with Berni’s Doll) and Freedom Project — out of the entire lot. Perhaps it’s just me and lousy luck, but I wasn’t all that impressed.

Typical ET. Here’s my breakdown of the films:

Dead Space prologues EA’s third-person shooter SF Horror game of the same title. It’s about a spaceship that’s been taken over by dead humans who were forcibly mutated into ravenous zombies with funny-looking but sharp appendages. No prizes for guessing what you’re supposed to do in the game! 

And with all shooting games, players expect plenty of bullets, energy weapons, butt-ugly monsters and things that blow up in the most horrible ways. Well, the movie delivers on that account.

There was this one scene — a human security guard (yup, they’ve got security guards in space as well) was sliced into two with a Light Saber-like chainsaw. The halves of her body as they — the halves —

Dead Space game trailer. It’s freakier than the movie.

flopped onto the floor were anatomically correct, as viewed from the inside.

That’s the only good thing about it as the story sucks! Dead Space is a blatant mash-up of Alien, Resident Evil and Warhammer 40K. There’s the phallic-looking alien artifact (Alien); move-at-a-blur tiny monsters (ditto Alien, think Face Hugger); chomped-on humans who get turned by flying manta rays into zombie monsters (Resident Evil sans flying Manta Rays); and a nutty rock-worshipping cult with political and military clout (all space-faring religious militants reek of Warhammer 40K’s Imperium of Man).

Admissions might be free, but badly-done prologues simply kill any flavour that the game might have.  

Fear of the Dark Trailer

Fear of the Dark (with Berni’s Doll) is a French animation anthology on things that go bump in the night. Some of which are took it literally like Charles Burn’s creepy artwork about a school kid who was turned into a giant cocoon for pray-mantis like insects. Others riffed off themes of paranoia and suspicion that comes when you can’t see your hand infront of your face. For example, there’s a story where shapes morph in and out of the screen, and accompanied by a voice-over listing all her insecurities. In another story, a burglar locks himself in a room when he goes through the deserted house in search of its head-chopping mistress.

The anthology’s premise was quite promising but it failed to horrify with its draggy and sometimes, inconclusive stories. Even the Charles Burns’ story would be better off as a comic book than as an animated film. However, the animations were gorgeous; especially when you consider how light, angles, shading were used in each short.

Berni’s Doll Trailer

On the other hand, I enjoyed Berni’s Doll by Yann Jouette. This satire about a lonely Cat Food worker who buys a woman piecemeal for sex, housekeeping and a night out at the cinema is a priceless commentary on the uninspiring way that we live, and what monsters we can be to those that give us joy. The shennigans that Berni gets himself into with his armless, legless and headless woman body is brilliant! I loved the dystopian Brazil feel and bizarre cat food catching method. Heh… It raised a chuckle out of me, and I think it’ll do the same for you as well.

Watch the entire film (about 11 minutes) on Qoob (Warning: graphic scenes of limbless and headless sex).

Freedom Project is my choice of anime. The other anime looked quite happy, happy, joy, joy. Much too happy for me. Also, what caught my eye was that Katsuhiro Otomo — creator of Akira — was on the project as well. Since I enjoyed Akira (Japanese trailer on YouTube), I thought "why not?", bought my ticket and went to Fusionopolis Gennix Theatre. Man. They screened all seven episodes of Freedom Project at one sitting for a total of four hours! No wonder they had to start at 4pm!

Freedom Project Trailer

Set in the far future where the Earth is rendered inhospitable by war and mutant octopi. The last bastion of humanity lies in the Lunar colony, Eden, originally a rest stop before going onto Mars. In Freedom, a Lunar boy — Tekura — discovers by chance that Earth is alive and well via a photo of a pretty lady with a message behind it. Infatuated with the girl, Tekura defies Eden’s authorities — who want to keep all knowledge of Earth’s recovery secret — and steals a rocket to go back to Earth. He finds her and adjusts to life on Earth.

But what else is there after Earth? Why, go back to the Moon of course!

I was hooked on the story. But at this point, it started to totter and putter around.

Tekura, with his Earth-born girlfriend in tow, makes his way back the Moon. Gets captured, gets turned loose. Gets a splinter group of people to go back to Earth with gifts of technology, seedlings and animal dna. But he stays behind to argue with Eden’s authorities that we, Earth or Moon-born, are really the same. In the end, he goes back to Earth with news that Mars will be terraformed and the expedition is on their way out.

That’s where it breaks down. Firstly, with the implausible inaction of Eden’s authorities who simply let them all go, even though they had weapons and knew that Tekura was threat to society. Secondly, everyone in the series made long-winded, overly-moralistic speeches! Is that a typical Japanese ending?  To make long-winded speeches, with glistening tears, and miraculously the enemy becomes a friend! It sure seems like it from all the anime that I’ve watched so far!

Arggghhh!!! It doesn’t make sense!!! But when taken together with gravity-defying anime boobs, it all seems to make sense — vaguely.

Freedom Project Opening Sequence

Animation-wise, it’s very similar to Akira. Even the Lunar Terrain Vehicles that the characters use are reminiscent of Kaneda’s funky red motorcycle. And the characters could have been dead-ringers for some bit parts in Akira.

Oh, check out the opening sequence. Amazing graphics aside, the catchy song is best listened with headphones full on — "This is Love" by Utada Hikaru (listen on Imeem).

Fun stuff: Freedom Project was commissioned by Nissim Cup Noodles for their 35th Anniversary. That’s why everyone was eating cup noodles and sprouting taglines all over the place. Watch for it. It’s hilarious! Especially when they’re talking Advertisish!!

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