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HTF Blu-ray Review: Animation Express

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Todd Erwin, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer

    Apr 16, 2008
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    Animation Express

    Studio: Image Entertainment

    US DVD Release Date: June 8, 2010

    Theatrical Release Year: 2005-2009

    Rated: Not Rated

    Running Time: 221 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen

    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)

    Subtitles: English, French

    Movie: 4 out of 5

    Animation Express is a collection of 39 animated short subjects produced by the National Film Board of Canada between 2005 and 2009. Just about every animation style is on display here, simple pencil sketchings, traditional cel animation, stop motion, rotoscoping, 2D computer generated imagery, and 3D computer generated imagery. The majority of the films in this set have more of an artistic bent, showcases for the animators, and are not necessarily mainstream like the short subjects produced by the likes of Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky, or Dreamworks. Many of the themes explored in these films are death, isolation, addiction, illness, aging, war, love, and codependency. The films can be watched individually, by artist, by theme (Humour, Visual Delight, Social Issues, or For All).

    Chirs Landreth's Oscar winning Ryan is an eye-popping tribute to the late NFB animator Ryan Larkin, told in often disturbing 3D computer generated visuals that will stick with you long after the film is over.

    Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski's Oscar-nominated Madame Tutli-Putli is very much a stop motion masterpiece for its character animation alone. Their movements are eerily lifelike, as if they were actually human actors in heavy makeup, much of this achieved by the creation of their eyes.

    Jesse Rosensweet's Paradise is a real oddity, using tin toy puppets from the 1950s to tell the story of John (voiced by Dave Foley), a man so set in his routine he doesn't see his life passing him by.

    Pimp My Boat is a very funny send-up of MTV's Pimp My Ride, with Bubs and his gang remodeling an old fishing boat into a bachelor pad, much to the chagrin of the old fisherman. This is one of the few shorts on the disc that is only available in French with English subtitles.

    But there are shorts for the family, too.

    The Danish Poet is a charming tale of fated love, with a twist. Nightmare At School plays on the fears many children have of giving an oral presentation in class. Uncle Bob's Hospital Visit is a sweet tale of an old man's trip to the hospital after a heart attack and how it could change his life. Invasion of the Space Lobsters is the type of animated short that used to wind up on Saturday Night Live back in its infancy, as Space Lobsters land in suburban Canada, only able to speak in legalese and owner's manual English.

    There are many other great films on this disc (close to four hours worth), and I highly recommend checking all of them out.

    Video: 4 out of 5

    All of the shorts are presented here in 1080p video in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, using the AVC codec. The level of detail in many of the shorts is phenomenal. The textures of the fabrics in Madame Tutli-Putli and Subservience, the pencil lines in Sleeping Betty, the texture of the paper in At Home with Mrs. Hen are clearly visible. The colors truly pop without bleeding in Terra, HA'Aki, and The Real Place.

    Audio: 3.5 out of 5

    Although the back of the case lists the DTS-HD Master Audio logo, the disc only contains lossy Dolby Digital soundtracks. This is the second disc I've reviewed from the smaller labels that have included the wrong audio logo, and I assume the marketing department is working from a template that happens to include either the DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD logos. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks used on all but # of the films in this collection were encoded at 448 kbps, and sound very good. Fidelity is exceptional, and many of the films have a very engaging soundscape, taking full advantage of the discrete multi-channel audio. Pimp My Boat and The Real Place have Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround tracks encoded at 192 kbps.

    Special Features: 1 out of 5

    Although the packaging lists 13 of the films as bonus shorts, these shorts are not differentiated in the disc's menus. Four trailers are provided for additional DVD collections available from the National Film Board of Canada's website, Stories and Destinies, Volatile Materials, Mindtravel, and Seven to See. The trailers appear have been upscaled to 1080i in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and Stories and Destinies, in particular, has some major interlacing issues. It would have been nice to see some of the behind the scenes featurettes included for some of these shorts that are available (for a fee) on the NFB's website.

    Overall: 4 out of 5

    The National Film Board of Canada has a reputation of producing many outstanding animated shorts, and this collection, their first on Blu-ray, is no exception. While not all of the films in this collection are suitable for family viewing, there is plenty here to satisfy nearly everyone.


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