These days, we don't get animated short subjects before a film. We get animated short subjects instead of the film -- grab-bag collections of them, unspooling before our eyes like the late-night thoughts of a lunatic. The Animation Show, which was put together by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt, is a new entry in the loony-toon sweepstakes, doing its bit to remind us of the wild and wacky work that's being done outside the commercial mainstream. Tired of those Nickelodeon promos? Check out Hertzfeldt's Oscar-nominated "Rejected," in which his trademark stick figures do everything in their power to chase away viewers of the Family Learning Channel, the conceit being that these are promos the fictitious network commissioned, then refused to air. Or try "Billy's Balloon," also by Hertzfeldt, in which a child is pummeled, strangled and dropped from a great height by a malicious balloon.
An eclectic mix, The Animation Show features recent Oscar nominees, a couple of classics (including an excerpt from 1957's "Mars and Beyond," Disney's speculations about life on the Red Planet) and some brand-new material by Hertzfeldt to open and close the show. Judge, who's since hit it big with "Beavis and Butt-head" and "King of the Hill," is represented by some early work that anticipates both shows. There's also an early work by Aardman Animations, makers of Wallace and Gromit -- a film "of masks and weird goings on," according to the press material. "Weird goings on" pretty well describes all the films, and although, when it comes to such collections, one man's meat is another's man's poison, I'd like to mention that I particularly enjoyed Tim Burton's 1982 German-expressionistic film "Vincent." A young boy who looks a lot like Burton pretends he's Vincent Price. Weirdness ensues.
Opening this week: The Animation Show, Big Fish, Chasing Liberty, House of Sand and Fog, My Baby's Daddy, Taking Sides.