British Animation Awards 2012 (part 1)
British Animation Awards 2012 (part 3)

British Animation Awards 2012 (part 2)

Brixton, THE FUTURE. As seen in 'Robots of Brixton', obviously.I've already explained what's going on here in part 1, but here's a quick recap. The British Animation Awards have a special section each bi-year called the Public Choice Awards, in which three programmes of short films are sent around the UK so that a general audience can vote for their favourites. You've missed those programmes, unfortunately, as they were touring in late January and early February 2012. But you can read what I thought about them here, and watch out for the official announcement of the winners on March 15th.

So, here we go with Programme 2.

We start off with a couple of films that, once again, I've already seen thanks to the splendid animation programmes at the London Film Festival. Wallpaper (Fiona Geilinger), which I reviewed in 2011, is more video art than animation, but has the good sense to get its point across with the minimum of dead time. The Boy Who Wanted to be a Lion (Alois Di Leo), which I reviewed in 2010, still impresses with its impressionistic sound design and the unexpected bleakness of its punchline. The first film in this programme that's new to me is therefore Remembering Formby (Sue Elliott), a biography of the stick man who appears in all the road safety signs. It's not an original comic idea, but there's plenty of visual invention that takes his story into unexpected areas. It's then followed by another one I saw last yearBeing Bradford Dillman (Emma Burch) - a film that's much less disturbing second time round, because this time we didn't get the introduction from the animator claiming it was autobiographical.

Next up come the music videos, and they're a much more satisfying collection than the ones seen in the first programme. Loose Fit: Table Beggar (Abbie Stephens) features a central character who's been removed from the film one frame at a time. Again, it's not a new idea - take, for example, a short by Naomi Uman that I reviewed in 2000 called Removed - but the sheer physicality of the character's absence, torn edges and all, is curiously effective and affecting. DeVotchKa: 100 Other Lovers (Chloe Rodham) is a more traditional stop-motion piece with a digital twist, which stands out thanks to its incredibly bold use of colour. And London Elektricity: Round the World in a Day (David Gilbert & Maxim Lucas) takes us back into funny animal territory again, but throws a huge amount of energy into its chase story, and tops it off with a delightfully stupid ending.

Robots of Brixton (Kibwe Tavares) brings the audience back to earth with a bump after all the music video froth. Initially, Tavares' futuristic reimagining of the streets of Brixton just looks like a technical achievement, albeit a spectacular one: but as the film progresses and its subtext becomes apparent, it turns into some sort of minor masterpiece. Still, we're back to the funny stuff again fairly quickly with Get Well Soon: Tarrant (Bill Elliott): another of 12foot6's amusing visualisations of other people's misfortunes, its in-shot microphone a blatant nod to the Aardman interview films that, shall we say, inspired the series. This one's most notable for its rebranding of a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? pub trivia machine as 'a Tarrant'. We stay in the pub for Out on the Tiles (Anna Pearson), a carefully observed and hilariously grotesque study of the things we do in toilets when we're drunk. (No, not just women.)

Tempo: Bike (Vida Vega) opens up the commercial section of this programme, and neatly uses the product it's advertising (tissues) as its primary medium for a sweet half-minute story. The story of Knife Crime Animation (Vicki Haworth & Harriet Buckley) is less brief and much less sweet, but it needs to be told, and the animation style they've chosen exploits its urban setting to maximum effect. (Like mathematics, animation is at its best when you show your working.) Radioshack: Big Trip (12foot6) obviously only exists because the client asked the animators "can you make us something like those Dog Judo cartoons you do?", but luckily it's a visual gag that never grows old, or at least hasn't done yet. 

But all the ads seen in the Public Choice selections so far are blown out of the water by Nokia: Dot (Sumo Science). For the first 75 seconds, it's an inventive, beautifully conceived chase sequence, which puts its leading character through all manner of gigantic trauma. But that's about the point where you realise that you haven't, as yet, been told what the product is that's being advertised. The final reveal of that detail - and how it ties into what you've seen already - elevates this to greatness, even before you discover that it's a Record Breaker.

There are two more narrative shorts to wrap up the programme. Eagleman Stag (Mike Please) takes a little too long to make its point about the flexibility of time - unless that's part of the point itself, of course. But there's plenty to like here, from the crisp monochrome style to the dry narration. Finally, we have A Morning Stroll (Grant Orchard), which was one of the nominees for this year's Best Animated Short Oscar - although to be honest, the critical momentum behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore made that film as much a certainty for the prize as The Artist was for Best Picture. Orchard's film doesn't have the same up-front GIVE ME AWARDS NOW scope of Lessmore, but its smart reworking of a simple story across multiple time periods makes it satisfyingly epic in its own little way.

More animation will follow in the third and final part of this review. There's a catch, though...


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