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Drawing parallels between the star films of Animania 2002!


The most telling thing about Animania 2002! is the ancestral line that can be traced from its earliest feature (1926's The Adventures of Prince Achmed) to its latest (last year's Waking Life). Both films take a near-minimalist approach to animation (cut-out silhouettes make up the former, dreamlike sketches the latter), and both have story lines that are secondary to their art.

In between is a series of films that serve as a snapshot of indie animation from the 20th century. Political satires, anime, and computer-generated flicks, as well as some nasty trends (the relentless bloodletting of Blood: The Last Vampire) and familiar friendly faces (Pixar's contribution to the Spike and Mike's 2001 Classic Festival of Animation compilation of shorts).

Curiously, it's the more traditional works that anchor the mini-festival. If Lotte Reiniger's Achmed seems a bit creaky by today's standards, check out last year's Oscar-winning short, "Father and Daughter" (part of the Spike and Mike compilation), which applies a similar straightforwardness to propel its narrative. There's not a whole lotta difference between them.

But Achmed's simple plot -- a telling of the Arabian Nights prince who battles an evil sorcerer -- and execution are a lifetime away from Blood: The Last Vampire's, in which an Air Force base is overrun by bloodsuckers. Plenty of red ink is applied to the super-slick animation, mostly in lieu of an actual story.

The real star of Animania 2002! is Don Hertzfeldt's hilarious "Rejected," which is included in both Spike and Mike and The Don and Bill Show: Slightly Bent anthology. Ostensibly a series of the filmmaker's commercials that were turned down, "Rejected" is a side-splitting take on extreme advertising. Crude stick figures lose body parts, spurt blood, and meet gruesome ends. In a way, it's a descendant of both Achmed's simplicity and Blood's excess.

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