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Kobe Bryant Sports Love Letter And Other Animated Shorts

A love letter from basketball star Kobe Bryant to the sport that shaped his life is just one of the highlights of The 19th Animation Show Of Shows.

Never heard of this annual animated shorts program? Since 1998, curator Ron Diamond has checked out the newest animated shorts at film festivals around the world. Out of an estimated 1000 short films seen in a year, Diamond chooses over one dozen shorts for his show. Student films to professional animators’ work, object animation to computer animation: all of this is fair game for Diamond.

Earlier Animation Show of Shows audiences consisted of professional animators at such American studios as Pixar and DreamWorks. Not only did those showings expose these busy professionals to their artistic colleagues’ new work, but the showings even provided occasional bits of creative inspiration.

Successful annual Kickstarter campaigns starting in 2015 helped expand the Animation Show of Shows’ audience. Now general audiences across the U.S., whether in movie theaters or college campuses, can see what was previously shown only to industry professionals. Post-Kickstarted shows have introduced new audiences to such animated gems as Pearl, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, and World Of Tomorrow. Now the aforementioned short featuring a Kobe Bryant voiceover can be added to this list.

That short is Dear Basketball, animated by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane. Kobe Bryant reflects back on a life of loving and playing basketball. Keane’s images show similarities in Bryant’s joy between shooting a sock ball into a trash can and making a slam dunk before a packed arena. Even non-fans of Kobe Bryant may be left at the end with a lump in their throats.

Dear Basketball joins fifteen other animated shorts on the 2017 Animation Show of Shows program. Personal favorites are:

Can You Do It–French director Parallel (aka Quentin Baillieux) adapted the titular Charles X song into a dazzling 3D/2D animated music video. A horse race along a city’s highways provides an occasion for celebrating the diversity of city life. The catchy Motown-like hooks of Charles X’s song made it a natural for the trailer for this year’s Animation Show Of Shows.

Casino–Veteran avant-garde animator Steven Woloshen has made a career out of drawing his images directly onto film stock. That technique works to great effect in a series of minimal yet telling images evoking the atmosphere of a busy casino.

Gokurosama–This entertaining farce set in a Japanese shopping mall comes from the French student team of Clementine Frere, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, and Romain Salvini. A shopping mall’s order slowly slides into chaos thanks to an old woman’s back problem. As in all good farces, the humor is exquisitely timed and fearlessly ridiculous.

Hangman–ASIFA-Hollywood helped fund this restoration of Paul Julian and Les Goldman fifty-year-old adaptation of Maurice Ogden’s poem. It shows what happens when a town prefers to respond with silence to a hangman’s reign of arbitrarily killing the town’s residents. The short’s message of “resist” is communicated without need for broadcasting it.

My Burden–Niki Lindroth van Bahr’s Annecy Grand Prix winner shows you can make a tragi-comic musical about working the night shift. What sets van Bahr’s short apart is the use of funny animals to capture these everyday tragedies. Salmon sing of having terrible skin. Fast food worker mice tap dance while cleaning up the restaurant. And wait till you meet the call center monkeys!

Next Door–Pixar director Pete Docter’s entertaining student short involves a kid and a grumpy adult neighbor. The adult is a man who wants to sink into zombiehood. The kid is a loud and very imaginative little girl. The girl’s playtime penetrates the man’s shell with surprising results.

Even if the abovementioned shorts don’t do it for you, there are enough offerings in this cinematic anthology that something will resonate with you.

(Screenings of The 19th Animation Show Of Shows moves to the Grand Lake Theatre and the Smith Rafael Film Center for one week starting December 8, 2017.)

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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