When most people think of animation, they think of Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Shrek, but the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival’s Saturday evening Animation Lollapalooza aimed to dispel that misconception, showing a surprisingly adult selection including a meth-fueled teen sexuality, the systematic massacre of bubble-wrap bubbles, and a funny, amusing series about a girl trying to lose her virginity.
The animated shorts, selected and presented by Bill Plympton, a well-known cartoonist and animator (twice nominated for Academy Awards), were chosen to expand viewers’ perceptions about the themes animated pieces can explore.
“When people think of animation, they think of Disney — I wanted to show something fresh, something Tim Burton-ish,” said Mr. Plympton, referring to the director of such darkly amusing classics as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice.
Patrick Smith, an animator who teaches at Pratt Institute, added, “Most of us [animators] have been fighting the fluffy nice stuff in animation. Where is the Godfather or Goodfellas of animation?”
Mr. Smith’s piece, Puppet, features a man whose smiling hand-puppet turns evil. Cartoon violence ensues.
Another stand-out series came from Signe Bauman, an animatrix of prodigious skill and wit. Her contributions were episodes from a project called Teat Beat of Sex, which examines youthful sexual blunderings from a feminine perspective. Each takes off at a frenetic pace, with the images contrapuntally complementing Ms. Bauman’s words.
“I love to play with words,” Ms. Bauman said. “My background is in illustration, and I hate when the text does the same thing as the pictures. I try to give extra information, I try to shake up the brain.” Indeed, in each 80-second animation, she has approximately 30 cuts, each one representing a separate visual joke or pun.
Her pieces come with a warning: Explicitly Educational. When asked if she would consider distributing them to schools to be part of a sex education curriculum, Ms. Bauman replied, “Oh, that would be my dream of course! To open people’s minds. It would be rubbing sex education in Sarah Palin’s face,” she said, referring to the Republican Vice Presidential pick who favors abstinence only sex ed programs.
Another crowd favorite was Fantasie in Bubble-Wrap, by Arthur Metcalf, a series of short vignettes featuring cute, piccolo-voiced bubbles of plastic who contemplate their mortality in the face of the senseless slaughter (popping) of their brethren.
More controversial, was A Letter to Colleen, in which a cynical narrator recalls his first sexual encounter in lurid, unflinching detail.
A more tame crowd pleaser was titled Western Spaghetti, by PES, in which everyday objects become pasta meals; a Rubik’s Cube is chopped like garlic, yarn shredded as Parmesan, and pick-up sticks serve as noodles.
Mr. Plympton’s work rounded out the evening; first came Hot Dog, the tale of an animal whose best intentions to douse fires only fuels worse conflagrations, and the world premiere of Mexican Standoff, a music video for the band Parson Brown. Both showcased his sense of humor and love of elastic characters with spindly limbs.
In all, the Lollapalooza was a rousing success; Richard Paradise, one of the festival’s co-directors, felt as if his trust in Mr. Plympton’s curatorial taste had paid off, saying, “We got to see a great diversity of style, tone, and subject matter — you can have funny, dark, light, documentary, all wrapped up in one program.”