Image Entertainment // 2007 // 221 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // June 8th, 2010
"Take a journey beyond your wildest imagination..."
Animation Express is a big two-disc collection of cartoons. I wouldn't leave the kiddies alone in front of it, but it's not adult in the same way as Family Guy. Instead, it's a grown-up collection of animated images that mixes themes such as war, pregnancy, working life, beheadings, and the language of bureaucracy with often experimental visuals. It's completely tasteful, yet potentially mind-blowing. Stateside viewers will notice a slightly different perspective, since this animation sampler comes from the National Film Board of Canada.
The two discs house twenty-six shorts:
* Madame Tutli-Putli
I've seen this Academy Award nominated short before on a Cinema 16 collection, and it's still good. Madame investigates when the train grinds to a halt.
* Forming Game/Jeu de Forme
It starts with a game and the pieces being laid out on the board. The pieces start to move in experimental animation ways.
A bow can make music -- or hunt animals -- in a short that looks like paintings come to life.
* Rosa Rosa
It's a story of pregnancy and war, with an abstract feeling that makes the war come home.
Struggles with an umbrella and the crowd at the bus stop are among the rainy day scenes.
Everything -- from a windshield view on a rainy night to a game of tennis -- becomes something else.
An elite man and an elite woman meet on a desolate landscape, but what do they do when the servants are gone?
* Spare Change
In Montreal, a bum can dream of seeking change outside the Pearly Gates or birds that make music with spare change.
* The Spine
Gordon Pinsent (Due South) lends his voice to a story of a group counseling session where the patients fall apart or take abstract shapes.
* L'Homme Qui Dort/The Man Who Slept
While the man sleeps, his wife dreams of passion with someone more awake.
* How People Got Fire
Rotoscoping adds verisimilitude to a story that blends an ancient myth of Native Canadians with scenes of modern village life.
* Robe de Guerre/Robes of War
A Muslim woman in prayer is juxtaposed with war scenes.
* Drux Flux
It's an industrial machine, growing faster and faster.
* Sleeping Betty/Isabelle Au Bois Dormant
Her mother is crying buckets, and father is rattling the bed. The king gets into the telephone booth to place a call to the prince. There's a strange whimsy to the visuals here. It won a Genie for best animated short.
* Le Noeud Cravate/The Necktie
It's the sort of gift you'd get from your mother as you enter the working world. An elevator as a metaphor for growing old in a soulless job is the highlight.
* Come Again in Spring
An elderly man is feeding birds when he gets a visit from Death. The man tells Death to come back in the spring so the birds won't starve.
Hockey, actually (this is Canada). Abstract animation means it's wilder than any hockey game you've ever seen -- even a Penguins game.
* Here and There
The narrator's life of moves between Montreal and France, thanks to her parents' divorce, is played out onscreen.
A runner just keeps going.
* Engine 371
It's a toy train, but it can engineer a lot of progress.
* Invasion of the Space Lobsters
As a mechanical engineer struggles to assemble a barbecue, the space lobsters land. And they speak English -- or at least jargon.
* Sainte Barbe
A grotesque-looking boy learns about the cycle of life.
A retro suburb populated by mechanical toys turns out not to be paradise.
* Vive La Rose
Fishing, logging, and love are set to music.
* Land of the Heads
A bride cuts off her head to slow down aging. She tries on new ones, against the wishes of their original owners.
Passengers cope with a runaway train.
There's dialogue, but many of these cartoons are carried by their visuals. The Chaplinesque humor is at its best in "The Necktie," but "Runaway," "Madame Tutli-Putli," and "Sleeping Betty" also make excellent examples of silent humor. Even with the narration in "Land of the Heads," I was most amused by its strange, humorous images. Elsewhere the wordless cartoons lead to a point, as in "Drux Flux" or "Engine 371," or just playful animation, as in "Retouches."
The more verbalized animation shows the same range. Of these, the ones I liked best were "How People Got Fire," where the mixed animation forms give full play to reality and legend, "Here and There," a sweet story about growing up that has the added attraction of showing off the locales where the narrator grew up, and "Come Again in Spring," which reflects on age, memory, and death.
The transfer looks good, although many of the animated shorts are purposely rough.
With twenty-six animated shorts, your favorites may vary, but anyone interested in animation or silent storytelling will find them all visually interesting. You can check many of these out for yourself online at National Film Board of Canada. While there's a chance you'll look at one or two and get your fill there, it's also quite possible you'll want to own Animation Express.
Not guilty, even though trains are only a major part of three of these -- counter to the title's implication.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 221 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* National Film Board of Canada
* IMDb: Madame Tutli-Putli
* IMDb: Hungu
* IMDb: Rosa Rosa
* IMDb: L'Ondee
* IMDb: Retouches
* IMDb: Spare Change
* IMDb: The Spine
* IMDb: L'Homme Qui Dort
* IMDb: How People Got Fire
* IMDb: Robe de Guerre
* IMDb: Drux Flux
* IMDb: Sleeping Betty
* IMDb: Le Noeud Cravate
* IMDb: HA'Aki
* IMDb: Sainte Barbe
* IMDb: Vive La Rose
* IMDb: Land of the Heads
* IMDb: Runaway