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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

The Animation Show (Volumes 1 & 2) (**)
The Animation Show This is a collection of short animated films, many of them award winning, some of them science fiction, most of them disappointing.

The problem is that they develop one idea at length, without any surprises. For example, in "Billy's Balloon," by Don Hertzfeldt, balloons attack kids. It's a cute idea, and reasonably well executed, with stick figure drawings. But it starts out with a balloon attacking a kid and finishes up with a lot of balloons attacking a lot of kids. There is no conflict -- the kids can't or don't fight back -- and no resolution. In short, it is an idea without a story.

Similarly, "The Cathedral" by Tomek Baginski, is about a knight who enters a grove of trees resembling a cathedral. The trees have entwined and trapped a large number of people. The trees entwine and trap the knight. The End. Pretty art. No conflict. No story.

A lot of people worked very hard on very low budgets to create these films. I wish the results were more entertaining.

Almost all of the cartoons are aggressively ugly. They are stories about ugly people and ugly animals, living pointless ugly lives. In that, they resemble a lot of comic books which have recently received some critical praise.

I'm not sure what to call these comic books, so I'll coin the phrase "overground comics." They are badly drawn and illustrate the everyday life of shallow, boring people. They often get reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. Superficially, these comics resemble Love and Rockets -- but the characters in Love and Rockets came alive. Los Bros Hernandez cared about their characters, and so did the reader. In the new overground comics, it is clear that the artist/writer considers himself in a position to look down on the common herd and their petty, tawdry lives.

The same is true in most of these animated shorts. In real life, I don't know anybody that boring. Maybe I've just been lucky enough to have interesting friends.

There are a few pretty good cartoons in the collection, and one I would rank as very good. "Rockfish," by Blur Studio and Tim Miller, is actually a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It is science fiction, about a man and his pet and a monster. The action is fast, the details convincing. Watch it if you get a chance.

But it is not worth buying the whole DVD to see that one cartoon.

Copyright © 2007 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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