WATCHING THESE CARTOONS is a lot like watching boxing. Sure, there's the love of sport, competition, and endurance, but we really watch for the blood—to

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Blood and roses

Not your average Saturday morning cartoons.

WATCHING THESE CARTOONS is a lot like watching boxing. Sure, there's the love of sport, competition, and endurance, but we really watch for the blood—to see some thick-faced bubba get juiced up like a grapefruit. With nary a cuss word to be heard, the Classic Festival may be cleaner than the duo's Sick & Twisted Festival (which launched the parent-shocking South Park series), but it still lands like a big one-two against the glass-jawed sweetness of Disney-style animation.

Don Hertzfeldt's Billy's Balloon is perhaps the most violent, with sicker humor than a baby-in-a-blender joke. A red balloon beats up a little kid, chokes him, drags him, and repeatedly lifts him up to the clouds and drops him. (Tip: Don't bring any new parents to see this.) The Slamdance award-winning cartoon is as perversely enjoyable as watching Wile E. Coyote being pushed off a cliff, his foot attached to an anvil.

Spike and Mike's Classic

Festival of Animation

plays October 8-21 at Varsity

The anger-fueled Sientje by Dutch animator Christa Moesker is about a little girl who gets sent to her room after a quarrel with her parents. With her face constantly screwed into a frown, Sientje kicks everything in her room and does a Samsonite gorilla routine on her teddy bear. Then, before she catches her breath, she grows to the size of Godzilla and proceeds to stomp all the grown-ups dead. Yeah!

SUCH VITRIOL WOULD be a bore if it weren't matched by skilled animation. Fortunately, the festival includes filmmakers who are apparently visual artists first and foremost, telling their stories through color, design, and movement. With 17 short films jam-packed into roughly 80 minutes, the showcase is a mixed bag, but offers a few stunners. The Academy Award-winner Balance by Christophe and Wolfgang Lauenstein of Germany shows five men standing on a floating platform. When one person moves, another must compensate for the shifting weight to keep the platform from see-sawing. Things are fine until a mysterious box is introduced and the men vie for ownership at the risk of tipping everyone off the platform. And The Queen's Monastery by British animator Emma Calder tells a doomed love story with Modigliani-like watercolor figures that move with the graceful fluidity of ballerinas. By any standards, both of these are beautiful, elegant works—but you aren't going to see Spike and Mike's for that, are you?

 
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