Back in the old days, moviegoers used to get a cartoon before every movie. A lot of the classic Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Droopy, Popeye, Superman & Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons that many of us grew up watching on TV were once savored on the big screen. Eventually filmmakers began cranking out cartoons much more cheaply for television, and it was the end of an era -- almost. In recent years, Spike & Mike's touring cartoon festival has been a big success and other cartoon festivals have joined in. Earlier this year the five Oscar-nominated animated shorts opened in theaters, although together they ran nearly two hours. The new The Animation Show 4 collects some 18 shorts and series and runs less than 90 minutes. (See official site.)
Curator Mike Judge, the gentleman behind "Beavis & Butthead" and "King of the Hill," is definitely a man who likes his cartoons to get to the point, and so the three longest shorts here run about 7 minutes apiece. Steve Dildarian's Angry Unpaid Hooker is one of them. When his girlfriend arrives home early, Tim has trouble explaining the angry unpaid hooker sitting on his couch. The befuddled Tim will go on to star in his own series, "The Life and Times of Tim." Another epic is This Way Up, from the team of Smith & Foulkes. In it, a pair of long-faced morticians (father and son?) carries a sarcophagus to its final resting place, attempting to keep the box upright despite cruel fate's best attempts to knock it down. Stefan Mueller's Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen and Mr. Horlocker, from Germany, is the other "long" one. A cop investigates some noisy neighbors in an apartment building, but can't quite get the entire story until the same scenes are played out again, behind closed doors. This features the greatest cinematic drug trip since James Toback's Harvard Man.