"Animation is typically deemed to be either for children or perverts," May says, only half-joking, from his office in North Hollywood. "We are firmly in the middle. Our show is for adults, based mostly on mature subject matter, but I wouldn't call this 'Fritz the Cat.' "
No kittens canoodling, to put it demurely, but this year's program of two-dozen-plus independent short films definitely takes a ribald tone. "The Animation Show," which has put together three previous feature-length collections, started in 2003 with Mike Judge of "Beavis and Butt-head" fame and Oscar-nominated animator Don Hertzfeldt curating, but this year finds Judge solely in control. Hertzfeldt, creator of the short "Rejected," is working on TV projects.
After last year's somber program, or, as May called it, "a dozen shorts on death," Judge and the producers wanted the show to play lighter and faster.
"This year we tried to focus more on comedy," Judge wrote in an e-mail. "This tour is like the midnight shows I loved to watch [at the International Tourneés of Animation] with a good mix of comedy and shorts that are visually amazing to look at on the big screen."
The sensibility for "The Animation Show 4," opening at the Nuart on Friday with Judge in attendance, is indeed very Judgian. Steve Dildarian's six-minute deadpan short, "Angry Unpaid Hooker," is a throwback to the "Beavis" days of crude animation, with ink-scratched hair and squawking mouths. No silky computer 3-D here.
"I drew 'Angry Unpaid Hooker' with a Bic pen, and then my girlfriend [Leynette Cariapa] added color in Photoshop," Dildarian said from his home in San Francisco. "I wanted it to look raw and wrong. It didn't look like someone who knew animation was involved."
Dildarian, who has worked extensively as a copywriter, most notably creating Budweiser's lizard and donkey ads, is now neck-deep in production on "The Life and Times of Tim," his animated HBO show debuting in September.
But even with a bigger budget and HBO's image as an arbiter of classy TV fare, Dildarian is preserving his messy, naive style. "We tried to hire people who don't have animation experience. . . . Once they start drawing too well, the perspective gets too accurate; it loses its soul."
It's relatively hard to get play for animation outside the festival circuit. But there is one exception: the Internet, where anything that whittles off two minutes of one's workday can turn into a sensation, given enough clicks.
"All of these new media outlets have made the short form incredibly popular again," Judge wrote. But a thumbnail image with tinny sound through earphones can't compete with the virtuosity of the theater. "Nothing replaces seeing this work on the big screen. . . . These films play differently when you see them projected with an audience."
'THE ANIMATION SHOW 4'WHERE: Landmark's Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles
WHEN: Mike Judge and Steve Dildarian in attendance, 7:30 and 9:50 p.m. Fri.; runs Fri.-next Thu.
INFO: (310) 281-8223, landmarktheatres.com