Watching Sunday night cartoons

These are not the cartoons you grew up with. They’re artistic, twisted, tragic, sadistic and at times as funny as they are beautiful.

Robert May, one of the producers of “The Animation Show,” explains that the two creators of the festival, Mike Judge of Beavis and Butt-Head fame and Don Hertzfeldt known for “Rejected” and “Billy’s Balloon,” wanted to showcase the short-films they felt were left out of the mainstream. These are films created by animators whose dreams never included the next blockbuster Disney princess movies.

The animated shorts are as diverse in medium as they are in subject. From stick figures to CGI, from a down-on-his-luck guide dog to a pair of children that encounter a tiny troll that makes diamonds out of flies, the films are carefully chosen to balance each other out and to keep the audience as entertained and in awe as possible.

The festival features an opening introduction by Beavis and Butt-Head and an incredible Hertzfeldt film with his trademark dark humor and experimental animation. Hertzfeldt is the man who garnered an Academy Award Nomination for a cartoon consisting of stick figures (“Rejected”) in 2000, which speaks volumes for his style and design. There are a number of foreign films, especially from the UK,

The people behind the “Show,” May said, talk to art schools around the world and track down short films with impressive showings at other festivals. In addition to directly asking to use films they’ve found compelling, the “Show” accepts submissions from anyone in nearly any form ranging from VHS to a video posted on a Web site. Unlike many film festivals there is no fee for entry and the “Show” pays licensing fees for any market where they program the shorts. Amidst the thousands of shorts received, the “Show” whittles it down to just enough for about an hour and a half show. People seem antsy after 90 minutes of any animated film, May said.

In addition to the film, the festival often includes VJ’s – video jockeys – mixing music to animation and vice versa, Q&A sessions with the directors and giveaways for contests and door prizes. The multi-faceted approach to showcasing the shorts is all part of Judge and Hertzfeldt’s idea of bringing creative and different animation out into the open, releasing the films from the obscurity of art school classrooms and YouTube.com feeds. Their plan seems to be working.

After the demise of Cartoon Sushi and Liquid Television on MTV in the mid-90s, there was little place for non-Spongebob animators to go to have their work put on display.

While the two shows were a launching pad for many artists of the time, since then there has been a void in the popular media that has been scarcely made up for by major film festivals, which usually offer little focus on animation, and the occasional Sundance Channel showcase. However, now in its third run since it began in 2003, “The Animation Show” has made a deal with MTV2 to broadcast its selections to the premium cable-owning masses. May said the whole production group is very excited by the opportunity to help expose animators to the American public.

While many animated shorts have found some life on the Internet, May is quick to point out that the experience is not at all the same, as many, if not all, of the films being showcased this Sunday at Lisner were intended for theater screens and the sound quality for many of the shorts is vital for the full effect. As much as “The Animation Show” is an opportunity for the artists to have their work shown, it is a chance for audiences ranging from film buffs to kids whose last independent cartoon memory is “Frog Baseball.”

Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Lisner Auditorium at GW University.

Tickets are $11 and available at the University box office or through

ticketmaster.com.

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