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Jack Garner reviews It Came From Animatus!

Gannett film critic Jack Garner gave us a great write-up in today's Democrat & Chronicle. Both "It Came From Animatus" and "Skip's Pix" are available through the Animatus Store.



Cartoon fans can enjoy clever homegrown fun
Jack Garner
Democrat and Chronicle columnist

(December 2, 2004) — Animation from some of Rochester's most experienced filmmakers — Fred Armstrong, David Puls and the gang at Animatus Studios, and Rochester Institute of Technology professor Skip Battaglia — is now available on DVD, just in time for the holidays.

It Came From Animatus and Skip's Pix are in local shops and on the Internet. The two packages form a yin and yang of contemporary animation. It Came From Animatus offers rude, crude and brightly colored fun, while Skip's Pix displays intellectual, esoteric and deeply philosophical works. (However, neither is particularly designed for young children. We're not talking Disney here.)

It Came From Animatus ($19.95) showcases the three most prominent series of films from the Winthrop Street studio — three Derf the Viking shorts, two Su & Mo cartoons and seven Fresh Toones, which are short shorts, set to music, and among the most polished of the Animatus works.

Derf the Viking is the creation of studio founder and producer, Fred Armstrong. Derf is a likable if lazy fellow, a blend of Hagar the Horrible and Homer Simpson, as if reimagined by R. Crumb, and with a relentless determination to get into trouble that echoes the Road Runner. (Derf is Fred spelled backwards, and the Animatus crew says he bears more than a passing resemblance to Armstrong.)

Derf stars in three adventures, centered on rabid pursuit of food and booze and featuring a lot of the scatological humor and silliness that are staples of Farrelly brothers' movies. The 'toons are colorful and often clever. They combine crude homespun qualities with surprising sophistication, blending hand-drawn and computer animation styles.

Su & Mo are sumo wrestlers who double as Chippendale dancers in two gross-out cartoons, made in a purposely simplistic South Park cutout style.

My favorite Animatus films, though, are found among the Fresh Toones, especially True Believer, a brilliant, four-minute political satire about the danger of obsessive tyrants on the far right and far left throughout history.

Armstrong, Puls and head animator Mike Boas often work with students at Animatus, which shows in the informative and amusing commentary they contribute to one of the Derf 'toons.

Skip's Pix ($24.95) offers the eight key shorts from Battaglia's 24-year career, starting with his much-praised, award-winning Boccioni's Bike, a fast-paced study of acceleration as glimpsed through fragments of swift-moving, lightly sketched images.

Battaglia's works are experimental, often surrealistic and highly original. Parataxis (1980), for example, was the first film ever made with a Xerox machine, and Geologic Time (1989) details our globe's evolution in a stunningly minimalist and expressionist way.

My favorite from among the eight films remains How the Frog's Eye Sees (1984), which gives us a few minutes in a pond with an amphibian, as seen through his highly limited eyes, which only pick up sketchy echoes of movement.

Battaglia demonstrates his professorial style with instructive commentary options on each of the eight films.

Local DVD 'toons
Titles: It Came From Animatus and Skip's Pix.

Filmmakers: David Puls, Fred Armstrong and Skip Battaglia.

Available: At several area DVD, comic book and music outlets, and at the Animatus Web site.

Online: and

Jack's ratings:
With 10 as a must-see, It Came From Animatus rates 7
With 10 as a must-see, Skip's Pix rates 9

More write-ups of IT CAME FROM ANIMATUS:


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