Monday, November 15, 2021


I've just returned from the wonderful Fancine Festival in Malaga, Spain - a festival that, like a lot of other cool festivals in Spain, showcases weird and fantasy films. 

One of the films I was anxious to see was "Cryptozoo", by Dash Shaw and his partner, Jane Samborski.  I had heard a lot about this film, it won a prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Films, which is something I've never been able to do. 

I remember seeing his first feature, "My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea", which I wasn't that impressed by - but perhaps he'd matured and developed a nice style, and become an accomplished film maker.  

But, in all honesty, I think "Cryptozoo" could rank with some of the great classics of all time, such as "The Room" by Tommy Wiseau and "Plan 9 from Outer Space" by Ed Wood Jr. Yes, it's that bad!  In my humble and critical opinion - it's the worst animated film I've ever seen.  Although it's a good idea and title, everything else fails.  The backgrounds are abstract shapes with bright neon colors that make it hard to find the characters.  

The characters themselves are badly designed, drawn and animated.  In fact, they change throughout the film. The story is truly fantastic - but with no clear or entertaining plot line.  Strange animals, or "cryptos" appear and disappear for no real reason.  And I can't really remember the plot at all.  

The sound and music are also badly designed and hard on the ears.  The stars of the film seem to be on some kind of mission, and there are soldiers as part of the party that continue to kill cryptos - the other members of the party seem to put up with them as they continue to try to SAVE cryptos. 

One of my issues with art and animation schools is their lack of any color education classes - and apparently Mr. Shaw never took any color design classes, because there's a hodgepodge of crazy psychedelic colors everywhere.  Maybe that's the charm of "Cryptozoo" - it's a STONER film!  Even the credits are hard to watch and understand. 

I remember when my first animated feature, "The Tune", was released, and Charles Solomon of the L.A. Times (the premiere voice of animation criticism) wrote a review that eviscerated the film, and that killed the release in L.A., and hence the U.S. as well.  So I know the power of bad reviews.  However, I'm not the L.A. Times and I have no influence at all.  

And I think maybe part of the reason for my negative reaction is the success of this film with distributors in the U.S. and Europe.  How did such a bad film get such great success?  I'm jealous!  How did this couple sell such a lame film to the world?  

I must congratulate anybody who is able to make an animated feature film - it's a very rigorous and tough business.  But please, Mr. Shaw and Ms. Samborski, go back to film school and learn some art.  

I'll report on the festival in Malaga next week.


Bill P. 

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