COSTA MESA — Recent shorts by British animators dominate the new "Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation" (opening today at the Edwards Mesa Cinema in Costa Mesa), including Nick Park's "The Wrong Trousers," which won the Academy Award for animated short earlier this year, and two other Oscar nominees: "Blindscape" by Stephen Palmer and Mark Baker's "The Village."
"Wrong Trousers" continues the misadventures of Wallace, the genially befuddled inventor, and his shrewd dog, Gromit, from Park's Oscar-nominated "A Grand Day Out." A clever spoof of '40s detective movies, "Trousers" pits the resourceful Gromit against the sinister penguin jewel thief "Feathers" McGraw.
Park set a new standard for subtle animation of stop-motion clay figures in his previous Oscar-winner, "Creature Comforts." The often hilarious expressions he gives Gromit represent a refinement of his technique.
The other Oscar nominees look less impressive.
In "Blindscape," Palmer uses nicely rendered, colored pencil drawings to suggest the images created by sounds in the mind of a blind man, but the film suffers from a weak story and uncertain tone.
"The Village," Baker's tale of covert passion in a tiny hamlet, repeats the simple, absurd drawing style of his Oscar nominee, "The Hill Farm," but not its warmth and charm. In "Hill Farm," Baker made the plight of his silly little animals and people seem compelling; the loves and hates of his villagers lack that sense of urgency.
Joanna Quinn offers a barbed satire of England's colonial past in "Britannia" (England). Markedly superior to her previous sexist rants, "Britannia" features some of the most interesting drawn animation in the show.
Another institution gets its knocks in "Jurassic Park" (United States), a rock video to the "Weird Al" Yankovic song that combines clay and drawn animation. Despite some funny moments, "Park" is closer in tone and technical sophistication to "Pee-wee's Playhouse" than "Wrong Trousers."
"Festival" also includes "Five Female Persuasions" (United States), a student film that amounts to a drawn-out attempt to update Thurber's cartoon series "The Masculine Approach," plus the previously reviewed "N'Cest Pas" (United States) and "Legacy" (United States).
\o7 * "Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation" continues through June 2 in tandem with "Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation" at the Edwards Mesa Cinema, 1884 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa. (714) 646-5025. \f7