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Wave Twisters

A dazzling sensory-overload goof, animated featurette "Wave Twisters" pays parodic homage to sci-fi actioners in terms as densely layered as its visual and sonic textures. Pic "scratches" and "samples" images to complementary effect, resulting in a high-octane, innovative package that will delight the MTV generation.

A dazzling sensory-overload goof, animated featurette “Wave Twisters” pays parodic homage to sci-fi actioners in terms as densely layered as its visual and sonic textures. Inspired by hip-hop cult figure DJ QBert’s same-titled 1998 disc, pic “scratches” and “samples” images to complementary effect, resulting in a high-octane, innovative package that will delight the MTV generation — while perhaps inducing headachey bafflement from more staid auds. Sub-feature runtime poses a challenge; ideally, “Twisters” could find theatrical legs as the main attraction in a package of cutting-edge digital or music-related shorts. As a home-view item, no doubt it will spur infinite repeat viewings.

After a channel-surfing prologue and “Max Headroom”-style bit of herky-jerk DJ spinning, pic introduces its protags: Good guys “The Dental Commander,” intergalactic babe Honey Drips and “R2D2 as Rubbish,” a robotic trash can. They troll around “inner space,” a surrealist zone soon infected by the Redworm, whose “pure sound virus” looks like the dirty work of evil Lord Ook. Latter’s aim is to suppress the four “Lost Arts” of hip-hopdom: rhyming, graffiti, break dancing and DJing.

Needless to say, full-flava’d virtue triumphs — for the moment at least — though not before various “Star Wars”-esque battles. There’s also a giant octopus attack, Honey’s assault by big beats and sonic “rayguntorments” administered (to a rag doll like the one associated with rap-rockers Korn) by “scratch warlords.” Latter are played by a live-action Qbert and his turntablist mates in the now-defunct Invisible Skratch Piklz troupe. “To be continued…” title suggests the innerspace struggle is far from over.

“Plot” clarity ain’t a high priority here, as “Wave Twisters” blitz-riffs on everything from hip-hop and sci-fi mythology to vidgames, toys, Japanese anime, manga tomes, Godzilla pix, Hanna Barbera-style toons, even retro dental-hygiene ads. The in-jokes and absurdist gags fly by so fast that many viewers will be eager to re-experience pic on DVD and other manipulation-friendly formats.

Co-directors Syd Garon and Eric Henry deploy just about every visual medium in existence, piling one on top of the other — computer graphics, line animation, multiplane effects, appropriated images, cheesy miniatures, puppetry, live actors — to striking, often droll, always imaginative results. Imagery is very much in step with the propulsive rhythms and campy vocal samplings (there’s no conventional dialogue here) of Qbert’s soundtrack.

While overall sensory assault may strike some as overbearing, those willing to loosen their seatbelts and hang on will find pic’s over-the-top energy, style and humor a bracing ride. Put together by a relatively small creative staff over three years, “Wave Twisters” reps a giddy leap, both technically and tonally (in its speed-of-light pop culture ironics), beyond anything the big-league animation studios have done lately.

Wave Twisters

Production: A Thud Rumble presentation of a Yoga Frog production. Executive producer, DJ Yoga Frog. Created by DJ Qbert, Syd Garon, Eric Henry, Doug Cunningham. Directed, animated, edited by Syd Garon, Eric Henry.

Crew: Art direction, illustration, Doug Cunningham; character design, Cunningham, Trisha Golubev-Lerner; lip-synching, additional animation, Golubev-Lerner; director of 3-D animation, Matt Whitman, StudioBee Team; music, DJ Qbert; sound, Kormann Roque, Nate Brenholdt; additional editing, Kim Bica, CL Weaver; additional cinematography, Cameron Noble. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Jan. 31, 2001. (In Sundance Film Festival -- Midnight.) Running time: 45 MIN.

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