VFX #FeatureFriday: Short films, big content: looking at few beautifully made animated films. -

#FeatureFriday: Short films, big content: looking at few beautifully made animated films.

In the world of cut-throat competition when time is money and everybody is on the run, not having a minute to spare for leisure, many find solace in stealing a moment or two, by indulging in different forms of refreshment. Watching films is one of them and short films more so, as they don’t consume a lot of time as a feature would.

As defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a short film is “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less including all credits”. And if they are animated, it adds to that extra dash of ‘feel-good’ factor for the admirers of this genre.

Crafted with love and passion over the course of a long time, animated short films act as breath of fresh air in this too mechanised a world. These films are a slice of life with its amazing content and treatment. Spanning over a canvas of varied subjects, some of these films focus on prized human sentiments such as love, hope while others convey life lessons.

Animated films enable us to look beyond the realms of reality which live films are mostly incapable of. They help us to envision the ideal that is otherwise an illusion in this real world. The treatment, animation stories get are so different and unique that it’s almost practically impossible to achieve in a full length live action film.

With rapid digitalisation when the world is available at the fingertips with a single click, makers and creators of animated shorts have chosen the social media platforms as the medium to showcase their films to reach a wider audience through their cell phones or other gadgets as that’s something the world is currently hooked to.

So here are a few silent animated short films that speak volumes with its content and leaves a mark on the audience (according to me):

Lili (2018)

Published on YouTube by PicLison
Created by: Hani Dombe (story) and Tom Kouris
Music & Sound: Gil Landau

How does it feel to let go of something too dear to us? This 10 minute 18 seconds wonderful short film aptly portrays that feeling through Lili, a small girl who refuses to let go of her childhood (symbolised by clinging onto her toys) and braves a sandstorm that threatens to take it away.

The sandstorm acts as a metaphor for puberty through which one is transformed from the world of innocence to the world of experience. In the heart of the storm she rediscovers the joy of childhood, but is forced to choose between illusion and reality. Just like all good things come to an end, she finally has to accept the adult life with ts responsibilities and complications, bidding adieu to the past simple life of a child.

The thought behind the film is beautifully captured through the treatment of the content. The protagonist Lili is smartly sketched keeping in mind the details of the character and the setting. She is made extremely simple with powerful expressive eyes. With stunning visuals and animation, the film is like an epiphany conveying the message – ‘genius is knowing when to stop’.

Farewell (2017)

Directors : Chen Yang Hsu, Adeline Jacquot, Paul Jourdain, Alan Sorio, Eléa Trahay
Music : Raphaël Joffres
Sound : José Vicente & Yoann Poncet.

Published by CGBros on YouTube, Farewell tells the heartwarming story of Esma after she has gone through a painful miscarriage. Post this irreparable loss, strange arrival of a hand-drawn bird opens the mind of this young artist for a new start.

Unable to have a baby she began to treat the bird like her own child with full compassion. The way she painted the meadow, represented how a parent builds ground for their children and provide them the warmth of a shelter to grow. The bird then expressed its love and gratitude before finally flying away from the ‘nest’ and she has to let it go, just like a parent has to leave their children to make them walk on their own.

The entire process of overcoming grief through an artistic rebirth and realisation might be the product of her imagination reflecting her inner strength as a character to endure pain and carry on under any dire circumstances. This seven minute short film sends across an important message to look at the positive side of life and how art helps people sustain this otherwise morbid existence.

The animation is absolutely stunning with emphasis given on minute details (it’s when a tear droplet falls on the hand-drawn egg, that it cracks) and audio effects, like the paper in the wind and when she puts it down on the desk. It’s well modelled and inspiringly made with a relatable character where one can actually feel  what the character might be going through. The end triggers a bitter-sweet feeling that lingers long after it’s over.

Tamara (2014)

Directors: Craig Kitzmann and Jason Marino
Writers: Jason Marino (story)
Music: Paden Schmidt and Jaco Wrong

This four minute 36 seconds independent animated short film by Mario is a delicate and sensitive tale about passion, limits, life and the power of dreams. The film opens with Tamara, the little protagonist dancing in joy with her stuffed-toy. But the underlying message of the film surfaces when the audience discover that she’s deprived of the power of sound and words.It delivers a powerful message of self-belief and empowerment. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what what your condition is. What matters is the will to go on and turn the shortcomings into strength, under any condition.

Tamara lives music and dance. She hears with her heart and not merely with ears which becomes more evident from her mother’s expression while she watches her little daughter dance away “to the stars”. Her refusal to give up and not letting her disability come in her way embodies her as the golden ballerina dancing away to glory.

The animation is beautifully made keeping an eye on the details which makes it more lifelike. With unconventional looks and innocently expressive eyes, this big-headed girl creates a place in the minds of audience and emanates the peace she feels while living her dream.

 Head over Heels (2012, posted online in 2016)

Presented by: The National Film and Television School
Writer and Director: Timothy Reckart
Produced by: Fodha Cronin O’Reilly
Stars: Nigel Anthony (Walter), Rayyah McCaul (Madge)
Cinematography by: Chloe Thomson

This British stop motion animated short film is probably the dearest one on this list. Nominated for Best Animated Short Film for the 85th Academy Awards, Head over Heels tells the story of Walter and Madge, an elderly married couple who have grown apart from each other after many years of their marriage.

They live separate parallel lives (he lives on the floor and she lives on the ceiling) barely even looking at each other, leave alone talking. When Walter tries to reignite their old romance, it brings their world crashing down on the ground (both metaphorically and literally) and the couple who can’t agree which way is up must find a way to put their marriage back together by striking an equilibrium.

Posted on YouTube in August 2016, this 10 minute 21 seconds film beautifully captures the complexities of relationships and the various phases it goes through in life. The couple’s world mirrors the modern world which is devoid of a focal point. Thus their world turns upside down, (which is again subjective to each of them) when they fight and cannot zero down on what’s correct way.

Though they seem to have drifted apart, they still have an invisible bond between them that binds them together. The film conveys the message that love always finds a way back if it’s meant to be and it’s never too late to mend anything, even a broken relationship.

The cinematography is fantastic and the animation is smartly crafted, which has won them the first Annie Award for Best Student film and the Cartoon d’Or for Best European Animated Short. The characters resemble clay dolls with unique and immensely expressive as well as sharp features, but it’s the concept and its execution that truly wins over anything else.

Destiny (2012)

Writer,Concept and Script: Fabien Weibel
Directors: Fabien Weibel, Manuel Alligne, Sandrine Wurster, Victor Debatisse.
Sound: Antoine Duchene

“Is it possible to change destiny?”

This is first thing that comes in mind when this five minute 25 seconds long movie comes to an end. Destiny tells the story of a man who is obsessed with time and has clocks all around his house. One morning he wakes up and goes through his perfectly synchronised morning routine until he steps out and gets hit by a bus.

Instantly after the first crash the character seems to wake up from a dream and finds himself back in bed but a few seconds behind the previous version of himself with the potential therefore to save himself or fail and continue this same loop.

The story that was initially shown as omniscient storytelling is re-contextualised as his subjective narration. But soon enough he shows up again in the next scene, duplicated and the narrative point of view is further contextualised. This goes on repeatedly and now the story is being told from the point of view of a character who sees himself on his way to an accident and tries to change the course of events to evade the catastrophe.

Strongly influenced by Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, the film aptly sets the mood and the sound rhythm is heightened in order to raise tension. The cameras are usually static in the first half and start moving with increased speed as the film advances. The sound also plays a key in signaling the supernatural elements and complementing the slow motion camera effects introducing a nice sensory image (the character breathing deeply, bathed by sunlight).

The film cleverly focuses on the different concepts of time- ‘temps’ (literal time) and ‘duree’ (figurative or mental time) and spreads a message of not getting caught up in a routined existence. When one stops worrying about ‘time’, it seems to stand still and one (the protagonist) is able to enjoy the beauty of the world which otherwise gets bogged down in a mechanised life. We repeatedly miss the magic around us found in the simplest things in life. But destiny (read death) seems inevitable and inescapable as made very evident at the very end (after the credits have been rolled) and there lies the twist of the tale.