Youtube is a wonderful creation. Aspiring directors, editors, animators and screenwriters round the world now have an arena to display their talents (or occasionally the lack thereof), and so the site is jam packed full of gems, and days could be spent doing nothing but watching short animations online. Not only that but the shorts of several established names in animation have their films ready to be watched – Fyodor Khitruk, Yuri Norstein and Don Hertzfeldt are all waiting to be discovered by animation fans. With everything from Oscar winners to student projects available online, Animation Confabulation will highlight, each Saturday possible, one short from the wealth of brilliant choices. Similarly, if you have an animated short that you would like me to write about, drop me a comment on the site or tweet at me, and I’ll check it out.
To kick off the Saturday Shorts I’m going to write about a particular favourite, Oscar winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. Telling the story of a man who is blown away in a hurricane and his new life as a guardian of a house full of books, Morris is, above all, a tribute to the joys of reading. It’s a film where books come alive, a sensation which is not that unfamiliar to those who love getting engrossed in a novel. Not only that but it is an immensely warm, funny and intelligent piece, both beautifully animated and full of heart.
It starts of with a hurricane, that arrives rather inconveniently when the eponymous hero is in the middle of a good book. This opening tempest sets a tone of brilliant slapstick humour, with hints of Buster Keaton in the inventiveness of the jokes: note a cyclist trying to pedal against the wind, or Morris running manically around a revolving house. What makes the comedy so special here is that it makes full use of the possibilities of the medium to create images that are absurd and impossible, and mines its humour from this absurdity. It’s almost like classic Looney Tunes in that sense, with certain moments that wouldn’t look out of place with Wile E Coyote instead of Morris.
But it’s far sweeter than a Wile E Coyote toon, and the humour is only one part of the film’s immense charm. The animation, neatly referencing The Wizard of Oz with the changing amounts of colour in the world. Here it is wherever there are books, there is colour. Not only that, but the books themselves are characters, reinforcing the running theme that to read a book is to experience life. One beautiful abstract scene sees Morris running along, and flying through, the words of a dusty old novel he has just opened; a clever, witty evocation of the sensation of reading. But I shan’t ruin any more of this wonderful short for you, it really is something you have to watch for yourselves.