This series of short articles on short animations continues with another Oscar nominee, this time the delightful French Roast by Fabrice Joubert. If you have any recommendations for the Weekend Shorts articles, or if you have made a short animation that is available online, please comment on this article, or let me know via my Twitter or facebook.
The advantage of a short animation over feature length films is that getting a message across can be done in a far more succint manner. When you stretch a message over 90 minutes, it can very quickly become heavy handed moralising or just plain annoying. Such complaints were most recently levelled at Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, which was a whole hour and a half of being told to save the trees. An admirable moral, perhaps, but audiences were turned off by the brick subtlety of the way it was delivered. With a film that is shorter than ten minutes, however, you can perfectly capture the essence of a message in something that is self contained and that places story as a priority over teaching. That’s what is so great about French Roast: it’s an amusing comedy that contains within it the beautifully delivered lesson that we should do unto others as we would have done unto us, and manages to entertain and instruct all within one room over eight minutes.
What I love about this is the character animation: each figure is wonderfully caricatured, from the rubbish picker with hair like a chimney brush, to the corpulent policeman who gets very red-faced when asleep. Animation should not always aspire to realism, as it is possible to make far more incisive observations about people through exaggeration and ridiculousness. We immediately pick up a lot about the prim, polite protagonist of the piece by the way his moustache droops and quivers with embarrassment. Similarly, the nun’s shy, reclusive posture sets us up to trust her, even when perhaps we shouldn’t. As with The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore and Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, the minimal amount of dialogue requires the faces to do all the talking, and this is something that Fabrice Joubert manages expertly. This means that as each character plays their part in the escalating farce, it gets funnier and funnier through the miscommunications and awkward reserve that comes with politeness. It also means that the ending has an increased impact because we are able to see the coffee drinker’s moment of epiphany through the slightest twitch of a smile.