This final article about the Oscar nominated short animations is on one of the greatest animations in recent memory. The thing is, I wouldn’t even be that upset if it didn’t win the Oscar, as both Head Over Heels and Paperman are great short animations. It’s a great time for the medium.
Eden is a place that has been symbolically ripe for film makers for decades now. The ideas encapsulated in Genesis 1 and 2 are some of the oldest themes in art: the beauty of nature; the fall of man; innocence; sin. Yet it’s only really something that has been approached at a thematic level. American director Terrence Malick keeps returning to ideas about the fall from Eden, and German auteur Werner Herzog is similarly concerned with man’s place in paradise, yet both these directors only use it as a concept rather than a literal idea (Malick came close with Tree of Life). Adam and Dog, the stunning animation by Minkyu Lee, takes us to Eden itself, a world of shimmering, fish filled ponds and giant trees bursting with life, and tells a story of how dogs became man’s best friend. By setting his film in the garden of Paradise, Lee breathes vitality into the old ideas about creation, beauty and grace.
At 15 minutes long, the film takes on a neat three act structure: creation before man; the advent of man and the fall of man. These three stages of creation are seen through the eyes of a dog, and perhaps the most impressive section is the dog’s adventures before he befriends the strange bipedal creature that arrives a day later. Lee’s imagined version of a world untouched by evil is bathed in a beautiful glow, like the benevolent gaze of a creator shining through the foliage. There’s a stunning moment at night when the dog chases fireflies in the field; a wide frame showing the glory of the stars in the night sky and the wonder of this new and beautiful world. That’s the key word here; wonder. Even once man has come along, the world is full of light and colour, waiting to be explored. The dog’s big eyes perfectly capture this sense of awe at the planet, and helps the audience view it in the same way, too. When sin enters the world, everything gets a whole lot uglier and more brutal, but the final shot, representing companionship, suggests that there is still goodness left in the world, and Lee certainly helps us to believe that.
Everything about this film is beautiful, from the sound design, to the wide angled shots to the simplicity of the story. By looking at the world at its very foundations – whether you see it as mythical, symbolic or literal – Minkyu Lee causes you to see the earth with new eyes, and shows just a glimpse of the glory of creation.
In the run up to The Oscars, I’m going to take a look at four of the five short films nominated for Best Animated Short Film. Only four because the Simpsons short, The Longest Daycare, is unavailable online. On the strength of the competitors this year, it must be an incredible piece of animation to match up to the masterpieces on display here. Each of these four films showcase a different kind of animation, and the stories you can tell with it. I’m also going to publish each article in order of preference, so today’s Oscar Short is my least favourite (although it’s still impressive) ending with the one I would most like to see win.
PES has a collection of short films available on Youtube that are all marked by his unique visual style; he takes objects and uses them in totally different contexts to create bizarre, inventive scenes. So in Kaboom! he uses keys as anti-aircraft guns and matchsticks as missiles, whilst in Game Over he uses all sorts of strange objects to re-enact famous computer games like Pacman. Perhaps most impressive is The Deep, which uses a variety of tools to create an eerie underwater scene.
His Oscar nominated short Fresh Guacamole is a kind of sequel to his earlier short Western Spaghetti. Both are simple cooking demonstrations, but using anything but food to create the dishes. Fresh Guacamole, it turns out, is made with a combination of grenades, baseballs and dice. What PES does so well is to match up items to their food counterparts, making this a constantly inventive, amusing short. He also has a great flair for sound effects, making it even more believable. This is an impressive, entertaining short but I would love to see what PES can do with a story. He’s proven with all his shorts that he can set a scene really well, so now it’s time to see him have something happen in these wonderful worlds he creates.