SF International Animation Film Festival 2010: Near And Far… And Animals – Review

Last Sunday I managed to take in one last film before the animation film festival came to a close.  Having had to start my day-job as a grocer extraordinaire at 2:00pm, I decided to wake up early and catch the 11:00am program of collected animated shorts called Near and Far… And Animals.

Kicking things off with The Legend of Geb and Nut, I immediately began to regret waking up early in order to get to the theatre in time.  How I wished I could have slept in for an extra 3 minutes instead of watching this stuffy English narrated short on the story of Earth falling in love with the sky.  And judging from the kids reactions, which made up at least 90% of the audience, I wasn’t the only one who was ready for nap time.  It’s during cinematic moments like these that I am grateful my girlfriend has such a comfortable shoulder to rest my head on.

Thankfully, the coordinator of the program must have foreseen how this film was going to play as the next short to follow turned out to be one of the two crowd favorites, The Gruffalo.  Based on the children’s book of the same name, The Gruffalo is the tale of one small hungry mouse who is just trying to get his nut.  When a fox, an owl, and a snake try to devour the scrawny rodent he must use his wits to talk his way out of certain death, and in doing so invents the ferociously scary Gruffalo.  Pretty soon the Gruffalo himself emerges to teach mouse (and all of us who were watching) a lesson in confidence, the art of bullshiting, and the power of one’s imagination to get out of any sticky situation.  Even without a star-studded cast lending their voice talents this film would have still been a hit.

Okay, two films in and I already forgot about the poor opening feature start, what’s next?  It’s the The Mobile.  This was one of those features where no amount of colored adjectives would be able to properly give this film the just accolades that it so rightfully deserves, but I’ll try anyway.  Picture the fun action filled cuteness of just about any short to ever precede a Pixar feature and you have The Mobile, an animated farm-themed Mobile adventure of one cow-on-a-string’s effort to be closer to a certain mouse-on-a-string whose neighbors include three chickens, a pig and a dog, all of which are on a string.  Not only was the best short of the bunch, but the best short I have seen all year!

Just as this program was starting to get good, and with all the kids at full attention, surely the next short was going to be another cute story involving some sort of animal in some kind of fun adventure, right?  Wrong.  It’s the WTF part of the program with the alphabet in a short called, Dyslexia.  Now, this wasn’t just any A-to-Z collage being presented in some child friendly Sesame Street type of way, this was the alphabet shown in industrial chalky bold face letters with each letter transitioning into the other by way of grimy oil spilled stains and steel machinery soundscapes growing ever so louder as the letter Z came ever so closer to frightening just about every child in the audience who has never grown up in a factory.  Judging from the lack of applause, I’d say there were quite a number of parents and children who weren’t sure what to make of Dyslexia.  personally, I thought it was pretty cool and saw it as a video that David Lynch’s Eraserhead character might show his child had he let him watch television.

What better way to follow up a darkly bizarre WTF segment of a short program than with a hyperactive explosion of color that I wish I could tell you about, but unfortunately I blinked and missed the whole damn thing.  I believe what I experienced was called a Cours Toujours, which in english I think translates into Seriously, What The F?.

Closing out the program was the Japanese Christmas tale called, Komaneko’s Christmas.  Had the first short never existed this would have been the most boring of the bunch.  The story of a cat that makes dolls of her parents and then goes searching for her parents after receiving a present from them was… well, I’ll just say it wasn’t for me, and I usually love stop-motion animation no matter how creepy it tends to be.

Overall, despite the book-end so-so shorts, this was a decent program and one I am glad I got up a little earlier for.


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