The Missing Key (Jonathan Nix, 2011): Australia

Reviewed by Linda Sweatt. Viewed at the Santa Barbara film festival in Metro 4 Theater.

After seeing the most beautiful animated short called ‘La Luna’ at the Arlington theater on opening night of the Santa Barbara Film Festival, I really wanted to see more. The animation program one did not disappoint, but out of the five animated shorts, ‘The Missing Key’ was by far my favorite. This little gem might even be my favorite animation I’ve ever seen. I was so happy that it kept going on and on; I hope they will develop it into a feature film as it is already thirty minutes long.

This Missing Key is already off to a wonderful start by being set in Venice Italy. As if Venice isn’t already one of the most beautiful city’s in the world,  imagine an even more colorful animated version of the early 1920’s. Layers upon layers of optical illusions transport us into this unusually charming world. One of my favorite examples of a great effect is right at the beginning, there is a still shot of a postcard of Venice. The camera zooms in and suddenly comes to life and we feel like we are flying, running and jumping over the old rooftops of Venice.

The plot revolves around a young composer, Hero Wasabi and his competition against the unscrupulous Count Telefino in the famous Abacus Scroll musical competition. All the characters are simply amazingly creative. As  our hero has a old-fashioned record playing head, he does not speak but only responds emotionally with music and lyrics; and not only him, also his neighbors and even babies. Count Telefino wears a telephone as a head. It’s fair to say every single character is it’s own little work of art.

Another very interesting aspect of this animated film, The Missing Key is the way it blends multicultural characters and music from Asia, Italy and Australia; thus making this film contemporary and global.

This film maker really has an eye for color, as color explodes everywhere. Also very interesting camera angles and attention to detail as the big beautiful shafts of light enter the stain-glass windows in the cathedral and shots from under-water looking back up.

Besides being full of music and art, this short animation is really funny and packed with unusual creativity. Every moment is hilarious and most everyone was laughing. It is truly magnificent how the power of positive energy radiates up and over the entire city of Venice in the form of music and color. There are simply so many interesting things happening all at the same time in this film, that as soon as it was over I wanted to see it again. So with much enthusiasm I would highly recommend this animation, great for all ages, young and old alike! And this will be especially appreciated by art and music lovers.

But if you don’t believe me yet, there is proof, The Missing Key already has  many awards winning best achievement in sound for an animation short film of program in the Australian screen sound awards for 2011. The Missing Key recently won the 2011 IF Award for best short animation and two awards at the 2011 screen music awards. Taking best music for a short film and best original song composed for the screen for ‘Dream on’ by Miles Nicholas. As well as winning the 2011 ATOM award for best animation.

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