Animated Shorts Program

Reviewed by Kevin Tran. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Like all shorts, animated shorts only have a limited amount of time to communicate a message, feeling, or story to an audience. While at the same time, it is almost limitless the different ways they can express themselves. The Santa Barbara Film Festival has selected a wide variety of different type of animation from all around the world.

I am not going to describe each short since some were instantly forgettable, while others really stood out and did something different. Although each short was painstakingly done, either through stop motion or animation, it was easy spot the hits and miss from the audience’s response.

Among the funniest of the bunch was Hot Dog directed by Bill Plympton from the United States. A very standard cartoon animation as if the drawings of a storybook came alive. It’s about a very lively dog that desperately wants to be a firefighter. Most of the comedy originates to exaggerate the dog’s expression, much like from old Looney Tunes or Ren & Stimpy.

Hungu directed by Nicolas Brault from Canada was perhaps the saddest. Definitely the most simplistic: black rounded figures on top of a white background. It depicts a tribal African group of hunters. Their bodies move like machines, while they use a bow to hunt what seems to look like bison. A mother and her child fall behind and it hurts to see them eventually separated, even though they’re just black, brown and white stick figures.

Also from Canada, but of the stop motion variety is The Necktie directed by Jean-Francoise Levesque. Levesque actually combines stop motion puppets with hand drawn animation to create a contrast between our main protagonist, Valentin, an employee working a useless tasked job, and his employees who remain faithful to their work. Valentin escapes his white collard job and discovers an accordion, which he forgot he loved to play.

The program ended with a bang with non-other UCSB alumni and YouTube star Don Hertzfeldt with his latest film I Am So Proud Of You, the follow up to his 2006 film Everything Will Be Okay. Proud is actually the second film in a soon-to-be trilogy Hertzfeldt is creating using the same style and the same kind of pathetic protagonist. Hertzefeldt literally draws stick figures and composite his through different panels on the screen. Like with Okay, Proud is narrated by soothing voice that showcases the entire life of our hero from the history of how each of his grandmothers died, down to the idiosyncrasies in his most mundane activities. It is hilarious. It is simple. It is beautiful. And somehow it is extra sad seeing a stick figure contemplate his mortality, but somehow I came out of the theater better from seeing it.

See these shorts! by any means necessary!

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