Albatross Soup

Winnie Cheung (2018)

Albatross Soup is a delightfully fluid animation that lyrically complements a chorus of voices attempting to investigate a puzzling suicide: A man gets off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one sip… pulls out a gun, and shoots himself to death. So…why did he kill himself?

Albatross Soup is an animated short hybrid documentary film based on an entertaining yet disturbing lateral thinking puzzle. Over 50 people have been recorded trying to guess this riddle using only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. The film is a visual representation of the riddle unraveling as we hear a rapid fire kaleidoscopic soundscape of questions from each participant. An all knowing God-like voice guides the story by answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each question.”

Notes from the director:

My friend came back with this fascinating riddle while interviewing for his doctoral program in neuroscience and metacognition at UCLA. With only a few key pieces, we needed to complete the story by asking only “yes” or “no” questions. Though experiments like ​Albatross Soup are hybrids between puzzles and storytelling. I knew instantly that this stream of consciousness guessing would be the perfect premise for an animated short.

When I first played this riddle, I remember constantly asking myself, “What else am I missing? How can I think differently to find the missing link?” Examining different creative approaches has been the driving force behind this project.

With the help of Alexandra Young, a New York Times audio producer, I conducted the albatross riddle with over 50 participants. The story was then edited with a radio documentary approach.

Each frame was hand drawn by animation director Masayoshi Nakamura based on illustrations drawn by celebrated Toronto artist Fiona Smyth. The entire process for this film lasted three years from beginning to end.

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