Snow made his first film, A to Z, while working at the animation firm Graphic Associates in Toronto. He received a job there after meeting the head of the firm, George Dunning—who later directed the Beatles’ 1968 film Yellow Submarine—at one of Snow’s exhibitions. A to Z is a cutout animation of tables and chairs attempting to mate with each other. The theme of tables and chairs recurs in several other works by Snow from this period. The crosshatch drawings of these objects in A to Z were influenced by the Expressionist style of Swiss-German artist Paul Klee. Snow did not return to experimental film until 1964, when he made New York Eye and Ear Control.
“I’m looking for interaction between things that originally didn’t have any.”
The film was made specifically for a group show in Vienna (curated by Clint Enns and Madi Piller) titled From A to Z, that reflects on Micheal Snow’s 1956 animated film of the same name, and his multiplicity of approaches which fluidly transition between media and form.
The piece is an endless barrage of hyperlinked cable television commercials. With equal doses of satire and nostalgia, the promised pleasures of late consumer capitalism are deconstructed through a contemporary form of détournement. – Clint Enns
2019 – Best Non-Narrative – Ottawa International Animation Festival 2019 – Best Animation Technique – Ottawa International Animation Festival 2019 – Best Canadian Short – Giraf Festival 2019 – Honourable Mention – Stoptrik Animation Festival
TheStreet of Crocodiles is a 21-minute-long stop-motion animation short subject directed and produced by the Brothers Quay and released in 1986.
The Street of Crocodiles was originally a short story written by Bruno Schulz, from a story collection published under that title in English translation. Rather than literally representing the childhood memoirs of Schulz, the animators used the story’s mood and psychological undertones as inspiration for their own creation.
Inside a box full of curio, a puppet who is recently freed from his strings explores a dusty and forlorn commercial area. The explorer becomes ensnared into miniature tailor shop by baby-faced dolls.
Directed by Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay, and Weiser Quay.
If you don’t watch a lot of short films, you might be forgiven for assuming there’s not much depth or complexity you can fit into a three-minute duration. A comedy sketch or a music video, maybe? But a thought-provoking deconstruction of the evolution of society, that’s not possible, right? With grand aims of putting human constructs in order, Toby Auberg’s (aka Toberg) Pile attempts just that.
When you picture animations about evolution, your mind will probably (just like mine) immediately go to the image of simple creatures, dragging their basic bodies from the sea, before developing legs and scuttling around on land. Auberg’s short isn’t so interested with our biological progression however, much like Hertzfeldt’s 2005 short The Meaning of Life, it’s more focused on our societal progression and how we’ve moved from bare survival to the unhinged dystopia of late capitalism.
Beginning at the bottom of his titular pile, Auberg introduces us to his world as we witness humankind just struggling to survive – living in scrappy tents or ramshackle huts, eating only what they catch or grow – before moving his camera upwards and revealing the true intentions of his short. As we travel upwards, the different stages of societal progression literally stacked on top of each other, we experience these rapid developments in living conditions, before entering a crazed finale that paints a provocative picture of the future.
Discussing Pile with Short of the Week, Auberg admits he has difficulty “identifying a clear source for the film’s inspiration”, instead pointing to how his mind often thinks in terms of “muddled visual metaphors” as a major motivator for his premise. Originally coming up with the idea back in 2018, when pre-pandemic politics filled our headspace, the filmmaker (like most of us) was very anxious about the world and so decided to make “a piece that visualised the big ‘house-of-cards’ that we rest our lives on”.
Thematically ambitious, Auberg backs up his grand concept with some impressive craft, telling his story in one continual shot, his virtual camera rising through his incredibly detailed tower of humanity. Like the environments he portrays, his animation style develops as we progress. “The beginning of the film uses more traditional character rigs and ‘realistic’ environments”, the filmmaker reveals as I quiz him about his distinct aesthetic. “As the film progresses the style becomes more distorted and surreal, disconnecting elements and using simulation (dynamics) to animate the world in a more broken and chaotic way”, he adds.
Selected to play at Annecy (where it won the 2020 Jury award for a graduation short film), BFI London and Cannes, while Auberg admits he’d “love it if the film hit a nerve with someone out there”, he’s also just happy to have this complicated vision out of his head.
– S/W Curator Rob Munday
Sound design: Ben Goodall
Additional assets: Leto Meade, Jim Cheetham, Matt Taylor, Anita Gill, Linyou Xie, Michelle Brand
The Don Hertzfeldt couch gag is the first couch gag of Season 26, and appeared in Clown in the Dumps.
“Oh, definitely. What was interesting was, TheSimpsons was something that I was talking to, I think it was Bill Plympton, many years ago, because he did a couch gag for them. I think he’s done a couple actually. But the first one he was telling me about, he mentioned the pressure of it. He’s another independent animator and he said more people saw his opening for The Simpsons in that one night than had seen his previous independent work for 20 years combined. [Laughs.] It was just this massive, like, “My God, the pressure of doing something like that.” Of course, back then I thought, “What would I do if they ever asked me to do something?” It’s just an idea you turn around in your head for awhile. And the weeks went by, and I was like, “There’s nothing. I can’t think of anything I would do. I’m kind of glad they haven’t asked because I’d be paralyzed. I have no clue.” Fast forward years later when they did ask, I was like, “Oh, man, this again.” I don’t want to say no, but I don’t have any ideas. Within 24 hours, the whole thing was almost fully formed. It’s amazing what real-world pressure can do to something in your head to keep the creative engine going. I have to imagine also it was partially because I had started “World Of Tomorrow” and I had the futurism stuff on my mind. It’s such a weird TV show. When you break it down, it’s a show that’s been on for 20—what is it, 25 years?
“Yeah, and the characters don’t age. It’s very unique because it’s animated and they don’t age, but they evolve. They look very different than they did in the 1980s. Thinking about memories, Bart is a character who is 10, I think, in this show, but does he have memories from events from 20 years ago? Because it does seem to happen in real time, in a sense. I remember when Bob Dole was on during the election from like 1996. So, very freaky thing when you kind of break down how the show operates in time. What would happen if this longest running show on television just never ends? The original talent is long dead and buried and it just turns into this corporate nightmare where Marge is spouting fascist political things. It was just so much fun to do that. I’m still surprised that it actually happened. They were completely hands off. It just seems unheard of.
“It was super fun. The pressure of it didn’t get to me until the day of the airing. Like, for some reason it didn’t bother me while I was working on it, maybe because I was drawing Homer the way I draw stuff and it just didn’t look like… You know, when I did the first bit, when Homer runs in and sits down, that was animated over at the Simpsons traditionally and I just directed that bit. That felt more weird to me, because that’s actually Homer Simpson that I’m directing. Rather than the squid thing that I’m drawing. It felt more like a short film I was doing for them. On the day of the airing, I started getting kind of freaked out and my friends made me do a couple shots to relax. You’re wondering what could possibly go wrong right now. Is it going to air with no sound? [Laughs.] Did the Fox censors step in and change everything and they forgot to tell me? I think that was the only moment where I kind of felt the weight of it.
“I don’t know. [Laughs.] I feel like most viewers experienced a weird gentle seizure and just forgot about it. It’s really hard to tell how this stuff is perceived. They told me like 8.5 million people saw that premiere, so it did something. But I’m so isolated from it. I’m not in every living room.”
This animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the town of Springfield. The head of the Simpson family, Homer, is not a typical family man. A nuclear-plant employee, he does his best to lead his family, but often finds that they are leading him. The family includes loving, blue-haired matriarch Marge, troublemaking son Bart, overachieving daughter Lisa, and baby Maggie. Other Springfield residents include the family’s religious neighbor, Ned Flanders, family physician Dr. Hibbert, Moe the bartender, and police chief Clancy Wiggum.
Independent animator and two-time Academy Award nominee Don Hertzfeldt has seamlessly combined his three short films about a man named Bill (“Everything will be OK” (2006), “I Am So Proud of You” (2008), and “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (2011)), into a darkly comedic, beautiful new feature film.
Blending traditional animation, experimental optical effects, trick photography, and new digital hybrids printed out one frame at a time, all three chapters of the story were captured entirely on a 1940s-era 35mm animation stand, one of the last surviving cameras of its kind still operating in the world.
Upon their original releases, the short film trilogy received 90 awards, including the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking from the Sundance Film Festival and the Audience Award from the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” finally brings Bill’s entire story together, presented here for the first time in HD.
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” was listed by many film critics as one of the best films of 2012. After a limited UK release in 2013, the film was ranked #3 on Time Out London’s list of the “10 Best Films of 2013” and #4 on The London Film Review’s list of the same.
In 2014, Time Out New York ranked “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” #16 on its list of the “100 Best Animated Movies Ever Made,” and in 2016, The Film Stage critics ranked the film #1 on their list of the “The 50 Best Animated Films of the 21st Century Thus Far.”
In 2019, The Wrap named “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” the #1 “Best Animated Film of the 2010s.” The same year, the Vulture film critics ranked it #12 on their overall list of the “Best Movies of the Decade.”
“The whole point of our experiment was that I would say nothing about my intentions and Marek would interpret the visuals in his own way. So I say it was a great successful experiment, and I loved the composition Marek wrote for the Penderecki String Quartet.”
“I thought it was a very melancholic film in a certain sense and also very poetic. Without trying to be too explicit, I tried to illustrate further what David was doing. For example, there is something that looks like a hailstorm and I used a lot of pizzicato, but I also used a soaring melodic line to add a lyrical element to it.”
Fantastic Planet is a 1973 experimental adult animated science fiction film, directed by René Laloux and written by Laloux and Roland Topor, the latter of whom also completed the film’s production design. The film was animated at Jiří Trnka Studio in Prague. The film was an international co-production between companies from France and Czechoslovakia. The allegorical story, about humans living on a strange planet dominated by giant humanoid aliens who consider them animals, is based on the 1957 novel Oms en série by French writer Stefan Wul.
Despite the interest generated by his first film, Tusalava (1929), the early 1930s were a difficult time for artist and animator Len Lye. A series of projects were abandoned through lack of funding, and he supported himself by designing book jackets. By 1934 he was doing relatively menial work in the Wembley studios of Associated Sound Film Industries, while trying to convince investors to back his latest project with his long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Ellitt, provisionally titled Quicksilver. Lye had already produced dozens of set and costume designs for this ambitious science-fiction musical comedy but, although an American producer eventually expressed interest, the film that emerged bore little relation to the original concept, and neither Lye nor Ellitt benefited financially.
In the meantime, Lye turned his attention to puppet animation. He scraped together enough funding and borrowed equipment to produce a three-minute short featuring his self-made monkey, singing and dancing to ‘Peanut Vendor’, a 1931 jazz hit for Red Nichols. The two foot high monkey had bolted, moveable joints and some 50 interchangeable mouths to convey the singing. To get the movements right, Lye filmed his new wife, Jane, a prize-winning rumba dancer. Ellitt assisted in synchronizing the animation with the music.
Lye hoped to use the film to interest advertisers, but again had no success. However, on the strength of the film the head of the newly established Shell Film Unit, Jack Beddington, was later persuaded by Lye’s friend Humphrey Jennings to commission Lye to make a short animated advertising film, The Birth of the Robot (1935).