Thursday, November 5, 2009

Short Animation Analysis

Matt had asked me to analyze four animated short films, describing their story structure, use of style, and whether or not it was necessary to use animation to tell the story in the first place.

Knick Knack
What first struck me about this short was how quickly the characters appealed to me. Within the first few shots, I was interested in who these characters were, and how they might fit into the story. The music, vibrant colors, and subtle animation had me hooked from the beginning. Also, the strict reliance on the three act structure made the film easy to follow. I imagine the choice to use 3D animation came more from a "because we can" attitude rather than from a decision based on what would best fit the story. Obviously the technology was new and not very sophisticated at the time, but overall it did not take away from the story, how it was told, or how entertaining the end product was.

Nose Hair
As this short progressed, I begin to lose any semblance of a recognizable story, at least not in the same sense as "Knick Knack". As exciting and abstract as the visuals were, towards the end and from a storytelling perspective I was asking myself ‘what was the point’. The storyteller obviously wanted to depict visual abstraction, so in this case animation as a medium made sense. The sketchy pencil style aided in the manipulation of figure-ground, and the constant shifting of the environment kept me interested.

I imagine the most important obstacle the director of this short had to overcome was selling the world to an audience. It takes about a minute to finally get a wide shot of the environment, but by then the balancing mechanic had been properly established throughout a series of close ups, medium, and full shots. I did find myself asking a few questions about the character’s intentions as the short progressed (Have they ever done this fishing thing before, what were they expecting to find, why were the characters up there in the first place, etc). Eventually I ignored those questions for the sake of accepting what was going on in act 2. The use of stop motion definitely gave the short a handmade look, and felt appropriate for the story.

The Writer
Of the four, I think this example begs the question as to whether or not animation was a necessary medium for telling the story the most. The limited motion of the visuals suggests to me that the film’s focus was on the narration. The visuals do help put the spoken dialog into context, but I wonder how I would feel about seeing something like this in live action, or as an audio clip, or with animation that was a bit more intricate and fleshed out. In terms of style, I felt the audio and video matched well.

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