Fresh from the Festivals:
February 2000's Film Reviews

by Maureen Furniss

Within the world of animation, most experimentation occurs within short format productions, whether they be high budgeted commercials, low budgeted independent shorts, or something in between. The growing number of short film festivals around the world attest to the vitality of these works, but there are few other venues for exhibition of them or even written reviews. As a result, distribution tends to be difficult and irregular. On a regular basis, Animation World Magazine will highlight some of the most interesting with short descriptive overviews.

This month:
3 Misses
(1998), 10.5 min., directed by Paul Driessen, The Netherlands. Info: Channel 4 Television, 124 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2TX England. Tel: 44 171 306 8285. Fax: 44 171 306 6457.
Fishing (1998), 4 min., directed by David Gainey, USA. Info: Pacific Data Images, 3101 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, CA 94306 USA. Tel: 1 650 846 8100. Fax: 1 650 846 8101.
Mum (1999), directed by Nicholas Peterson, USA. Info: Experimental Animation, California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia CA 91355 USA. Tel: 1 805 255 1050. E-mail:
The Queen's Monastery (1998), 6 min., directed by Emma Calder, England. Info: Pearly Oysters Productions, 1 Sly Street, 2nd Floor, London E1 2LE England. Tel: 44 171 265 8862.
Little Dark Poet (1998), 5 min., directed by Mike Booth, England. Info: Sue Gent, bolexbrothers, 3 Brunel Lock Development, Smeaton Road, Cumberland Basin, Bristol BS1 6SE England. Tel: 44 117 985 8000.

If you have the QuickTime plug-in, you can view a clip from each film by simply clicking the image.

3 Misses. © Channel 4 Television.

3 Misses
A recent production by Paul Driessen, 3 Misses is in many respects typical of the Dutch director's work. Anyone familiar with some of his other films, such as The End of the World in Four Seasons (1995), might expect a complex narrative filled with subtle humor. In this case, a series of would-be rescuers fall just a bit short of saving three damsels in distress. Among them are seven dwarfs running to get to the unfortunate Snow White, along the way crossing paths with an assortment of other fairy tale characters who inevitably impede their progress.

In 3 Misses, Driessen's narratives do not appear simultaneously on the screen (End of the World had up to nine panels appearing at one time), but rather are woven together in a linear way. However, in this film he continues to play with the edges of the frame, sometimes placing his characters within boxes on the screen. Also familiar in this drawn and painted on cel film is Driessen's characteristic tendency to flatten perspective and employ a thin wavy line in rendering his figures.

Driessen's animation stands out in part because of its self-referential quality (revealing its status as a series of created images), as well as the timing and complexity of the stories he tells; they can be watched and appreciated many times. 3 Misses was produced by Nico Crama and Cinété Filmproduktie in the Netherlands, in association with the British Channel Four Television and with funding from the Dutch Film Fund. It runs 10.5 minutes and contains no dialogue.

Fishing. © Pacific Data Images.

From Pacific Data Images comes Fishing, a computer-animated "independent project" directed and animated by David Gainey and produced by John "JR" Robeck. Watercolor effects in the film were created by Cassidy Curtis, using PDI's image processing tool-set. PDI has supported the production of several independent projects that showcase the accomplishments of its artists and serve as a ground for research and development. This film employs PDI's Fluid Dynamics Simulation System, developed by Nick Foster, who received a Sci/Tech Certificate from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1999. The four-minute film was debuted at SIGGRAPH `99, where it was touted as the first use of the water simulation system since the "flood sequence" in the company's feature, Antz (1998).

Fishing depicts a sole fisherman who experiences a great deal of luck -- in fact, too much luck. The visual design is quite simple looking, including only the hint of water and outlines of both the fisherman and his catch, all of which are shown in monochromatic blues with some warmed yellow highlights. The "less is more" rule applies here, as the film's relatively minimal visuals work effectively to relate the simple tale and maximize the effects of the software. As opposed to so much other computer animation, which attempts to overwhelm the senses with glitz and movement, this film is effective partly because of its restraint. The "2D" film was made by first creating three-dimensional characters in a 3D setting. The 3D models were lit and a shadow matte was produced and watercolor effects added. Visually, an interesting comparison can be made with Michael Dudok de Wit's The Monk and the Fish, because of the subject matter, the watercolor technique and the minimal setting. The film contains no dialogue.

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