Midway through its first season, smart film selections deftly illustrate just how inspiring and entertaining animated shorts can be.
Roughly midway through its inaugural season, FXX’s weekly half-hour live-action and animated shorts anthology series, Cake, has so far served up a refreshing and tasty selection of films; scouts honor, we promise to cease the culinary confection references if the show gets picked up for Season 2. But for now, they just feel… so right.
Featuring a visually diverse, handcrafted assortment of varied-length shorts from a wide range of new and established storytellers, Cake has so far done a commendable job of programming an inspiring and entertaining set of films. Animated short highlights include BeSheMoth (Nicole Stafford/Pernille Kjaer/Réka Bucsi); Drifters (Gustaf Lindström); Joe Bennett Collection (Joe Bennett); Places Where We Lived (Bernardo Britto); Psychotown (Dave Carter & Nikos Andronicos); and Symphony No. 42 (Réka Bucsi), to name a few.
Like with any selection of shorts, if a piece isn’t your cup of tea, rest assured, something more to your liking should soon take its place. The whole premise of get in, get out, state your case and move along is what makes short film collections so enticing; at the hands of expert curators and programmers, short film programs can be downright life affirming. A rare and brave use of an FXX programming timeslot, Cake has acquitted itself nicely when it comes to animated fare.
AWN recently caught up with Kate Lambert, SVP, Original Programming, at FX Networks, who shared some insight into the decision-making behind the new series.
AWN: Animation anthologies and short form content aren’t exactly burning up the airwaves these days, or really, ever. What factors led you to develop and launch this show?
KL: That’s exactly what we love about Cake! We noticed there was a lot of great work being done in the short-form medium without an outlet on mainstream TV. For us, it’s an opportunity to play in a different sandbox in a crowded TV scripted marketplace and have some fun. We were very excited about taking our programming aesthetic from the one hour, half hour and limited series forms and looking at short form as an on-air destination to showcase voices and talent in that medium.
AWN: What are you looking for as far as animated content and why? Do you have any favored styles / techniques or tone?
KL: We are voice and point-of-view driven as a network. We tend to gravitate towards materials that feel singularly authored. Specifically, we’ve been focused on finding more diverse and female voices in animation.
AWN: Share what you like most about some of the pieces you’ve programmed in the series. What compelled you to acquire them?
KL: They are all unique voices. In particular, they are all adult and aimed at a more millennial target who want stories that are rich, diverse and compelling – and still cinematic.
AWN: How are you scouting for shorts? Where are you finding your films?
KL: Everywhere and anywhere we can. We see a lot of pitch decks and presentation samples that show character, story, tone and thematic intent. John Agbaje, Director of Animation & Development, has hit the animation festival circuits, smaller collectives, etc. looking for those storytelling voices.
AWN: Why mix live-action and animated shorts in this type of series? How do they complement each other?
KL: For us, they just naturally mix and complement in terms of tone and feeling. Sometimes you are in the mood for something more existential. Sometimes you want a quick laugh. They are all just expressions of storytelling at the end of day no matter the medium.
AWN: Do you feel most people consider animation to be “cartoons?” Is there a big enough audience to make more mature short-form animated content viable for a network like yours?
KL: We think there is a generation of artists and storytellers who grew up on and are still watching The Simpsons or Pixar films and yet crave an outlet to express their adult lives and experiences as well.
AWN: Are there any plans to commission any short films in the future? Issue some type of Call for Entries?
KL: Yes, we’re always looking. We commission and program year-round.
AWN: Any hope that some of these shorts might lend themselves to expanded series or feature film development?
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.