Fresh from the Festivals:
March 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, in addition to The 2000 Oscar Shortlist Showcase, Maureen Furniss takes a critical look at the five films that were shortlisted for Oscar consideration but not nominated. The Indescribable Nth, Fractured Fairy Tales: The Phox, the Box and the Lox, Monsieur Pett, Village of Idiots and Silence were all shortlisted and deserve a second look!

Also, don't forget to visit The 2000 AWN Oscar Showcase. AWN is, again, the only place in the world where one can go to see clips of all the animated nominees. Each nominee is featured on AWN with a 15-30 second QuickTime clip, film stills, a brief summary of the film and an exclusive quote.

This month:
The Indescribable Nth
(1999), 9 min., and Fractured Fairy Tales: The Phox, the Box and the Lox (1999), produced by Universal Studios), 6 min., directed by Oscar Moore, USA. Info: Character Builders, 1476 Manning Parkway, Powell, OH 43065, USA. Tel: 614 885 2211. E-mail: URL:
Monsieur Pett or The Man Who Couldn't Help It (1999), 23 min., directed by Oscar Grillo, England. Info: Klacto Animations, 49-50 Great Marlborough Street, 2nd Floor, London, W1V 1DB. Tel: 44 171 439 1420. Email: URL:
Village of Idiots (1999), 13 min., directed by Eugene Fedorenko and Rose Newlove, Canada. Info: National Film Board of Canada, 3155 Cote de Liesse Road, St. Laurent, Quebec H4N 2N4. Tel: 514 283 9439. URL:
Silence (1999), 11 min., directed by Orly Yadin and Sylvie Bringas, England. Info: Halo Productions, Ltd., 20 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9LW. Tel: 44 171 379 7398. Fax: 44 171 379 7403.

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

The Indescribable Nth. © Character Builders.

The Indescribable Nth
This appears to be a lucky year for Oscar Moore, who has managed to score two animated shorts among this year's Oscar shortlist (after his past nomination for the 1997 Redux Riding Hood). One of them is The Indescribable Nth, a children's story about a boy whose most treasured possession is a snow globe containing a heart -- his own heart and the love that it embodies. This precious item is guarded by the boy's father, treated roughly by his first girlfriend, and finally treasured by a young woman who seems to be his perfect match. The story is based on Moore's book of the same title, published in 1991, and uses English-language narration (Oscar went by his given name, Steve, at the beginning of his career, so `Steve Moore' appears as its author).

Highlighting the film is the visual design of its characters. Black line drawings on a white background create a strong graphic look and capitalize on the studio's specialization: hand drawn animation. Stylized and expressive, the film's characters and their environments lend visual interest to the simple tale. The Indescribable Nth was directed by Oscar Moore and produced by Character Builders, a commercial animation studio which has contributed artwork to a number of animated features, television series and commercials. The studio was co-founded by Jim Kammerud, Jeff Smith (creator of the Bone comic books), and Martin Fuller in 1986.

Fractured Fairy Tales: The Phox, the Box and the Lox
The second of Moore's shortlisted works, The Phox, The Box and The Lox, is likely to be the best-known of the shortlist because it premiered before Universal Pictures' live-action comedy, Dudley Do-Right. Based on a concept developed by Jay Ward and a script by Bill Scott, head writer of Jay Ward Productions, the film scores a lot of points for its nostalgia value. Produced by Ward's daughter, Tiffany Ward, and featuring the voice talent of legendary June Foray (the voice of Rocky, Natasha and Nell in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" series, among others), there are strong ties to the `old Hollywood' system here.

The Phox, the Box and the Lox is about a savvy fox (who spells his name with a `Ph') who gets one of the village idiots to open a treasure chest for him. The short perfectly reflects the style for which Jay Ward shorts were so well known: the `fractured fairy tale' story structure, the familiar voice-over announcer, and characters who not only directly address the audience but also deliver very witty dialogue all contribute to its success. What appeared to be two small glitches in the artwork (one during a run cycle and the other a mismatched arm movement in a cut) took me by surprise, given that this is a big studio production, but in all other respects the film seems to be a flawless crowd pleaser.

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