Sunday, October 12, 2008

Luxo Jr.

Luxo Jr. (1986)
dir. John Lasseter

Many fans of Pixar’s latest work, “Wall-E,” were impressed with how much emotion the animators were able to convey without dialogue. For the first 20 minutes of the film, there is no dialogue, and then for the next 20, the only words spoken are “Wall-E,” “Eve,” “Eva,” “directive,” and “ta-da.” However, the viewer did not need dialogue in order to understand the story. Through facial expressions, and movement the audience was able to understand what emotions the characters were feeling, and what was occurring on-screen. However, this was nothing new for Pixar. They had been creating characters out of objects that audiences could identify with for two decades.

“Luxo Jr.” is a masterpiece, especially considering that it was Pixar’s first film. The plot is simple; a larger lamp sees a ball, and rolls it off screen, only to see the ball return. The viewer soon discovers that the ball has been rolled by a smaller lamp, which eagerly chases after the ball. The smaller lamp rolls it back. The larger one and the smaller one briefly roll it back and forth between the two of them. The little one stands on the ball, and it deflates. The smaller makes an attempt to roll what remains of the ball. Both lamps inspect the damage. The smaller lamp sinks down after realizing the ball is beyond repair. The smaller lamp leaves, only to roll a beach ball, with the larger lamp looking on in disbelief.

What is significant about this film is that makes the viewer believe these characters have emotions, without a single line of dialogue being spoken. The two lamps are either parent and child, or an older sibling and a younger sibling. The larger lamp shakes its head in an affirmative manner, to confirm to its younger counterpart that the ball is in fact dead. It is heartbreaking to watch the younger lamp shrink down due its guilt and grief over the demise of the ball. The viewer is tempted to make-up dialogue to accompany what is on-screen, which is possible due to the humanity the animators endowed the two lamps with. In under two minutes the animators were able to create two different characters, each with its own personality, as well as tell a story.

1 comment:

Paul Klein said...

It is interesting that you wrote about Pixar's use (or lack thereof) of dialogue, as one of my first choices for this blog was Pixar's "For the Birds", a three minute goofball comedy with birds that sound more like squeaky toys than birds, and certainly don't speak in the same way a Disney anthropomorphic bird would.

I've always loved the amount of emotion that Pixar animators convey in their characters. There is something so heartbreaking and beautiful about Pixar animation. It breaks down the complex realities of this world and measures them in simplistic objects, lines, and facial figures. The effect is always quite dramatic, and has made for some great films over the years.