Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Special Delivery

Special Delivery
Directed by Josh Weldon
1978, Canada, 07:07

Diploma of Merit
International Film Festival
June 1 to 18 1979, Melbourne - Australia
Blue Ribbon Award - Category: Humour and Satire

Itinerant - American Film and Video Festival
May 28 to June 2 1979, New York - USA
Oscar - Category: Short Film Awards - Animation

Annual Academy Awards / OSCARS
April 9 1979, Hollywood - USA
First Prize - Category B - Films more than 3 minutes

World Festival of Animated Films
June 19 to 24 1978, Zagreb - Croatia

Special Delivery is an animated dark comedy about a husband (Ralph) that does not clear the snow from the outside steps after his wife (Alice) asks him to.  The mail man breaks his neck on the steps and dies, and Ralph attempts to cover up the accident, resulting in a comic series of events that eventually leaves Ralph alone in his house and his wife gone for good.  

The first thing that impressed  me about Special Delivery is its clever plot line.  It is a great example of cause and effect storytelling where one action has a direct effect that carries the story.  Ralph brings the mail man in the house, Ralph delivers the rest of the route, Ralph gets locked out, the police arrest him for breaking in to the house, the wife discovers the body, she brings him back to his apartment, she discovers the body is dead, etc.  The way the events unfold is tight and smart.  The story also features a full beginning, middle, and end.  I am always bothered by shorts that feature a loose story and are only character study.  I am much more impressed when a filmmaker can squeeze in a mini 3-act story into a short.  

Another way I was impressed was the style of the animation.  There are wacky transitions and images through out.  For example, at 4:50, when Alice imagines Ralph killing the mail man, stars fill the screen to reveal Ralph with a bent wrench.  The picture then swirls and shows Ralph at a gun shop.  He points up to a gun, and then his hand fades in so that he is now holding the gun.  This sequence happens rapidly and is quite the eye candy for hokey looking 70's animation.  Moments like these showcase the director's spectacular imagination.

The short is significant for its blending of styles.  In the beginning, with its slow, gentle narrator and cheap animation, Special Delivery could be mistaken for a children's cartoon.  However, things take a quick turn for the dark once the mail man dies and Ralph strips his clothes.  With full frontal animated nudity, the short quickly says "this one ain't for Nickelodeon." The short also features adult issues such as sexual affairs or how to dispose of a dead body.  The animation being cheesy and friendly along combined a dark subject matter with clever storytelling results in a unique yet high quality short film.  I'm not sure what its competition was like, but I can definitely see why the Academy felt it was necessary to honor this short as the best animated short of the year.  

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I usually think of especially dark films as a relatively recent trend. My thinking is that generally accepted societal values have become progressively more permissive and open, and that virtually nothing dark made before I was born would ever see wide dissemination. Obviously, this is a gross misconception.