Monday, October 17, 2011

Creature Comforts by Nick Park - 1989

"Creature Comforts" is a claymation short by director Nick Park based around the idea of a reporter interviewing different animals at the zoo to get their opinion on their living situation. Different animals are seen talking into a microphone about living at the zoo and what their take on the situation is. All this comes from Nick Park aka the creator of Wallace and Gromit.

I think that this film is ingenious. First of all the concept of interviewing animals at the zoo in the style of a human interest story for the news, and hearing them talk matter of factly how they would rather live somewhere else, or how they feel safe seems so ridiculous that in a way its hilarious. Their anthropomorphism - everything from rolling eyes, raising their hand, gesturing, wearing old lady glasses plays on stereotypical human characters, combined with their zoo animal situation and story is done brilliantly, and clearly underscored with this very dry humor that the director uses to mesh animal and human together.*** Their very human teeth are out of place, and yet work because they serve to further anthropomorphize the animals. The voices are also very important in that blending. Matching these blase british voices (that are very unlike the dramatic and exaggerated voices we often hear animals given in other films) with the human teeth really gives the viewer the feeling we are seeing people interviewed...but they just happen to be animals. In a bizarre way, it makes ones think about how unfair and absurd the concept of a zoo really is.

The humor in the film deserves to be mentioned in its own right as well. The nonchalant mood of the film juxtaposed with the absurdity of the story being presented is so dry and subtle in its humor that at the end you aren't even quite sure why what you just saw was so funny. The subtlety comes from the bits here and there that are so off the wall - and yet they aren't screaming at you to pay attention to them. For instance the polar bears talking about loving steak, or the eyes of the bushbaby really being glasses, or my personal favorite - when the the chicken is talking about the circus, and in the background you see one chicken snap another chickens beak off its face as if it were wearing one of those fake beaks on an elastic string around its head. All of this is presented as ordinary, but it is so far from that that it end up being highly humorous. Basically after I watch the film I just sat their shaking my head saying "What..." to myself and knowing that I loved it.

If for nothing else (psh) Nick Park deserves to be lauded for his animation technique. This entire piece is done so intricately and perfectly that he effectiveley creates that fourth wall, which is arguably harder in claymation. The voices, the motions, and the almost invisibility of the stop-cutting (sorry if thats the wrong term) all work in harmony and the piece appears seamless. The look of the creatures is also another aspect that adds to the humor of the film. The cuteness, or how some of the creatures are slightly cockeyed, or most noticeably how most of these creatures are much more bizarre looking than their real life counterparts is done just so that even the look of the film is hilarious.

This actually film ended up winning the Best Animated Animated Short Film award at the Oscars, and I believe it completely deserved it.

*** The director used street interviews for the voices of the animals.

1 comment:

haley schattner said...

I have seen this before and have always enjoyed it. It is both clever and humorous. As someone who speaks for her dog when he is about to get a bowl of food (he is a Yorkshire Terrier so obviously he would have a British accent), I like animal perspective pieces.