Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pixar: Like no Other

For the Birds
directed by Karen Dufilho USA 2000, 3 minutes
2002-Oscar-Best Short Animated Film
2001-Vancouver Effects and Animation Festival-Animated Computer 3D Short 2001-Anima Mundi Animation Festival-Best Film x2 2001-Chicago International Children's Film Festival-Short Film or Video - Animation-Second Place 2000-Annie Awards-Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short Subject 2000-Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival-Best Animated Short Film

For the Birds is the story of a large dopey bird (when compared to the rest of the flock). The flock is having issues with space on a telephone line when the story starts and when big dopey wants to join the other birds on the telephone line the birds of the flock start making fun of him for being so different. But big dopey bird’s persistence to belong to the flock causes him to fly over from the pole to the line. Due to his rather large size, dopey causes the line to bend and have the other birds that had moved away from his landing spot to slide alongside the cable ending up all packed one next to the other with dopey in the middle. However, big gets knocked over by the other birds but manages to keep his claws on the cable. The two birds closest to his claws see that he can barely hold on to the cable with his claws and so they decide to get rid of him by poking at his claws. When the two birds are able to remove all but one claw, two other birds notice the position that the cable is in: the weight of dopey has caused the cable to resemble that of a slingshot and if dopey lets go of the line, the birds are going to be launched against their will. And this is exactly what happens. Dopey lands on his head and smiles as if all is well. But suddenly Dopey’s smile turns into laughter since the other birds come back to the ground without any feathers at all and they have to hide behind Dopey who is the one that still has feathers.[1]
Pixar Animation Studios was established when the computer graphics division in Lucasfilm Ltd. was purchased by Steve Jobs for ten million and established as an independent company christened Pixar in 1986. Disney recently purchased Pixar in 2007 thus becoming a subsidiary of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. As of today, Pixar has won 21 Academy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, & 1 Grammy among many other distinctive awards. (If you would like to learn more about Pixar Inc. or its short films
I chose this Pixar short in particular not because it’s my favorite (I love them all equally) but because it’s the one that introduced me to the brilliance of Pixar short films. For those who do not know, Pixar short films are the reason why you should always arrive early to a Pixar feature. To me, it’s because I can’t see the feature anymore without having seen the short; they are like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, you can not enjoy the whole sandwich if one is missing.
The short revolves around the saying “who has the last laugh now?” this is because Dopey is able to get back at the flock for making fun of him by the end of the short. However, since it’s an animated short film (which explains its reason for being in this category) it is not so much the moral of the story that causes the impact but rather the technicalities that went into to telling Dopey’s story.
Personally I do not know the technical aspects of what makes a good animation good, but to me the fact that the birds are able to convey with only facial expressions what is going on in the story is incredible. Their facial expressions especially their eyes tell the bird’s perspective on the story. This can be seen in the picture I have placed at the beginning of this entry, where all the birds are on the phone line. By looking at each of the birds’ eyes one can see which birds are extremely uncomfortable having to sit that close to each other, which birds are scared and which ones are extremely angry at Dopey for bending the phone line. Thus the combination of facial expressions with the movement of the birds allows for the story to be told without actual dialogue; as if it was really told by the birds themselves.
Another component which shows how meticulous the creators wanted the birds to be is shown in their detail to the feathers and how the lighting works with the feathers. This is because the feathers on the flock birds are completely different from the feather on Dopey. These distinctions can be picked up due to the lighting used throughout the short. The feathers also make the birds seem more than animated, it makes the viewer feel as if the birds are real which works because then as a viewer you are able to get involved with the short from the perspective of the animals, especially Dopey.
Moreover, the feathers are the symbol used to portray how the flock learns their lesson. The creators had to make them incredible to emphasize the point at the end of why the flock birds are so embarrassed and upset to have lost them. Thus, the meaning at the end of the short for Dopey is “I got the last laugh”, but for the flock is “we have shed this coat and will never make fun of Dopey again”. (And I’m glad too)

[1] Please Note that I used instead of constantly repeating large dopey bird I have given him the name of Dopey but this is not the birds official name. According to the Studio the birds have no name they are simply known as the large dopey bird and the flock as the bullies.


Laura G. said...

It is interesting you raise the question of what makes a good animated film. I do am not sure whether the technical aspects make an animated film good or not.

One one hand, what makes a good animated film are compelling characters and the story. If the animators can get you to care about the characters, then they have suceeded.

On the other hand, if the animators can wow with the beauty of the film, and do something that had not been accomplished before, that would also be a good animated film.

Matt Taylor said...

The point is to draw the viewer in by captivating images and plots in such a simple short animation, a hard thing to accomplish.

Anonymous said...

great animations and even better story line

Anonymous said...

yet again, very good at summarizing and not losing the reader's interest. This writer is extremely skilled.

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