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ANNECY REVIEW: Disney's 'Feast'

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by Jerry Beck
June 11, 2014 3:00 AM
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Directed By Patrick Osborne; Produced by Kristina Reed

Many people consider the first six minutes of Pixar's UP a perfect short film. It mixed heart, humor and a personal story in ways live action feature films simply will not - through sheer visual storytelling. I always wondered if they might have considered just releasing the opening as a short and let it go at that. Would've been considered brilliant as a stand-alone piece.

That came to mind after seeing Patrick Osborne's new Disney short (premiering today in Annecy; to be released later this year with the feature Big Hero Six). I dare say Osborne's Feast surpasses that first six minutes of UP in all departments.

Feast is as perfect a six minute film as any short can be, telling its sweet story as only animation can tell it. Its got humor, drama and a tear-inducing romance - but it's plussed by innovative filmmaking, gorgeous art direction and Osborne's superb storytelling.

Visually, the film builds upon techniques introduced in Paperman (Osborne was that film's animation supervisor). This time, Feast is in color - and its look skews closer to production story sketch or color keys, looking like brush strokes in motion. But moreover, it's how the story is told that breaks new ground.

The focus is on a stray dog named Winston, his relationship with his new owner James and his point of view as the relationship between James and his girlfriend grows.  It's all told in quick cuts - think cell phone video loops - that enable the storytelling to span several years in several minutes. The  shots themselves are all based around the dog's reaction to his dinner, his snacks, or his latest bowl of food.

These quick glimpses into a dog's life offer plenty of opportunities for classic Disney character animation with all the emotional highs and lows. To describe the plot any further does not do justice to how the film tells its story. In short, Feast is as perfect to 21st Century/2014-style filmmaking as last year's Get A Horse reflected 20th Century/1930-era cartoons. And it's just as refreshing. 

While Disney continues to innovate in its features, with new takes on traditional fairy tale musicals and super-hero adventures, their shorts program is playing a more important role by allowing animators to stretch their talents and push all the techniques available. Feast is indeed a feast for the eyes and the heart - and it's the first real contender for this year's Best Short Oscar.

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