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Anatomy of a Scene: The Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood February 18, 2014 at 11:29AM

What were the most challenging scenes to animate in the Oscar-Nominated shorts? I posed this to all five directors: Lauren MacMullan ("Get A Horse!"), Daniel Sousa ("Feral"), Shuhei Morita ("Possessions"), Laurent Witz ("Mr. Hublot"), and Max Lang ("Room on the Broom").
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'Feral'
'Feral'

What were the most challenging scenes to animate in the Oscar-Nominated shorts? I posed this to all five directors: Lauren MacMullan ("Get A Horse!"), Daniel Sousa ("Feral"), Shuhei Morita ("Possessions"), Laurent Witz ("Mr. Hublot"), and Max Lang ("Room on the Broom").

In "Feral," the striking story of a wild child trying to re-integrate into civilization, the opening was the most challenging and most important for Sousa. "In it, a rustic windmill emerges from the darkness and we gradually realize that there's a naked child inside. The image of the windmill comes up from time to time throughout the film, and I never really explain its significance. It's one of those motifs that are impossible to write about in a written treatment or a script, because they are a bit surreal and hard to justify. But in the context of watching the film and being immersed in the emotion of the moment, it makes perfect sense.

"So initially I had a lot of second thoughts about putting it in at all. The real reason why it is there is because of a memory that has been with me since I was a child. I grew up just outside of Lisbon, Portugal, in a somewhat urban environment. But whenever I wanted to be alone or get away from responsibilities I would run to the edge of the nearby woods. There was an abandoned windmill standing at the top of a hill that demarcated the edge of civilization, and it started to symbolize a kind of passageway into another realm, in which time behaved differently and the same rules did not apply. It was a place to hide, like a womb.

"So when it re-emerged in the film, I think it took on a motherly quality at the beginning, and at times it was almost like a life-giving deity. But it was also a manifestation of the boy's state of mind, so it could be peaceful at times, and angry and destructive as well. Eventually, it became one of the most important elements of the film."

Read the rest of this article over at Animation Scoop.

This article is related to: Features, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards, Animation Scoop, Shorts, Short Film, Shorts


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.