Highlights from My First Fantasia

23 Aug

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Playing at Fantasia Digital Film Festival 2020 On Demand till Sept 2. Buy your virtual ticket here.

Fantasia Film Festival may seem short with feature length animated works this year because one title was pulled. My response is to check out the My First Fantasia Programme. There’s more than enough pieces to sate anyone’s appetite! Plus, the other packaged presentations include mini tales of fantasy, sci-fi and experimental works. There’s a mini festival within a festival if you spend your time exploring the talents featured here.

Realistically, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival is the event for fans of this medium. When my love for this genre outweighs Asian works, I had to do a marathon run of this particular set of works this weekend. I’m particularly interested with seeing what emerging talents from around the world are offering. Some are certainly ready to be noticed by Studio Ghibli, Studio Canal, Cartoon Saloon, or even PIXAR.

A few shorts are repeated in the other themed sets; they only help reinforce the concept being presented. Some are animated in CGI, others are hand drawn, a few are stop motion and the rest use a blend of other techniques—which include clay, Adobe Animation (formerly Flash) or otherwise. They are all used to great effect to convey a sense of wonder, whimsy or surreal.

This list highlights the pieces which I found the most engaging from each themed package:

1,2,3 Pas Soleil - FilmFreeway

Tales, Legends and Fantastic Stories

1, 2, 3, Pas Soleil!

This sweet fantasy has shades of Toy Story mixed in. When a young boy feels lonely, all he has are his toys to play with. They come to life and cure his blues. He loves his sports and is a champion in the making.

Although his parents scold him for his rambunctiousness, there’s a reason why. Mom is expecting. This tyke’s hope is to have a baby brother.

Alec le Dos de la Cuillere

This delightful musical romp sees a young woman hearing sounds from the sink, and boredom gets a lot livelier as an impromptu jam session with neighbours begins.

Terre de Vers

This animation has all the wonderful nuances of a Danny Elfman score as earthworms sing about what goes on underneath in a farm, and perhaps even more. Without subtitles, my understanding can only go so far because of my limited understanding of French. However, visually, the darker underpinnings cannot go unnoticed!

Le Tigre Et Son Maître

When a certain tiger fails at catching his prey, just what can a cat teach him? This hilarious fable ends on a hilarious note and is a fun one to catch.

Une Lanterne Dans la Nuit

This slightly dark fantasy sees Emiko, a young Japanese girl, learn the secret behind the festival which keeps evil spirits at bay. The scares are gentle, but we warned, the obake (ghosts) may well haunt your dreams for a night.

Wordless Stories For All Ages

Cumulus

Watching this quick short about a young girl in a vintage boat can only bring one song to mind–”Come Sail Away” by Styx!

Dream Eater

This fantastic animation feels like a remix of Monsters Inc. When a young girl is having nightmares, it requires a monster who eats happy dreams to help. It’s a bit of a a weird narrative, but to see this creature help brings out a very Studio Ghibli-seque feel to how this tale develops.

When this creature looks like a cross between Sully and Totoro, how can anyone not love him?

Fantasia Festival | Dream Eater

Maija

This sad tale is beautiful in its construction. The CGI just leaps at you, and in what we find is a young girl feeling lost when dad (a lighthouse keeper) doesn’t come back. There’s some inspiration taken from Van Gogh’s Starry Night but in this case it’s the sea that comes alive!

Onsen

This delightful and fantastically detailed animated piece sees two Japanese monkeys fight it out at a hot spring. But unless they mend their ways, they face another foe…

Simon’s Cat Origins Story

We’ve all been there. It’s difficult to train or tame your cat. Simon has to deal with his unruly kitty in this chuckle worthy piece.

Le Petit Poussin roux

On the Road to Adventure

Le Petit Poussin Roux

A little chick wants to try his hand at baking and the result we see is him learning where the ingredients required to make a muffin comes from. Perhaps more importantly is the lesson this short makes about teamwork. Though he tries to ask his barnyard friends for assistance, they’re lazy and don’t want to. Although he takes it in stride, he continues his merry way and finds assistance.

The animation and performances are adorable; It never outshines the important lesson children will take from it. Highly recommended!

Zibilla

This cute construction paper-like animation is about how Zibilla (a zebra) is trying to fit in at a school of mostly single coloured horses. The bigger theme of “racial” acceptance makes this piece stand out amongst the other tales.

The fellow kids mistreat him, but to gain their friendship takes an interesting spin at a circus.

Le Bebe De La Sorciere: Amazon.ca: Collectif,, Collectif: Books

Favourites from Saguenay International Short Film Festival

La Sorcière et le Bébé
(The Witch and the Baby)

This crazy spin on the legend of Baba Yaga is less horrific and more heartwarming! Here, the witch takes a liking to the infant she kidnaps and from there, we get a resolution nearly straight out of a Disney movie.

Nuageux

In the Czech Republic, animation is alive and well! A scantily clad Gnome wants the sun to stick around, but he’s having difficulty in this humorous adventure that takes him high the highest road, to the mountains, and beyond just to get a tan!

The Kite

If the Czech’s know Studio Ghibli’s works, then this phenomenally made work is their own take on Miyazaki’s love for aerial landscapes and the power of flight. A young boy loves flying his kite with his grandfather, but the inevitable becomes apparent as the lad can no longer find him. You almost have to cry.

The presentation is superb and very avant-garde. Painted cardboard cutouts and mixed media create the landscape. it’s the most creatively made piece to be found in this mix of shorts in this particular program!

From 8 to 88 Years Old

Lion

This stylish animation sees a lion navigate the harsh Savannah in search for water. In what works is how it delivers a narrative through cave paintings that are literally alive. The scene reveals a broader picture, very mythic in scope and timeless as those Paleolithic Paleolithic paintings in Lascaux Cave. It’s about restoring the land to what it once was, a sprawling paradise instead of hell on earth.

The conflict is epic. It’s a tale of survival, and in this case, also restoration.

The Masterpiece

Anyone who has played The Sims will love this work. Instead of a computer, a mysterious old man built a literal world in his workroom, complete with a civilization who has advanced far enough to go exploring “outer space,” but finds an angry God. It’s amusing to see how this creator sees his creation. He’s a tired old man, and though he destroyed the world with an amusing rendition of “the flood,” to see how these tiny denizens deal shows off just how resilient this particular species is.

Firmament

When there’s two robots given the responsibility to clean up the world, or rather salvage, all they want to do is dream. They make new light bulbs out of the junk they find and true to the namesake, trip a little light fantastic.

This animation soars in the unsaid message which I found to be very moving. The tale is not like a certain PIXAR film by any means, but the narration and style is certainly in par with one of their works! It’s worth a watch for the fantastic attention to detail with the set designs in this digital world, and just honestly, I’m fairly sure the animators were inspired by that certain Mary Poppins’ song.

Me, a Monster!

This cute sci-fi piece shows what happens when Nono, a furry, gets a robotic visitor from another world. It’s an explorer, but as for how well they can understand each other is certainly something similar to PIXAR’s Wall*E. We don’t have to worry about dirtying Nono’s planet, but we do have to wonder just how this fuzz ball will survive when it has to go home. This delightful piece has the potential to be expanded to a feature film.

Senses

This unique work brilliantly uses compare and contrast with colour and B&W as metaphors to two individual’s lives as a chameleon is accidentally let loose in an apartment complex. This piece is perhaps the only work that suggests a potential LGBQ relationship which is rarely seen with animation.

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