Short film review – Lou (Dave Mullins, 2017)

A sweet short film about a bully’s relationship with a lost and found box in a playground might just make your ticket to Cars 3 worth the entry fee.

Dave Mullins is a first time director but has been working with Disney since 1995 and Pixar since 2000, working in the animation department for the likes of Up, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille and Inside Out. It is clear that his attention to detail and love of a great story is at the heart of this film, which is brought to life wonderfully in a story that lasts only a few minutes.

The film opens with the lost and found box attracting the attention of the children in the playground of a school boy, encouraging them to play with the contents. However, the school bully J.J. begins teasing his class mates by taking away their toys and teasing them in the process. However, when the contents of the lost and found box come to life and start to turn the tables on him, he quickly learns a fast lesson in being nice to his peers, awakening memories he’s hidden inside himself that may be the real problem behind his poor behaviour.

It’s incredibly difficult to create something with such a large story and get the whole point across in a strictly limited timeframe, but Mullins and his team completely manage it. The short is, essentially, a silent film, but it has no difficulty in delivering a succinct but strong message.

The audience, which were mainly children, were completely captivated and gave a spontaneous round of applause at the end of the screening.

You can watch the opening 40 seconds below.



Catching Up (Spike Wright, 2015)

Catching Up from Spike Wright on Vimeo.

Spike Wright’s latest short film “Catching Up” is a great example of how to get creative with the short medium. Wright has utilised the constraints of the running time to produce something exceptionally moving, led by excellent acting performances by the two leads George Evans and Nicola Northcott.

The end result is remarkable given they only had 60 hours to turn it around and with only two starting points: a particular line of dialogue (“That’s surely too much for this town”) and a prop action that had to occur (“Two ice cubes are taken out of a glass of water and dropped into an empty glass”). The story is conveyed in five minutes without really ever feeling like it was rushed, with a satisfying conclusion to a concise narrative.

There’s no vote to be had but with any luck it should be screened at the 2015 Colchester Film Festival later this month. It certainly deserves to be.

Film review – Lava (James Ford Murphy, 2014)

The opening short film you will see before Inside Out later this summer is a sweet film called Lava, probably the first musical love story to take place over millions of years. It involves two volcanoes and is set to a beautiful song sung by Kuana Torres Kahele.

This volcano is in lava.

This volcano is in lava.

It was met with audible gasps, sighs and whoops in the screening I saw at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Please make sure you get there in time to see this volcano’s story!

Short film review – The Automatic Motorist (W. R. Booth, 1911)

A bride, a motorcar, a robot chauffeur and a policeman – what could possibly go wrong? Fantasy and ‘trick’ film pioneer W.R. Booth uses cut-out animation and models to create a truly out-of-this-world sci-fi adventure. The mad-cap plot sees a newlywed couple transported from a country lane to outer-space (via St Paul’s Cathedral), where the policeman encounters some pretty feisty Saturnians…

Another curiosity from the BFI archives, The Automatic Motorist is a fun and playful short film that is full of science fiction. It’s completely bonkers and has the disjointed feel of a Michel Gondry music video – full of experimental shots that don’t add up to much of a story but that nonetheless provide the viewer with an enjoyable ride. Plus it’s only six minutes long, so you might as well watch it.

My Dad (Marcus Armitage, 2014)

Animators – Marcus Armitage, Jonathan Long, Diana Gradinaru, Noriko Ishibe
Voice – Divian Ladwa

Marcus Armitage’s BAFTA-nominated short animation “My Dad” is a story full of social commentary, regarding the way children are influenced by their surroundings. Its powerful message makes it a worthy nominee at this year’s awards.

I caught up with Marcus ahead of the awards night to find out more about the film and his inspirations.

“I started out looking into the relationship between father and son and how opinions are passed down,” he said talking about the inspiration behind the film. In it we see a young child being spending time with his father as they do a series of seemingly innocuous things, but the overlaying of disjointed sound bites from the child (delivered to great effect by Divian Ladwa) reveals the real message of the piece – that children are smothered by a mixture of the media and their parents.

The narration acts as a voice for the child as he attempts to process what he is seeing and hearing. The brilliantly animated oil pastel drawings show a real talent in a medium Armitage clearly enjoys (“I have a stack of around 3000 oil pastel drawings at home!!”). Coupled with the innocence of the words spoken, the sensory overload really belies the powerful message contained underneath.


I was taken aback by the ending of the film, as the artwork is literally torn away to reveal a barely glimpsed shot of a terrified child with his father, in the midst of an altercation between an EDL gang and the police.

“The concept was mainly formed but then during research into the subject of inherited racism I found this image taken from an EDL march. I was so struck by its power I had to use it. It changed the film quite a lot but for the better. It is quite a disturbing image but you only get a quick glimpse at the end.”

It’s a really effective way to end the piece and shows Armitage’s intelligence in drawing masses of influence from something he finds intriguing and striking.

So what’s next for Armitage? “My next project is uncertain at the moment. I graduated in June and I’ve since set myself up as a freelance animator and director, which is going well.” He has ideas for his next film, but with time on his side and an increased interest in his work following the BAFTAs, My Dad is just the start of what I expect will be a very busy and exciting period in Marcus’s career.

You can view the trailer for My Dad here. I also recommend Over Dinner, a previously produced animation with a similarly powerful message.

A Short Vision (Joan and Peter Foldes, 1956)

Wild creatures flee in terror as a strange missile flies overhead. As it passes over the sleeping city, the world’s leaders and wise men look upwards. The missile explodes, destroying humans, wild creatures and the Earth itself.

A curiosity available via the BFI YouTube channel or in any of the BFI Mediatheques, A Short Vision is a short animated film that captured the imagination of a world obsessed with nuclear war and a fear-induced impending apocalypse. I discovered it during my latest visit to the BFI Mediatheque (a cracking service by the way) and found it completely captivating.

The animation style is jarring, with very little actual moving imagery. Instead, highly detailed paintings are used. Equally the score, provided by Mátyás Seiber, sounds overly eerie and fits perfectly with the visuals.

I don’t know what the purpose of the film was. It was originally funded by the BFI Experimental Film Fund. It’s incredibly depressing to say the least. The James McKechnie voice-over work doesn’t help either, his British voice relaying an almost biblical retelling of a horrible story.

To be honest, by the end of the film I couldn’t help but laugh. It seems so out of convention now that it would have aired on prime time US television as part of The Ed Sullivan Show. No wonder it sparked the biggest reaction since HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds” (presumably in terms of complaints).

Anyway, just watch it and see what you think. The perfect way to get you in the mood for the upcoming Hallowe’en season, or just to bring mood down if you feel in any way positive.