MMC! was lucky enough to see Kier-La Janisse’s latest Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cartoon Party and the best of the program was Jerry Lieberman’s Huff ‘n Puff, an anti-smoking PSA for the American Cancer Society that riffs on the story of the Three Little Pigs with some strange gallows humour. We could only assume that the Big Bad Wolf died just after the short ended. The short seems to have been part of a larger campaign that included an illustrated story offered as a pamphlet. (If anyone knows the year this animated short was produced or released, I’d appreciate the info!)
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).
There’s a running joke in Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze (2017), a film about a man who builds a massive cardboard maze (bigger inside than out) and then gets trapped within it. As Dave’s friend Gordon (Adam Busch) repeatedly points out, the maze is full of traps, making it, in fact, a labyrinth. Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival offered a disparate collection of films – a comedy recounting a slacker’s epic quest in a DIY fortress; a trippy, coming-of-age, prom night parable; a genre-mixing, science fiction blockbuster; and a dreamy descent into a housewife’s trauma and a cult’s terrifying prophecy. Each offers its own twists and turns, finding new dangers as they progress through corrugated caverns, genre conventions, and layered realities. In fact, they’re all labyrinths in their own ways.
MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
Robert Morgan’s The Cat With Hands (2001) has become something of a horror short classic over the last 15 years, utilizing stop-motion animation’s unsettling, uncanny look to ghastly perfection. The short was inspired by a recurring childhood nightmare of the director’s sister and passed that distress on to its viewers now. Enjoy!
Today, MMC! offers a trio of diverse animated films by longtime NFB animator Ishu Patel. First up is Perspectrum (1975), an abstract work of colourful geometry that adapted techniques developed by Norman McLaren. Next is Bead Game (1977), which takes its inspiration from the elaborate bead-work of Inuit women and provides a cautionary tale on our aggressive tendencies and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Lastly, Patel’s beautifully luminescent Paradise (1984) examines the value and nature of beauty, hauntingly accompanied by James Last’s The Lonely Shepherd. Patel’s career with the NFB took him around the world conducting animation workshops in the Far North, Ghana, Yugoslavia, the USA, Japan, and back in his native India, and he was honoured with awards from major film and animation festivals including Ottawa, Annecy, Melbourne, and Berlin. His Bead Game received a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination, while Paradise won a Silver Bear at Berlin and gave Patel his second Academy Award nomination.
As per the NFB:
In this animated short, simple geometric forms as thin and flat as playing cards constantly form and re-form to the sound of the kyoto, a 13-string Japanese instrument.
As per the NFB:
In this animated short, thousands of beads are arranged and manipulated, assuming shapes of creatures both mythical and real. They continually devour, merge, and absorb one another in explosions of colour.
As per the NFB:
In this short animation film, a magnificent bird performs for the Emperor inside a glittering palace. Its plumage is a blaze of color. A blackbird, watching enviously, strives to acquire what he so desperately covets, only to discover that a golden cage can’t compete with the open skies.