Every time that HIFF comes to town I am always excited to see what animated films they will be showing. Not that the live action films are better or worse, but I always like to see the artwork of another to inspire my own creativity. I also feel that there is something vintage about the more simple animation that Japan still successfully accomplishes while most American studios such as Disney are almost exclusively 3D animations. So I was very much looking forward to viewing the Ponoc Short Films Theatre collection with animations done by Studio Ghibli Alumni.
The series started off with a very whimsical animation akin to a Rube Goldberg film projector floating in the sky which would reappear several times as a transitional device in-between the shorts. The first film was Kanini & Kanino. At first I was thrown for a loop thinking that someone had forgotten the Eniglish subtitles but that actually ended up being part of the films fun. The characters spoke a very basic language with few words which meant that the viewer had to watch for body language and changing voice tones. Having a very close tie to the traditional Ghibli animation made this task very simple and the film enjoyable. As with many of the mentioned studio’s, this short existed in nature with tiny river people as inhabitants among the much larger fish or birds. A simple scenario about the power of nature and braving ones environment to save a loved one is played out.
The second short Life Ain’t Gonna Lose was very much based in reality unlike Kanini & Kanino. This film discusses allergy issues that may be an unfamiliar topic to most. Specifically the film centers around a young boy that has a life threatening allergy to eggs. The boy, Shun, must deal with an every day task of watching what foods he touches or eats while still being out and about like the other kids. Along with Shun, his bother must endure the same task with a constant fear for her child. The animation was done well and the scenes were vibrant while bursting with life. However, the film came off more as public service announcement for food allergy awareness than as a creative story.
Lastly there was Invisible. This short returned to a more interesting setting and character when in the beginning of the film has the audience trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the main character. Not only is the gentleman invisible but he also light than air which causes him to constantly carry around heavy objects or hold onto something. It is a very strange scenario and the animated style for this seemed a bit more “sketchy” and less polished and fit the story. Bravery seems to reoccur as the main lesson for this story as well as an idea that even if no one notices you, one can still accomplish great tasks.
Overall the shorts were exactly that. With a runtime of 52 minutes though maybe closer to 40 (after taking out the introduction and transition elements) I felt bad for the people that paid money to see the small film montage. Though all of the animations were great, they were mostly unremarkable, although at least two of them could definitely easily developed more seriously.