Friday, July 27, 2012

Animated Short of the Day: "Slim Pickings" (Anthony Lucas, 1999)

Animated Short of the Day is an ongoing series showcasing short cartoons from every possible genre, era, and format. For an archive of the films previously featured, click here. To suggest cartoons for future installments, email me or contact me on Twitter. 

Today we're going to look at our second food-related cartoon in the last three days (that should show you were my mind is at.) Snork, the hero of "Slim Pickings," has an entirely different problem than the one encountered by the overstuffed Piggy Hamhock. He can't find a thing to eat in his entire house, and his stomach is literally twisting up with hunger.

The first film released by Australian director Anthony Lucas's company 3-D Films, "Slim Pickings" was animated entirely by Lucas himself. The wordless film gives him an chance to display the talent that would later get him an Oscar nomination for his 2005 short "The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" - stark, unfiltered displays of emotion.

"Slim Pickings" features some of the most expressive stop-motion I've seen. During his early hunger pains, Snork's agony is conveyed through exaggerated facial and bodily poses. When he finds a can labeled "One Old Pea," that expression briefly switches to utter delight, only to return to sorrow in an instant (it's just one old pea, after all).

The heft of stop-motion gives these scenes more emotion than they would have in either cel or CG animation. This film is only 4 1/2 minutes long, but we watch Snork experience joy, terror, sadness, satisfaction, longing, hesitation, and regret. It's a simple story about a guy trying to find something to eat, but when it ends I always feel like I've watched him live his entire life.

Much of the material is played for laughs, but the film becomes truly impressive when it turns to tragedy. This is a two-character piece, and Snork's pet tomato plant is just as well-acted as he is. We're anxious along with the plant as it tries to point out the fruit that it just produced, and we feel (heck, sometimes I weep) for it when Snork makes his final, horrible decision about what to eat.

"Slim Pickings" is available for purchase on Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation, a grab-bag DVD that features a handful of actual classics, some entertaining oddities, a few stinkers, and a variety of interesting supplemental materials (less so for this film than some of the others). While I can't call it one of the best animation anthologies out there, it's well worth the five dollars it currently costs on Amazon. Certainly it's more nourishing than One Old Pea.

And look how happy Snork is about that!

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