I first saw this film back at SIGGRAPH 2003 so it’s not exactly new. But the film has stuck with me, and it holds up quite well. Now that it’s online, I have to point it out. TIM TOM is a graduate film by Romain Segaud and Christel Pougeoise, produced at the French animation school SupInfoCom.

There’s all sorts of nods to old school animation techniques in this film — from the opening titles (in the form of a thaumatrope) to the flipbook facial expressions to the characters interacting with strips of film. But the biggest nod to old school techniques is the quality of the character animation itself. Computer animated characters, especially those in student films, rarely move like this…with such distinctive and individual styles of movement, with such snappy timing, with such expressive overlapping action. But much to the credit of the two filmmakers, the characters in TIM TOM are alive in the way that the best animated characters should be.

Here’s some production info in the words of one of the filmmakers, Christel Pougeoise:

We met at SupInfoCom, one of the top animation schools in France with an emphasis on teaching CGI animation. There we collaborated on a five minute animated film that took 16 months to create. The simple scenario features two animated characters trying to meet against the wishes of a giant omnipotent human hand. There is no dialogue but the thoughts and expressions of the protagonists are written on their notepad faces. Using Maya, Photoshop, and After Effects, the 3D computer animation is made to look like realistic puppets made of clay and paper. It’s a reference to old stop-motion films. We also chose a 40s jazz soundtrack (Django Reinhardt) and a black and white image to provide the film overall with the aesthetics of the classic films of Méliès, Trinka, Dudok de Wit, and Svankmayer. Romain came up with the original idea and I liked it so much I decided to work with him. During the third year, we worked on the screenplay and storyboards and during the last year we modeled the characters, animated them, rendered the movie with computers, added the sound, and then transferred it all to 35mm film. Tim Tom has played at several festivals in Europe and US, has received the LEAF award in London and the prix de la SCAM in France.