Short Film Review: Disney’s ‘Feast’

Click for larger version of teaser image from Disney’s Feast.

Disney’s Feast debuted yesterday to a raucous packed house at the Annecy International Animation Festival, alongside some never-before-seen clips from the studio’s next feature Big Hero 6. After its premiere, Feast’s director Patrick Osborne and production designer Jeff Turley delivered a presentation about the project’s conception and production techniques.

As suggested in the sparse teaser image that has been released for the film (above), the film uses some of the same non-photorealistic rendering techniques that were explored in the studio’s earlier Oscar-winning short Paperman, but the effect this time is more lush and immersive. Unlike Paperman, which relied heavily on character outlines, Feast explores an aggressive stylization, minimizing the exterior line and steeping itself in the possibilities of color, shape, and form. If you’ve ever looked at the concept art in an ‘art of’ book and wondered why the finished film couldn’t look like that, you’ll wonder no longer. This film is concept art come to life.

Without giving anything away that’s not already in the synopsis, the story is fundamentally the same as Paperman or even Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella—boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. Osborne’s deft directorial choices avoid sappy sentimentality and expand the scope of this time-tested tale with a willingness to push cinematic language beyond the usual tendencies of Hollywood animated filmmaking. Osborne employs a unique point of view, showing us the world from the shallow depth of field perspective of the owner’s dog, Winston, and makes striking use of quick-cuts and time compression techniques. The narrative fragmentation lends the film a contemporary feeling that evokes the eye-blink editing of a Vine or Instagram video. (This technique was, in fact, inspired by one of Osborne’s personal digital projects: a video diary that he created over the course of a year documenting one-second daily snapshots of his meals.)

Food plays a key role in the film. During their presentation yesterday, Jeff Turley joked that all the artists who worked on the film gained weight during the production because of the ‘research’ that they had to do. Their weight gain paid off though. Feast is the first time in my memory that CGI food has actually looked appetizing onscreen. It’s certainly Disney’s strongest effort in their nascent revival of short filmmaking, and suggests exciting possibilities for how the studio could blend hand-drawn craftsmanship and digital technology in future projects.