EventsFeature FilmShorts

Report from Ottawa: Persepolis and Goofy


From the sublime to the ridiculous…

My laryngitis on Wednesday developed into a full fledged cold on Thursday and Friday, forcing me to to miss many screenings and events at Ottawa this year. However, I did manage to sneak out each day to attend at least one screening or panel (and the picnic) and still had a great time. Of the Competition screenings and International Showcase I attended, I didn’t see any film unworthy of showing. Either it was a great year for short films, or the selection committee really did a great job (or probably, both).

I did catch two significant 2-D films worthy of special note—Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis and Disney Animation’s new Goofy short How To Hook Up Your Home Theater.

Persepolis – This is an important film. I’m not saying it’s a great film—or the best animated film of the year—but it’s a good film with a great story. More significantly, we in animation need it.

It’s a mostly black and white 2-D hand drawn cartoon—think Little Lulu, if Lulu grew up in Tehran during the overthrow of the Shah—and strictly for adults. It’s the antithesis of the Hollywood CG blockbuster mentality that is currently stifling creativity in animated feature films. This film’s success could help revive the idea that animated films could be drawn by hand.

It’s based on Satrapi’s own life story and her heartbreaking graphic novel, and it’s been faithfully adapted in such a way as to make palatable a tale which would perhaps be less compelling in live action. It’s both dramatic and comedic, and never dull for a moment. A must see for anyone interested in animation or current world events.

Compared to other recent foreign films, it doesn’t have the character animation and design of The Triplettes of Belleville, or the cutting edge graphics of anime, but it has something those other films don’t – a coherent storyline, told against a backdrop of contemporary life in the Middle East. France has qualified the film for an Academy Award, as its entry for Best Foreign Film. It also has a good shot as Best Animated Feature Film. I’m crossing my fingers for its nomination.

How To Hook Up Your Home Theater – They nailed it.

Unlike other recent tries at reviving Disney classic characters via new shorts (think The Prince and the Pauper or Runaway Brain), the goal of this new film was not to reivent Goofy but to recapture the spirit of the Disney shorts of the late 40s, particularly the Jack Kinney classics like Hockey Homicide or a Goofy Gymnastics. They did it. It all felt right to me.

Though the film boasts the cream of the crop of current Disney animators (Deja, Henn, Baer, Goldberg, etc.), this isn’t an animators film – it’s a director’s picture. Just as Tex Avery’s cartoons are masterfully skewed through his twisted vision, here directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton (the first woman to direct a Disney cartoon!) take control, weaving numerous contempory gag situations into a refreshingly old school cartoon structure.

The red burlap opening titles are back. Michael Giacchino provides a perfect Oliver Wallace-styled musical score, and Corey Burton narrates with intonations falling somewhere between John McLeish and Frank Graham. Certain layouts are direct lifts from Motor Mania (Goofy’s home) and How To Play Football (the football field). And there are literally dozens of gags – truly funny ones and several visual in-jokes for those looking extra hard – packed into the six and a half minute running time.

The bottom line: How To Hook Up Your Home Theater feels exactly like a contemporary 1949 Goofy cartoon – and I can’t pay it any higher compliment than that. It’s the perfect film to start the new shorts program with. A nod to the past as the studio looks to the future. I just hope the studio will promote it properly when it decides to release it later this fall.

Despite the haze I was in due to the cold medicines I was on, I understand our blogging panel went pretty well. We had a full house at the venue selected and great questions from our lovely moderator, Maral Mohammadian (Associate Producer at the NFB). Don’t let the drowsy group in the photo below fool you… it was quite a lively panel. (left to right, yours truly Jerry Beck, Jeff Hasulo, Mike Barrier and Mark Mayerson).
(a photo of four bored bloggers by Alan Cook)