Christmas is almost here and our radios and televisions are packed full with Christmas programming specials. One of the most classic Christmas stories known to most people is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. There have been countless film and television adaptations of this story of repentance and second chances. The National Film Board even produced its own version in 1975 with a 10-minute version called “Energy Carol”.
Written and directed by Les Drew, this short was also made possible with assistance by the former federal Office of Energy Conservation, as well as the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. ‘Energy Carol’ is a humorous spin on the Dickens story, with Ebenezer Stooge as a CEO of power production company and his trusted employee, Mr Scratchit. Stooge believes in encouraging everyone to use energy as fast as his power company can make it. According to Stooge, energy waste equates to growth. However, just like his Dickens counterpart, Stooge is shown the folly of his ways by three ‘energy ghosts’ past, present and future.
‘Energy Carol’ was a very clever attempt at educating Canadians of the day at conserving energy in their daily lives. Without a doubt, the energy crisis of the 1970s was a catalyst in the production of this film. Although it was a short film, ‘Energy Carol’ followed the original Dickens story very well. It was also smart to present the film and energy conservation in a humorous manner; no one certainly wants to feel guilty about wasting energy or cajoled into changing a habit.
The film still resonates in these times, as household energy prices in Canada have been steadily climbing in the past few years. Even if your lifestyle already includes conservation practices such as using energy-efficient light bulbs and taking public transit, ‘Energy Carol’ is still a nice little film to watch at Christmas.
Everyday, a multitude of parcels are sent to homes across the world each day. Letters and postcards still go through our postal systems, despite the increased use of email communication these days. But, do you ever stop to wonder what happens to a letter or parcel that gets lost in the mail, or is for some reason not deliverable? The stop-animated film, ‘Not Delivered’ (2013), is a fun look at a storage room full of unclaimed parcels, packages and letters when the working day is done and the lights go off.
This film was put together by students at UQAM in Montreal, QC: Cynthia Carazato, Ariane Filiatre, Philippe Lacroix, Samuel Pineault and Vincent René-Lortie.
There was so much to enjoy in this little short. I liked watching the boxes open up and all the contents would come out to play, such as the toy cars. It was hilarious to see the little toy boat sail on a rolled-out map of the world. I also liked the little action figure man who wore a shoe string as a scarf and walked through Styrofoam stuffing as if it was snow. He sure knew how to drive the toy boat and sail the ‘hot air balloon’.
‘Not Delivered’ is a nice, creative film put together by imaginative students. It must take much patience and skill to put together stop-action animated films. Let’s hope this talented group make more of these films in the future.
I attended the TIFF Canadian Shorts & Global Audience Film Awards at the Gimli Film Festival recently. The audience was treated to a variety of new Canadian shorts, including comedies and drama. At the end of the screenings, the audience had the chance to pick the winner of a $1,000 prize. The winning film was ‘The Chaperone’, directed and written by Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone of Thoroughbread Pictures.
‘The Chaperone’ is based on a true story of events that took place at a teen dance party in 1970s Montreal. At one point during the evening, a biker gang suddenly crashes the party. It’s up to Ralph Whims, the chaperone, and Stefan Czernatowicz, the DJ, to remove the uninvited guests. View the trailer courtesy of Thoroughbread Pictures and Vimeo:
A serious situation at the time, the story was presented in top humor. I was laughing throughout most of the film. I loved the dialogue and the use of the funky 1970s guitar licks. I was especially floored at the different types of animation that was used. To me, it was very, very creative and it definitely deserved to win the $1,000 prize that day.
‘The Chaperone’ had its world premiere at the 2013 TIFF and was chosen by TIFF as “Canada’s Top Ten” shorts produced in 2013. The film is also available in 3D. Check out the website for more information on past screenings http://www.thoroughbread.ca/
This animated NFB short by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis is a story about a young Englishman, known as a remittance man, who journeys to Alberta in 1909 in an attempt at a new life there as a rancher. The young man proudly writes home to his family about his ‘good fortune’. We see him having fun playing sports and admiring the nature that surrounds him. Later, his letters reflect a more somber tone as the struggles of living on the Canadian Prairie begin to make an impact on him.
I enjoyed the humour in the beginning and the seriousness at the end. The ‘interviews’ with the different people who knew the young man (I immediately recognized Luba Goy’s voice as the old lady) were funny, too. Their personal opinions of this young man gave the audience a better understanding of what he was really like. His exaggerated letters to his parents brought a smile to my face, as he clearly stretched the truth regarding the situations in which he found himself (such as his pride in having secured a herd of cattle, when there really is only a colony of ants running around on the ground).
This film reminded me of the saying, “the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side”. How many people have often moved from one city or province or country to another, only to find that the new location didn’t really live up to expectations? The film also speaks to one’s ability or inability to survive in new and unforgiving situations. The animation by Tilby and Forbis was refreshing, and the characters’ voices were well-chosen. Check out http://www.tilbyforbis.com/ for more information about their work.
As an added bonus, have a look at this ‘making of’ video of Wild Life:
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a noon-hour short film event at a local library. It was in conjunction with National Canadian Film Day. I volunteered to show some NFB animated shorts over the noon-hour as part of the celebration on April 29th of NCFD. One of the shorts I screened was “My Financial Career”. This 1962 animated short was directed by Gerald Potterton and narrated by Stanley Jackson. It follows the adventure of a man who opens a bank account for the very first time in his life. Funny situations soon follow.
First of all, I really liked the animation style in the film. It looks hand-drawn, which is a welcome contrast to today’s computer animation. Secondly, I enjoyed the humour. The intimidation felt by the new client, as well as the paternalistic attitudes displayed by the bank staff, clearly captures what many people go through when dealing with new situations, powerful people, and potential life-changing decisions.
I’ve watched this animated short more than once since first stumbling on it. It’s a great little story that captures a more simpler time. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.