Short of the Week

The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

Adventurous tale of a navigator’s journey to save his ailing wife set in a beautiful world of Victorian science-ficiton.

This marvelous sci-fi animation spins a deep, engaging story of adventure and betrayal. Our hero, Jasper—an aerial navigator—is tormented by an accident in his past. A plague has overcome his home city, and so embarks on a journey to mark a new trade route. The cast of characters include a raucous captain, a zany biologist, and the standard ship crew. When the ship is blown off course, the crew finds themselves commandeering an abandoned ship toward an uncharted island. On the overgrown island, Jasper is attacked by a large creature discovered to be a cure for the plague. The journey home becomes every more adventurous as dangers with the new “cargo” arise.

I’ve heard Jasper Morello described as a gothic horror, but there’s certainly a strong connection to science-fiction drawing from the genesis of the genre in the vein of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The sub-genre is a newer category, steampunk, which—for those unfamiliar with the term—is essentially a 19th century vision of the future where steam powers all. The allure is both a nostalgia for the Victorian-age aesthetic and a fascination with mechanics all set in a fantasy world with few limitations.

The unique style of animation is truly something to behold and reminiscent of the oldest surviving animated feature, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1927). The simplified characters are reduced to silhouettes diverting our attention from the character to the action in the background—intricate workings of steampunk machinery and soft, ethereal skyscapes. Lucas created the characters out of various found materials and shot them in stop-motion—the silhouette effect, he says, was the result of a “happy accident” when a light blew out. The machines and backgrounds were created with the aid of a 3D computer rendering and all was composited together to created a very seamless, very unique combination.

Jasper Morello ran the festival circuit a couple years back until it reached the pinnacle of short film—an Oscar nomination— where I saw it for the first time. It did so well, that Lucas has three more Jasper adventures in the works. If you’ve already seen this film, it’s a great second-viewing. If you haven’t yet seen it, you’re in for a real treat.

~
Andrew makes no attempt to hide his love for the magic art of animation. He appreciates compelling visuals but never forgets that in this modern age, a strong story always reigns supreme. You can see his work at andrewsallen.com or his latest film The Thomas Beale Cipher.
  • http://schoolowned Joe Koon

    I think the review above by Andrew Allen captures the very essence of the film. Obviously, he had terrific training as a youngster. The film does go that nonexistent realm of an imagined future from the perspective of an imagined past rendered by a wistful, somewhat disillusioned present. Nice work on the part of both Lucan and Allen.

  • http://www.polymixmedia.com Andrew S Allen

    Nice to get a review of my review. Thanks, Mr. Koon!

  • http://5goodstories.com/festival-quality-short-films-collection festival-quality short films collection

    [...] 9th, 2009 The Oscar-nominated “Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello” is an "adventurous tale of a navigator’s journey to save his ailing wife set in a beautiful [...]

  • http://enigma.blogetery.com/2009/03/09/mysterious-explorations-of-jasper-morello/ enigma » Blog Archive » Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

    [...] 9th, 2009 by enigma The Oscar-nominated “Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello” is an “adventurous tale of a navigator’s journey to save his ailing wife set in a [...]

  • http://thegreatgeekmanual.com/blog/geek-media-round-up-march-9-2009 The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: March 9, 2009

    [...] at Short of the Week, you can watch The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello, a short, animated Victorian science [...]

  • http://www.fosteronfilm.com Matthew M. Foster

    I didn’t know this was online or I would have beaten you to reviewing it–which shows how lazy I am as I’ve reviewed it twice already (for my site, http://www.fosteronfilm.com/shorts/jaspermorello.htm, and for my short fiction review column at http://thefix-online.com/features/first-flicker/).

    “The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello” is a brilliant work; one of the best short films of the decade. I first saw it as a film submission for the Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival. We were the first festival in the U.S. to accept it (though not the first to screen it), which means I might very well have been the first person in this hemisphere to see it. Ah, we all claim to what fame we can.

    In corresponding with Lucas, I brought up the term steampunk, which he hadn’t been familiar with, and he was quite pleased to finally find a description that captured his work.

    I was thrilled that “Jasper Morello” was nominated for an Oscar. That it didn’t win is just another in a very long line of indicators that the Academy Awards have little to do with quality.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Nice! I’m jealous Matt. I was late to the game and hadn’t even heard about the film until Andrew wrote a review.

    We got sequels to look forward to though right? Hopefully he’ll remember your help and send Dragon*Con a copy. When that happens I fully expect a copy for my own collection =P

  • Jessica

    I came across your blog on the google search engine and saw a few of your earlier posts that you did previously . I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the great work. i will Look forward to reading more from you again.

  • jktomas

    This short is my third favorite short film ever. My first favorite would be “Vincent” by Tim Burton (why this short is not in this site right now?) and second – “On Your Mark” by my favorite director H. Miyazaki.

  • Someone

    Don’t like it at all… its gothic, but many good techniques are used

  • http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2012/06/26/bendito-machine-iv/ Bendito Machine IV by Jossie Malis | Animated Short Film

    [...] unique vision of simplified shapes can be seen in other (but not necessarily derivative) works like The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello. However, Jossie’s world is less “steam punk” and more “shaman punk”. [...]