Short of the Week

(Notes on) Biology

One student’s daydream comes vividly to life during Biology class, in this Best Animation Winner from SXSW 2012

Remember in high school when you spent hours perfecting your flip b0ok skills? In (Notes on) Biology, winner of Best Animation at this year’s  SXSW festival, we follow a student, Mr. Ellis, who zones out during a dull Biology class and escapes into his own imagination. Etoecology what? Who cares! Using the very pages of his Biology notes, Mr. Ellis spins an action adventure tale featuring an Elephant Robot who flies around serving justice to those foolish enough to challenge him. But can Mr. Ellis save himself when the Biology teacher notices that he’s not paying attention in class?

Danny Madden, Will Madden, and Jonathan Silva of Ornana Films have truly captured the timeless experience of daydreaming and sketching in class. (Notes on) Biology uses many different techniques to draw us into the story, and the use of actual classroom notes creates an authentic experience. Further displays of the filmmakers deftness, is that they don’t rely on just one style of animation. We see traditional hand-drawn animation, but also pixilation (the live-action form of stop-motion). Furthermore they are not content with the simple joy of the flip book motif, the real treat is when the speed of the pages actually increase and decrease to highlight the action. There are so many dimensions and textures in Mr. Ellis’ classroom animation that you may find yourself wondering why he is even in Biology class in the first place.

Overall, watching this short feels like you are really sitting next to your best friend in Biology class as they animate the story and you beatbox the soundtrack. Danny Madden, Will Madden, and Jonathan Silva deliver a fantastic piece of work that holds steady all the way to the thematic end credits. It’s amusing to see demands from viewers’ comments for Robot Elephant to be developed into an iPhone game.  Looks like (Notes on) Biology is a film that has definitely made an impression.

Craig has been addicted to shorts for a long time. It began when he pulled the trigger on a Super 8 camera and accidentally became a filmmaker. Now, when he isn't teaching or filming in areas prone to digestive disasters, you can find him at film fests looking for shorts for Couch Fest Films. Interventions failed to correct his obsession with stalking all genres of short films.
  • ivan kander

    Nice pick, Craig! Love this animation style.

  • Andrew S Allen

    Very entertaining. I guess we all had THAT class. For me it brings back memories of junior high grammar books. ;)

  • Yayasama5

    I enjoyed High School Biology and our teacher was rather cooky so it was all the more fun. Enjoyed the film….very well done. 

  • Travis Collins

    This is amazing!!!

  • Travis Collins

    This is amazing!!!

  • Travis Collins

    This is amazing!!!

  • David Masters

    It’s just like how my mind works. Circles>Wheel>Car>Angry Driver>ROBOT ELEPHANT!

    How did they know?

  • Jim Cummings

    please help us get the word out about our two new movies we’re raising funds for.


  • Flarack

    I want the robot elephant browser game

  • Ida Mae Tate

    reminds me of my high school days…minus the flip books. Cool