It’s a constant pressure to not be too self-serious with our curation on Short of the Week. In internal conversations we often weigh whether a film is too “slight” for our standards, as if weighty dramas, self-consciously artistic experiments, or witty screenplays are the necessary prerequisites of great short films. They aren’t, but these qualities can feel marginalized by what makes the internet works, and so, in a reactionary way, we feel a responsibility to stand up for them and be a bulwark against an algorithmic click-bait culture that wants to dumb everything down. Still, there should be allowance for simple levity, for easy fun, right? All of this is to say that Mice, a small story is not a revelation, it is not deep, nor is it artistically innovative, but…it definitely makes us smile!
Fundamentally we do stand for a certain standard of subjective quality, so I hope the film team, comprised of graduating students from Paris’ ISART Digital school of animation, don’t take my equivocating too harshly. The cg animation in Mice, a small story is awfully pretty, and is easily among the best works of a photo-realistic style to come out in the past year. Furthermore, its transposition of beloved IP into a new context is genuinely clever, and I struggle to find a relevant prior example of the approach. Sure, The Muppets can do Dickens, but mute mice doing Tolkien?
We’ve talked before about the phenomena of fan films, and the inherent incentives behind their creation. The Fan Film format obviates a need for a degree of world-building or exposition as it relies audience’s existing relationship to the property. Additionally it’s easy for emerging creators to piggy-back off of that existing fanbase to find an appreciative audience for their work. At a svelte 4min Mice, a small story barely works if you’re not familiar with plot outline of The Lord of the Rings, yet for those that are, it breezes through thousands of pages without feeling rushed. All your favorites scenes are there, from the discovery of the one ring, to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, through to the final confrontation, complete with a little Gollum and brown Samwise Gamgee mouse. Though, in this telling, Sauron meets a slightly different fate than in the books.
Rarely, if ever, do fan films live up to their antecedents, and we’ll not try and argue that The Lord of Rings condensed here to 4 min outdoes Peter Jackson, but this a fun, polished homage, and full of easter eggs for big fans. Online for a couple of days now, the film has yet to achieve the virality of some fan films, but maybe we can change that. Amazon just spent big bucks on the Tolkien-verse and need to get their money’s worth—maybe this ISART team can sell them on a kid’s spin-off?