I would proffer that an appreciation of today’s film is inextricably tied to knowledge about the process of its creation. With my saying that, you would be smart to rebut that this is a contradiction of our articulated beliefs (notably rules #10 and #11). I would have no defense other to weakly assert that an improvised animation is just…cool.
Well, I would actually have one additional and important defense—the result here is fantastic. The fruit of a personal challenge—to animate a new sequence every week over the course of a year with no pre-production—Yves Paradis’ M52 is a fascinating and inspirational experiment in animation. We’ve long seen frameworks that spur creativity by providing creative restraints such as 48hr film competitions and straight 8 challenges; I was a curator at Vimeo when Cesar Kuriyama introduced his “1 second a day” concept, and it took off like wildfire on that platform. Even in animation (a more intensive production process) we’ve appreciated projects in recent years such as the Brothers Macleod’s 1 second a day film 365, James Curran’s “gifathon” sprints, and of course who can overlook Beeple’s legendary daily output?
Paradis himself was directly inspired by the Mythical Mondays of Greg Gunn and the 30 days of Animation by Geoff King. The point I suppose in listing these precedents is that, while interesting, a project like M52 is not inherently special for its restraints. What is special is how M52 actually works as a coherent work rather than as an assemblage of clips, providing a consistency of vision both stylistically and narratively that belies its improvised genesis.
Now it is certainly experimental both in conception and execution—fans of neatly tied together narratives will be disappointed by what they watch—however it is consistent, and consistently awesome. Employing a very contemporary minimalist style to animate vector shapes in After Effects, the design is immensely pleasing, and as the complexity grows, the film takes its simple premise into fantastical sci-fi dimensions, growing and unfolding in a complex manner all the way to a paradigm-shifting close. For a ten minute wordless animation of somewhat oblique plotting, we were impressed by how captivated we were by the experience of watching M52.
The holistic nature of Paradis’ vision has allowed the film to play a wide range of festivals: from explicitly design-oriented events like Pictoplasma, to straight short film festivals like Encounters, to genre heavyweights like Fantasia. Now it is premiering online where we, and Paradis both, hope a much larger and diverse audience will appreciate, and be inspired by it. Canadian by origin, Paradis currently is a freelancer in Germany, and is working on his followup film. Despite the success of M52 however, this time the talented designer/animator is taking his time on a script.