The Royal College of Art has proved a hotbed for animation talent over the years. On Short of the Week alone, we’ve followed the trajectories of graduates Julia Pott (Belly), Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits (My Mother’s Coat) and David Prosser (Matter Fisher) – who later formed Moth (A Kiss, Deferred) with fellow RCA graduate Daniel Chester – and Mikey Please (The Eagleman Stag), to name a few.
With the RCA grad show a regular highlight in my calendar, the 2020 graduates coming out of the prestigious art and design school are without a physical event to celebrate their achievements, with COVID-19 restrictions meaning it will take place online instead. While it sucks they don’t get to finish their studies with an IRL event, the good news is that online animation fans get early exposure to a lot of great short films that’d usually be hitting the festival trail straight away.
With work from the Documentary Animation, Experimental Animation and Narrative Animation pathways all online, we took a deep dive through all the shorts films and picked some of the work that really stood out.
THANK YOU by Julian Gallese – a filmmaker we’ve had our eye on for some time, Costa Rican Gallese has developed a recognisable style through a series of short films and expands on his distinct aesthetic with what he describes as his “first attempt at fairly traditional narrative”.
MERCURY’S RETROGRADE by Zohar Dvir – another filmmaker we were already aware of due to her eye-catching work on Vimeo, Dvir’s tale of a millennial looking for her magic 8 ball inside her unconsciousness combines a surreal storyline with equally off-kilter aesthetic. Can imagine this one being a hit on the festival circuit.
FEBRUARIUM!! by John Summerson – A spirited animated documentary that captures the “greatest holiday ever invented by drunken college kids”, Febrarium!! combines archival footage with inventive stop-motion to tell the story of a group of twenty-somethings, coping with the sudden loss of a close friend. Managing to be touching and a sh*t load of fun, this one has a lot of heart.
My Grandmother is an Egg by Wu-Ching Chang – Another animated doc, but this time with a very different tone, Chang’s deeply personal tale of her Grandmother’s unusual upbringing (she was a ‘T’ung-yang-hsi’ – a daughter-in-law raised from childhood) combines delicate animation with an equally fragile story to create an insightful and impacting short.
Sending and receiving text messages by Dermot Lynskey – Perfect for mobile viewing, this vertically-presented animation explores what director Lynskey describes as “the impersonal nature and mundanities of modern communication”. A mixed-media animation combining 2D, 3D and live-action, this unique short uses dark humour to tackle technology in all its thumb-numbing glory.
The MV by Matthew G Taylor – Get a sneak peak behind the scenes of a music video starring a rubber-limbed musician in this strangely hypnotic short from a director who happily admits he enjoys “floppy people“. Created in eye-catching 3D, this experimental piece explores “how creative labour gets exploited in the process”.
We stand on the hill, proud and gentle, walking towards the unknown and death by Linyou Xie – Based on real events, Xie’s 13-minute experimental animation is probably the most ambitious film of lot. Recapturing a sweltering hometown summer over a decade ago, this poetic piece sucks you in to its immersive, authentic universe, as its creator recalls lost love and disjointed friendships in an attempt to “express the smallness of individual in the torrent of time”.
The Dip by Simona Mehandzhieva – The tale of drag performer Shesa Quinn and their quest to perform the spiciest dip (a pose where a dancer dramatically falls on their back), Mehandzhieva’s five-minute film is brimming with vivid imagery and laugh-out-loud humour. As the extroverted artist performs this death defying stunt, the world below her goes batsh*t crazy – but can she pull this ambitious move off?