2013 Oscar Shorts at The Screen: ‘Gruffalo’s Child’

Liz Simon - February 15, 2013

"...he degree of imagination and creativity that goes into these productions is something I can't get enough of"

Last night I went over to "The Screen," located on the campus of the relatively new Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Being featured right now are the  "2013 Oscar Shorts: Animation," the "2013 Oscar Shorts: Documentary" and the 2013 Oscar Shorts: Live-Action."

I love anything to do with animation, probably because of my background in the fine arts. I have some idea what it's like to do the artwork. And the degree of imagination and creativity that goes into these productions is something I can't get enough of. Therefore, my choice was to go to the "2013 Oscar Shorts: Animation."

I found all of the nominees to be worthy candidates for the award, however one animation in particular, which was only in the Runner-up Category, caught my eye. It was called "The Gruffalo's Child." The animation work was vivid and modern but you could still feel the early roots of the trade. Aside from the visual richesse, what caught my attention was the relationship of this story with one that I had just seen performed two night earlier by ARCOS Dance.

The ARCOS performance entitled "The Warriors, A Love Story" has many layers of meaning to it. However, one of the more salient points in that performance deals with how hate and intolerance are fostered and passed down the generations. The antidote to this legacy, provided by one of the main characters, is this: it all begins with how we speak to our children at the dinner table, with the words we use to define and depict "others"-—and with the emotional content which we bestow upon those words. On the individual level is where the work must begin is a major take-away lesson from "Warriors.

Still from "Gruffalo's Child"

In the opening scenes of the "Gruffalo's Child" we are introduced to a friendly monster family getting ready for bed in their comfy Gruffalo-cave. The parent is telling his young daughter a bedtime story about a horrid creature known as, as I recall, the Bad Mouse. This animal is depicted as having whiskers that are made of sharp wire, able to inflict terrible pain and suffering. We also learn that this "Bad Mouse" has a muscular scaly tail capable of mangling all who come too near. The young Gruffalo is being encouraged to hate and fear this creature, repetitively so, and despite warnings to stay clear of it; the youngster creeps out in the middle of night on a quest to find this beast for herself.

After a series of adventures in the forest, she comes upon the dwelling of this evil monster who not only is NOT enormous and fearsome as portrayed by the parent, but is instead a cheerful little fellow blissfully sweeping the snow from his front door. Despite this character's sweet demeanor and diminutive size, the young Gruffalo has been so conditioned to see him as an object of scorn, that she captures him and is about to consume him as a snack. He deserves nothing more in her mind. But this is no ordinary mouse and he quickly conceives of an intelligent plan, telling the youngster of another creature he would like to introduce her to….one who would be far more interesting, and tastier than he.

By projecting bright lights onto himself, and through the clever use of props, mouse creates an enormous and terrifying projected silhouette of himself. That silhouette conforms exactly with the way in which the Gruffalo's father had characterized him. The young Gruffalo see this phantasm, bolts, and then runs, terrified---putting as much distance as possible between herself and the evil one.

What made the biggest impression on me was how this gentle little happy-go-lucky mouse, in order to survive was forced to temporarily turn himself into exactly the same evil creature which had been portrayed by the adult Gruffalo.

It seems to me that there's something to be learned here.

Read Liz's review of "The Warriors: A Love Story" from ARCOS Dance.