Friday, July 20, 2007

Saving the world, one frame at a time.

The Grenlight Earth Day Film Festival in Palo Alto, CA is your typical South Bay angstklatsch, where uber-serious student filmmakers present their ultra-serious films about the mega-serious environmental problems facing our hyper-serious world.

But this year the Tamaddon siblings, Austin, 14, and Arianna, 11, blew away the judges and spectators with their charming claymation short films The Happy Hybrid and the Polluting Pickup and Mr. Gopher, taking 1st place in the middle school and open competition categories respectively.

In Austin's The Happy Hybrid, a blue hybrid car (so environmentally friendly that is gets the flowers dancing and the birds singing) gets into a shoving match with a bushy-browed ragin' red pickup truck. The truck is stronger, but the effort quickly depletes its gas tank, leaving the truck dead in the road and enabling the hybrid to push it out of sight. The flowers are revitalized, the birds resume singing, and the hybrid dances a happy dance (thus the title). A 12-part special on the environment couldn't tell the story as clearly as this one minute and fifty second parable.

Arianna's Mr. Gopher is a bit more preachy. The title character burrows into the frame (leaving a trailed hump of disturbed earth, much in the same way Bugs Bunny used to travel underground) and is immediately beset by polluting cars and discarded cans and cigarette butts. The gopher is sad. A title card brings us into the future a few years later, when the roadway has been turned into a bike lane and flowers now grow where the cans and butts used to be. The gopher (and presumably the rest of the world) is happier.

Now that even Nick Park has embraced the digital, maybe the future of claymation rests with the children.

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