Oscars 2012: Short 'Stroll' spans 100 years in seven minutes
The animators at Studio AKA mostly fill their days with working on commercials, but in the past six or so years, the British company has been delving into short filmmaking. Now their work has paid off with an Oscar nomination for “A Morning Stroll.” The talent behind the quirky seven-minute film, which is partially in 3-D, has found that a background in commercials is really helpful for transitioning to storytelling in short films.
“Working within 30 seconds teaches you to keep things concise and brief,” said director Grant Orchard.
He shares the Oscar nomination with Studio AKA head of production and “Morning Stroll” producer Sue Goffe, who added, “But it’s really nice to give yourself a little bit more time than 30 seconds to tell a story [with shorts].”
That story was originally going to last 20 minutes, as Orchard at first hoped to make a natural history film with watercolors for the studio’s fourth short. But as he was looking for a more affordable project, he came across “The Chicken,” an entry in Paul Auster’s book “True Tales of American Life.” The story inspired Orchard to write a film about New Yorkers who encounter a chicken on a city street.
The film is structured as a triptych, as three people witness the chicken pecking on a door in three different years: 1959, 2009 and 2059. Each segment features a different style of animation: black-and-white 2-D line drawings, colorful and more detailed 2-D and concluding with 3-D animation for the apocalyptic future. Switching among the different animation styles was the obvious way to go once Orchard decided to set the film in three different years, and it was certainly nothing new for Studio AKA.
Along with fellow nominees “La Luna” and “Dimanche,” “A Morning Stroll” premiered before a large audience in June 2011 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in southeastern France, where Orchard was delighted with the positive audience response.
“After two years of working on a film, you wonder if it’s going to make anyone else laugh,” he said. “At Annecy we saw it in a massive auditorium, and the crowd was just wild then. The French are crazy for animated films. They laughed in all the right places.”
The short also screened at the Sundance Film Festival last month and won this year’s BAFTA for animated short. Here's the trailer:
Studio AKA is continuing to make short films and is developing two features and a children’s TV series. “A Morning Stroll” is available on iTunes as part of a set of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. The 84th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday.
– Emily Rome
Photo: (Top) The 2009 segment of Oscar-nominated short "A Morning Stroll." Credit: Studio AKA. (Bottom) The 1959 segment of "A Morning Stroll." Credit: Studio AKA