The modern-day animated short has grown by leaps and bounds since the hay day of wacky characters brandishing Acme Brand products to catch a speedy bird or defeat speech challenged hunter. As much fun as it was to watch a cat and mouse one-up each other through a series of well-orchestrated sight gags for decades, story and substance has become the norm for a generation looking for a bit more in their animated romps. Odd Dog, the first directorial project by writer/director Diana K. Lee, brings to life a story of how friendships are formed when you least expect it. What makes the short even more special is that it is based on a real boy and his cat.
Lee started her career in the digital effects world working on films the likes of the first Iron Man, Live Free Or Die Hard, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End, while also acting as Production Supervisor at Dreamworks on Shrek The Third, Mastermind, and the second and third Madagascar features. Say what you might about the previously mentioned filmography in terms of likability, they were all visually stunning to behold and in Diana K. Lee’s case of directing an animated short, her stellar work shines boldly throughout Odd Dog.
The Truth About Cats And Dogs
The story revolves around a young boy whose hopes of adopting a puppy are quickly dashed by his cat-loving mother. Disheartened, the boy walks home only to happen upon a stray cat sleeping on the sidewalk. Chipper and energetic, the kitten tries tirelessly to grab the child’s attention, only to be shunned by the boy’s dislike for felines. What follows is an adorable series of events where the tiny cat proves to be exactly what the boy had been yearning for the entire time.
Let’s stop there. No need to ruin the ending, though you kind of see where it’s going from the jump.
When the short begins the established world is void of color, looking more like a digital pencil test with its white background and sharp black lines. To be honest, I thought I might have been watching an early unfinished cut of the film. This style is not only a clever design choice but works to keep the viewer glued to the well-crafted plot without the trappings of candy-coated visuals often used to distract from subpar story beats found far too often in so many animated ventures.
Another beautiful touch is the lack of dialog. Short of a few indiscernible murmurs and laughs from the humans, the almost silent film quality brings the story to a level of quality which would have been lost with a celebrity voice distracting from the storytelling.
A Boy And His Cat
With so many mass-marketed, overhyped, celebrity-driven kids stories being churned out every year, the idea of something as simple as Odd Dog being so funny, heartfelt, and poignant is refreshing on several levels. This film takes the simplicity of its concept and hones the idea deftly without being pandering or commercial. Much like a well-made children’s book, adults can sit with this as easily as their kids without feeling the sense of embarrassment for having watched a slapped together kiddie cartoon.
The animation style is reminiscent of the hand-drawn Disney or Waner Bros. shorts of years past, especially in terms of the kitten. The wide-eyed expressions and exaggerated movements bring the viewer back to a simpler time when animation played with the drawings in a wacky way while still boasted strong character design which feels alive even in a 2D format. Simple but not cheap. Stylized but not overdone. Odd Dog is definitely an animated short worthy to stand alongside the pantheon of brilliant cartoons that have inspired anyone to bring their drawings to life.
Animated shorts can pack a ton of emotion into a limited runtime. Film Inquiry would love to hear about some animated shorts you might have found impactful. Let us know in the comment section and keep the conversation going.
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