A Year in Shorts Day 112: "Nelly's Folly"
In the early days of our Year in Shorts, we covered Chuck Jones’ Beep Prepared, the only Road Runner and Coyote short to be nominated for an Oscar. But that short also marked the first time Chuck Jones was personally nominated for the award himself. Or at least, it’s tied for first. For in 1961 Chuck Jones directed another animated short which got an Oscar nomination, Nelly’s Folly. Is it as good a film as Beep Prepared? In a word- No. Let’s see why that is!
Nelly's Folly tells the story of Nelly, a giraffe with a beautiful singing voice who gets discovered by an agent and brought into a career of show business. Well, I guess we know where The Muppet Movie got its plot from! What follows is seven minutes of your basic rags-to-riches-to-rags-again story, with Nelly becoming a smash hit before being dragged down by scandal. So really it's just like any average music biopic (most of which try to cram in too much story in very little time already, let alone seven minutes), but with a giraffe. If we wanted to be charitable we could call it a parody, but I think it'd have to be funnier to qualify for that descriptor.
There are some things to like about Nelly's Folly. Well, really just one thing- the animation. But the animation is quite nice! The short is nicely colorful, the backgrounds are fun and vibrant, and the character animation has a lot of that classic Chuck Jones energy. It's not the best-looking of his shorts (I imagine by the 1960s Warner Bros. wasn't pouring nearly as much money in these things like they used to), but it's still a pleasant watch.
But other than that, there's very little to recommend it. As I said, it's not very funny, and there's not even a lot of room for jokes in general. Much of the runtime is dedicated to a montage of Nelly's career, with her singing various takes on popular tunes. If the music were better or the story more engaging, that might not be a problem. But ultimately the whole thing is fairly unremarkable, and it's kind of surprising that the Academy nominated it. That's show business for you.
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Due to a pending lawsuit against Time Warner levied by Nelly's estate, "Nelly's Folly" is not available on HBO Max.
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