A Year in Shorts Day 163: "The Romance of Transportation in Canada"
Ah, transportation. Where would we be without it? (These are the best jokes a not-for-profit blog can buy, folks!) Still, as important as transportation may be, it’s not a necessarily sexy topic, which would explain why it doesn’t get a lot of films made about it. Luckily for us, the National Film Board of Canada doesn’t care about how sexy something is, and that’s how we wound up with a short like The Romance of Transportation in Canada. Now there’s a title that’ll put butts in seats.
Directed by Colin Low, The Romance of Transportation in Canada is a very important short for the NFBC. Part of a series of postwar shorts and released in 1952, the film offers a somewhat humorous look at the history of transportation. Specifically in Canada. While most of their films later films would be more unique and auteur driven, The Romance of Transportation in Canada (oy, that's a mouthful) bears clear influence from UPA. Unfortunately, as Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom taught us, no one can really pull off a UPA short except for UPA. And while The Romance of Transportation in Canada has some fairly nice animation, it can't really compensate for the fact that the short just isn't very interesting. I'm not saying a good short can't be made out of this topic; a good film can be made about anything. But some subjects take a little more effort to be made interesting, and the history of Canadian transportation is one of those things that requires an extra push.
But maybe you disagree. It takes all kinds to make the world work. Hell, some people like Moneyball, and THAT'S a movie about baseball and math, two of the most boring subjects one could make a movie about. Even so, I can't help but think this short doesn't have too many defenders. And yet it holds a rather unique place in film history. Not only is The Romance of Transportation in Canada the first film by the NFBC to be nominated for Best Animated Short, it's actually the first animated short produced outside of America to ever receive such a nomination. I honestly don't know what it was about this film that allowed it to kick down that door, but I'm certainly grateful it did. As the years went on, the NFBC would produce significantly better (or at least significantly more unique) animated films that would be recognized by the Academy. And it all started here. Ain't it romantic?
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