A Year in Shorts Day 140: "Animal Behaviour"
English animator Alison Snowden has directed some wonderful shorts, both with and without her husband and partner, David Fine. Her work is marked by an endearingly simplistic style of animation, a sneakily subversive sense of humor and genuine feelings of affection for her eccentric characters. Snowden has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short three times, winning once. (Another short of hers, George and Rosemary, was also nominated, but for reasons that make sense to someone, only the producer was recognized, not its directors). In case you can’t tell, I typically like Alison Snowden’s work quite a bit. Which is why it pains me to say that today’s film, the 2018 short Animal Behaviour, is absolutely not up to her typical standard.
It isn't as if the short lacked promise. Its setup is honestly pretty funny, if not inspired- a group of animals attending group therapy, with various jokes made about... well, animal behavior. As BoJack Horseman has proven, there's a lot of comedy which can be mined from the simple formula of "animals + therapy", so this could be a slam dunk. And yet for one reason or another, Snowden and Fine just can't make it come together.
Part of that can be put down to the runtime; this short has maybe five minutes' worth of material in it, stretched out to nearly three times that length. If the characters had any level of depth to them, it might have made sense; but all the animals are pretty one-dimensional, with much of the humor revolving around pretty tired animal jokes. Do you find gags about praying mantises eating their mates or dogs sniffing butts hilarious? Then this short might be for you. If not, you might want to look elsewhere.
The animation isn't great either. Snowden and Fine's films have never been "pretty," but there's a funny cartoony quality to them which always makes them a joy to watch. But the animation in Animal Behaviour is a little too polished to have that edge, but nowhere near good or stylized enough to be nice to look at. The short is caught in a weird middle ground that pleases absolutely no one. Combine all that with some subpar voice work and you're left with a fairly lousy short.
But hey, every artist is bound to make a few duds or two. Even the best of filmmakers can't be expected to hit it out of the park every time. And no matter how weak Animal Behaviour is, it can't overshadow the rest of Alison Snowden and David Fine's films. So while I can't say I recommend this short, I can highly recommend you check out the rest of their work. I'm almost certain you'll find something to like.
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"Animal Behaviour" is available to watch on Amazon Prime
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