“Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School” Brings the Funny

Many of our films have high artistic or thematic intent, and those are fantastic reasons to make a film. But to quote Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and cartoon creators have long known that humor is an excellent tool for imparting life lessons.

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Sauce and Gum, from Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School

Gum and Sauce Go to Skill School fits right into the long tradition of humorous cartoon shorts, the kind you watched after school or on a Saturday afternoon. Main characters Gum and Sauce are a boy and girl who act exactly as promised: Gum is able to stretch into different shapes, and Sauce can act as a liquid. Yet this story’s focus isn’t their semisolid malleability, but instead aimed at the rough spots in their friendship, specifically Gum’s inability to apologize after playing a prank on Sauce.

The animation is crisp and fun, and the voice work fits the characters. It’s easy to imagine this being a series. We meet one other speaking character, Counselor Clump (who might be a hairball or a dust bunny), and her existence hints at a wider world peopled with others made of various substances.

Let’s hope this gets picked up as an ongoing show — we’re looking at you, Nickelodeon! You can watch this at BAICFF 2020 as part of Shorts All Ages: Program 2.

Films That Bewitch

Magic is a topic often visited in children’s films, as its depiction lends itself to fun visuals. Two of our films this year deal with the unexpected consequences of magic use. It goes without saying that apprentices shouldn’t dabble in major magic, yet both films trade in this timeless idea.

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A witch meets her would-be familiar in Kitten Witch

Kitten Witch is a live-action film featuring the animated character of a cat who seeks to become a witch’s familiar. In order to get the job, she must go on a quest to find various magical ingredients. Our plucky feline heroine’s journey provides us with many visual treats along the way, and the story’s unusual outcome is not what you expect.

The other magical film in our program, Dragon Recipes, also concerns witchery. A young sorceress assembles ingredients in a cauldron when following a build-your-own-dragon recipe, but her inexperience creates an unexpected result. Anybody who’s burned their dinner can certainly relate to her frustration. And as many a TV program host has noted — kids, don’t try this at home!

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A witch tries to follow the instructions in Dragon Recipes

Both of these films utilize 3D animation to very different effect; Kitten Witch aims for a certain amount of realism, while Dragon Recipes has a bright cartoonish look and feel. Yet both have their charms, magical and entertainment-wise.

Each film typifies the imagination required to create believable worlds, characters, and stories. Because as any filmmaker will tell you, filmmaking is indeed magic. Even when recipe goes a little wrong, the strangest concoctions can still weave compelling spells.

Be sure not to miss these bedazzling films at this year’s BAICFF 2020, along with many other creative visions sure to enchant you. Kitten Witch is part of Shorts for 7+: Program 2, while Dragon Recipes is featured in Shorts All Ages: Program 1.

“Creepy” Cartoon Confronts Conflict

BAICFF 2020 features quite a few films about the pain and consequences of bullying. These stories are often told from the perspective of a person being bullied, and Creepy follows this path. Its main character looks, to us, like a monster, and is certainly treated that way by other kids at its school (we never know Creepy’s gender).

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The rejected protagonist of Creepy

But as in many films before it, monstrousness is a metaphor, and has more to do with how a group perceives an individual than with how an individual perceives itself. (A perfect example of this kind of tale is found in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which one of the only people not a monster is the disfigured Quasimodo.)

Creepy, made by a group of children from Düsseldorf, Germany, features meticulously-constructed animation created with paper cutouts. It’s a wordless, timeless tale about the agonies of being an outsider, and how one kind gesture can change people’s minds and hearts and lead them toward acceptance. The filmmaking group calls themselves “Kids ‘N Tricks,” as the term for an animated film in German is “Zeichentrickfilm,” for which a loose, literal translation would be “drawing-gimmick film.”

It’s a heartfelt story, and you can see it as part of our Short By Kids: All Ages program, showing Sunday. In addition, we also feature a specific program about bullying, The Power of Friendship, showing both days of the festival. Be sure to browse our program to discover many more such gems!

“A Story From Space” Reaches for the Stars

The history of American space exploration is filled with drama. This charming short squashes the complexities of the first journey to the moon into a bite-sized tale, exactly the kind a parent would tell a child at bedtime, as the astronaut dad in this film tells his daughter back on earth. It captures much of the drama of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, with none of the tragedy.

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An astronaut dad tells his earth-bound daughter a tale, in A Story From Space

Directors Joseph Childs and Iro Tsavala change animation styles during the film, switching from more detailed present-day setting to a simpler style of illustration for a storybook flashback, which adds a fairytale quality to this adventure about early space exploration. They also utilize real audio samples from NASA space missions for some technological verisimilitude.

"A Story From Space" directors
Directors Joseph Childs & Iro Tsavala

The style leverages deceptive simplicity of illustration as shorthand for deeper emotional and psychological concepts — exactly what great animation is for. By doing so they prove you don’t need a huge effects budget to generate feelings like awe and wonder.

The work is a moving celebration of the power of science to take us where where our imagination dares us to go. And the film’s post-credits ending is perfect.

Be sure to see this lovely film, which is quite appropriate for our venue, the Chabot Space & Science Center, shown as part of the BAICFF 2020 program Shorts All Ages: Program 1.

Film Spotlight: “Hair Love”

Featured in the BAICFF 2020 Shorts All Ages: Program 1 is the remarkable film Hair Love. Directors Matthew A. Cherry, Bruce W. Smith, and Everett Downing, Jr. have created a gorgeous, touching story about the lengths to which a father will go to style his daughter’s hair. Top-notch animation and heart-melting storytelling bring the tale vividly to life.

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Hair Love

Our protagonists are loving father Stephen and his determined daughter Zuri. In the past, we learn, Zuri’s mother was the one who tamed her fierce mane, and now Zuri wants to accomplish just such a look — but her mother is unavailable. Zuri lacks the practice to do it on her own, so Stephen steps up to give it a try. Yet Zuri’s hair proves to be a formidable opponent, and Stephen finds that he’s gotten into more than he bargained for.

The film was funded by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and the filmmakers have seriously delivered on their promise to create excellent family-friendly entertainment of the highest caliber. In an unusual turn of events for a short film — because it’s just that good! — Hair Love had a proper theatrical release, and screened in theaters before Angry Birds 2.

The film was produced by Sony Pictures Animation, and the production credits include such luminaries as Peter Ramsey (Oscar winner for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), actor-director Jordan Peele (Get Out), and actor Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).

Hair Love is now the winner of Best Animated Short at the 2020 Academy Awards! It demands to be seen on a big screen in the company of an audience — don’t miss this one!