This review was written for Animations Online
Director Will Anderson was due to introduce this screening of ‘Waiting for Longbird’ himself, during a Manipulate Festival ‘Snapshot’ session at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, but found himself heading to the BAFTAs instead, which he duly won the ‘best short animation’ award at the next day.
The animated short was his final year project at Edinburgh College of Art and, for one so young, he’s now an animator with many an accolade under his belt. And deservedly so – the 15 minute film is carefully crafted, creatively shot and great fun.
The title star, Longbird, is a paper cut out bird with an unusually long neck, the handiwork of a long dead Russian animator. The film tells the story of Longbird’s slide into obscurity and Will’s decision to resurrect him for an art school project.
The relationship between earnest but vague Will and the moody, misunderstood Longbird is fractious. Will doesn’t have a script and Longbird is insulting. The entire story is fiction presented as fact, told always with a mischievous glint in the myth-maker’s eye.
The film is shot in a documentary style, blending live action and frame-by-frame animation in the same shots. Crackly, sepia archive footage of Longbird and his master at work are combined with views of the modern animator’s studio and Will’s attempts to tame the bolshy bird.
The paper animation itself is very simple, but the way the shots are framed and angled are visually inventive. The fact we can see Longbird moving on his sheet of paper within the context of the entire studio, lights and all, gives the animated character a life of his own but always a restricted one. Even Will’s sketchbooks, as he dreams up potential scenarios for Longbird to act out, ripple with pencil drawn, animated life.
‘The Making of Longbird’ is sophisticated and slick but with the quirky charm of a collaborative student project. The only complaint is it ends too soon. It could easily keep a viewer gripped for longer. That said, it leaves us waiting expectantly for Anderson’s next animation.