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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Animation Edition!

Even though the deadline is January 10, the entries are already really starting to roll in for 2016’s FIFTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Today I’d like to highlight two recent standout entries that happen to be animated.

The movie above is an adaptation of Virginia Hamilton’s 1989 Newbery Honor Book In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World. It’s by an old friend of the film festival, a certain Ignis Draco, a.k.a. Tristan Stephan from Minnesota who back in 2011 had submitted a a great animated 90-Second Newbery of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I met him in person when the film festival came to Minnesota last year, and found him as delightful in person as he has been by electronic correspondence. That’s probably my favorite thing about running this film festival—the chance to meet awesome creative people all over the country.

As for the movie: it’s hilarious and ingenious! All the puppets are beautifully drawn and intricately articulated. There’s great attention to detail, like the hilarious way Odin kicks Ymir’s head straight off, the cheeky repetition of “Yeah, that’s what could have happened, but what about this other story?”, the use of music from the notoriously multiple-ending movie “Clue,” and the way the Egyptian episode is unveiled with papyrus unscrolling, how Ymir reappears at the end . . . and the Big Bang at the end-of-the-end! I also appreciate that it’s an adaptation of one of the more obscure Newbery honorees. Amazing job, Tristan!

The other animated 90-Second Newbery I’d like to share today is of the vignette “The Garden” from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, as adapted by Devin Grover from Canandaigua, New York.

Devin (who is also an actor!) made this at the Animatus Studio in Rochester, New York. And his stop-motion claymation work here is outstanding! Not only is it a tight script with great acting, I love the antsy style he used: so many little motions, blinking and fidgeting and gesturing! (I especially liked the believable, totally-in-character way Toad was tapping his foot and then jumping up and down when he was impatient for the plants to grow.) Such attention to detail, especially the lushly-drawn backdrops. Good choices for the background music and the twitter of the birds. And of course the vocal performances of both Frog and Toad were a delight!

How is YOUR 90-Second Newbery coming along? The deadline is January 10!

90-Second Newberys from San Antonio!

The screenings for 2016's FIFTH annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are right around the corner! And this year we're adding some new cities— including San Antonio, TX, thanks to the good folks at Bexar County's Digital Library Bibliotech and sponsor H-E-B. I had the pleasure of visiting Bibliotech back in March.. This year's San Antonio 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening will be Saturday, January 9 from 3-5 pm at the Tobin Center. For free, of course. You should come!

The many fine movies you'll see will surely include the above movie, done by the inspired kids of Carl Schurz Elementary in New Braunfels, Texas. It's their wild, ambitious, surprising, satisfying adaptation of Jack Gantos' 2012 Newbery Medal Winner Dead End in Norvelt!

I liked how the filmmakers chose to make the "book" seem to "open up" at the beginning, and we are drawn into the movie as it expands out of the pages! Ingenious! Great props and costumes all throughout—the gun, Jack's outfit, his mother's outfit, the Grim Reaper costume—and I loved how Mr. Spizz pedals away on a tricycle—even better when the "Hell's Angels" come by on the same tricycle! Good sound effects (when the gun goes off and he's knocked out) and I liked how the filmmakers used the thought-bubble to give Jack's unspoken musings about the corn field. Loved the multiple nosebleed scenes (very true to the book!) and how the sped-up voices helped us get through the whole thing with admirable speed.

And . . . holy canneoli . . . IS THAT AUTHOR JACK GANTOS HIMSELF, as "Death" in the ending credits?! What a coup! That's fantastic!

But I expect no less from Texas!

And that's not all I got from San Antonio. Here's William Steig's 1983 Honor Book Dr. DeSoto as adapted by Deyanira, Jessalyn, Alex, and Katlyn of Margil Elementary School, SAISD:

The idea to do it as a series of voiceovers on top of clip art of mice and a cat was inspired, and it was especially good because of the lips-moving "Clutch Cargo" effect that they put in (achieved by an app called Chatterpix, apparently)! I like how the filmmakers switched the villain from the book's fox to a cat—especially since that cat picture is so fierce. The script was tight and the story whipped along at an admirable pace. Great job!

The next video is an adaptation of Katherine Paterson's 1978 Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia by Brianna West of Louis D. Brandeis High School:

I knew I was in good hands from the start, with its title sequence's somber piano music and slow pan over the waters. Well-shot throughout, with good use of locations and music! And I like how Leslie's death is tastefully implied, by cutting to Jesse throwing rocks into the water and crying. Brianna does a lot with pure visual storytelling, not so many words needed.

The last one I'll feature today is by Deerra Hill of San Antonio, and it's of Louis Sachar's 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

There are so many great touches throughout that really paid off! The green screen work at the beginning, along with the black-and-white effect, and the evocative violin soundtrack, set up the "flashback" feeling well. I liked that the filmmakers clearly labeled the characters with text onscreen, and also explained certain plot points the same way—when your film is this short, that's a great tool for getting a lot of info across with necessary speed. I like how the characters committed to different accents, and the "trash bag" costumes were resourceful! The script was slyly witty at times ("why are we digging?" "because we LIKE holes!"), and the 8-bit computer-y music was a good contrast to the violin "flashback" music. And I thought it was clever how the whole thing was a kind of dream, and that the treasure was . . . the book of Holes itself! A mind-bender!

So much ingenuity and creativity in Texas! All of these movies, plus many more, will be shown at the San Antonio screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on January 9, 2016 at the Tobin Center. And remember, the deadline for San Antonio entries is December 15, so if you're still dawdling on editing your footage, get cracking! (The deadline for the rest of the cities is January 10, 2016.)