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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Animation Edition!

December 14, 2015

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!