Yes, I know! Disney did not create this film, but it did have some help from Pixar. The Oscar Nominated Short Film The Dam Keeper is a look at what can be if given the resources and time to look at what could be. The films fantastic approach to storytelling is right in line with the literary classics that I use to read to my daughter, filled with visual atmospherics that stimulated me to pause the video with every scene change. This exercise timed out to just a little over 18 minutes; the film reads more like an introduction into the world that Tonko House is building. I had the pleasure of viewing this past Feburary and purchased it on iTunes as soon as it became available the same week. The fact that the story is mostly in pantomime, one is forced to engage with the narrative from one's own experience. The films directors Daisuke Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo, both former Pixar art directors and highly respected in the field of animation, together they deliver what I hope is just the beginning of the studios charm. Dealing with topics raging from commitment, to individuality, the environment and friendship; there's a perfect balance of message and wonder.
On January 29th. NY Times review of the film Charles Soloman "Embracing a Fantasy From Their Pixar Past" talked the directors as well as Don Hahn, legendary Disney Producer and author of Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self. In the piece he states: “There is a sameness to much animation, so when a film like ‘Dam Keeper’ comes along, it reminds us that the boundaries of animation have barely been explored,” said Don Hahn,
“The Dam Keeper” has been screened at more than 75 festivals and won numerous honors, including prizes at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, Anima Mundi in Brazil and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. The film begins a theatrical run on Jan. 30 as part of a program of Oscar-nominated shorts.
Here I've included a video on The Making of The Dam Keeper for your enjoyment, they also have a Youtube channel if you would like to go further into the worm hole.
As a side note, this coming Saturday March 14 the ACM SIGGRAPH Berkeley chapter and CCA, my college, will be holding a screening of the film, along with a Q&A session afterwards from 4PM to 5:30PM. I'm sure I'll be updating this post come Sunday.
UPDATE: Sunday March 15, 2015
I was able to get a behind the scene look at the process of making the Oscar-Nominated The Dam Keeper, thanks in part to the producer of the film Megan Bartel (pictured above with me), who's excellent presentation on the ups and downs that the production faced and Q&A after the screening. Also the filmmakers have a deal for a set of graphic novels to be developed based on the short film. According to Terry Flores of Variety Tonko House, has sold the world rights to First Second, a Macmillan imprint, for two graphic novels based on the tale of a bullied pig who keeps environmental disasters at bay with a special windmill and his new friends.
The filmmakers have also announced plans to develop a feature film that expands The Dam Keeper universe as well.
Thanks again to Megan at Tonko House, Juan and the whole team over at the Berkeley SIGGRAPH chapter, and CCA for helping in putting on this second collaborative event together.