Saturday, 21 November 2009


Mere seconds into Anthony Lucas’ Oscar-nominated short The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, and we are already deeply immersed in its moody steampunk visuals. Jasper Morello is a navigator who has been appointed to embark upon a mission distributing weather beacons to enable wireless communication. The journey is fraught with troubles though, as the airship’s captain bears a grudge against Jasper for causing the death of another navigator on a previous mission. Furthermore, the thick smog leads the team to crash into an abandoned aircraft named Hieronymous, but they manage to repair it for use in the rest of the journey. When Jasper gets word that his wife Amelia has caught the plague, the team restrain him from turning the ship back home, but their subsequent discoveries leave them wishing they hadn’t.

Sinister but intriguing, this miniature epic features an impeccable mix of different animation styles, recalling Czech artist Karel Zeman. Lucas’ inspired designs infuse the cityscape with exceptional attention to detail, the girders and wheel-spokes becoming more important than aesthetic addenda, while the humans by contrast are deceptively simple beings, their jointed bodies moving with the charming gaucherie of Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette animations eighty years earlier. Scenes are faintly tinted with primary colours, as if in rebuttal of the gaudy Hollywood animations we have grown accustomed to. It is a shame then, that the soundtrack isn’t nearly as exciting as the rest of the project, but the promise of a follow-up is enough to keep one’s attention fixed.

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