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100 Greatest Animated Shorts / Bottle / Kirsten Lepore

100 Greatest Animated Shorts

USA / 2010

Bottle is a charming and unique short film made with limited resources, proving that it’s great ideas and not big budgets that really count.

Inspired by Lepore’s impulse to animate a real snowman, Bottle uses mainly natural resources to tell a story about a long distance love affair between a character made of sand on a warm beach and a character made of snow on an icy coastline. After exchanging messages in a bottle across the sea they arrange to meet, with disastrous consequences, a theme which seems to obliquely refer to fantasy relationships built with online strangers and how these fragile constructs can melt and dissolve when they attempt to enter reality.

Made, like most contemporary stop frame, on a still digital camera (a Canon 7D Lepore told me), in deliberate stark contrast to most digital animation where everything you see exists (or rather doesn’t exist) inside an unreal world of pixels inside software inside a computer, this film is shot mainly outside a computer, outside a studio, outside a city, in the outdoors real world with real elements in real daylight. As if the practical logistics of this weren’t enough of a nightmare, Lepore actually shot most of the film out there alone in what sounds like some sort of animation equivalent of a Bear Grylls survivalist escapade.

Like most great short films this is a simple and entertaining story built on deeper themes, as by entering this relationship and moving into another person’s world the characters identities are eroded away with destructive consequences. This bittersweet love story between elements was made single handedly by Lepore while studying experimental animation at CalArts, by painstakingly animating snow and sand frame by frame on location. The relatively rapid movement of the sun and shadows, often a problem in outdoor stop frame animation, here adds a believable dimension as the elemental characters seem to move at slower pace to human time.

New Jersey native Lepore has made other award winning films, her ambitious 2013 Move Mountain used multiple characters and a huge set of a blood gushing psychedelic mountain to tell a somewhat obscure story of “illness, perseverance and our connection to everything around us” and contains probably the greatest stop motion rave sequence ever committed to film. Her 2008 cupcake story Sweet Dreams was baked in the hipster trend of ‘artisan’ foods (artisan as in smaller batches with larger price tags) and in a way ‘Bottle’ floats on another similar current fashion for some illusionary escape back to nature and crafting of raw materials (while sharing news of it via ancient heritage publishing method Instagram) although this trend is nothing new and ran through for example the hippie and beatnik movements and way back beyond that.

Her ability to capture the Zeitgeist and combine it with great stories that plug into deeper human feelings plus the charming interviews she has given have made Lepore a darling of the animation scene and in 2015 she was awarded the ultimate accolade, an invitation to direct an episode of Adventure Time.

Note: The 100 greatest animated shorts is a list of opinions and not an order of value from best to worst. Click here to see all of the picks of the list so far. All suggestions, comments and outrage are welcome!

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