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100 Greatest Animated Shorts / Father and Daughter / Michaël Dudok De Wit

100 Greatest Animated Shorts, Featured

UK / Holland / 2000

In this traditionally animated, 8 years in the making short film, the dialogue-free story tells of a daughter’s love undimmed by the years after her father’s disappearance. In this simple and poignant tale complemented by elegant design and animation, a young Dutch girl witnesses her father rowing out to sea never to return. Over the passing seasons and years she moves through the phases of her own life as she cycles to the same spot to wait for his return.

Remarkable for how much emotion, poignancy and longing it wrings out of minimal shapes, simple movement and sparse sound and music, the film is mostly in near-silhouette with no facial expressions seen at all. It’s interesting to compare its very understated Northern European approach with the grand gestures and orchestration we might see in a Disney-type film (the overriding influence in animation of course, where the instinct seems always to ‘push it’). Another subtlety in the film making is the mystery of whether the father’s rowing out to sea represents his death, whether he was going on a trip and had an accident, whether he was leaving the family or any other explanation. This is an understated mystery, never fully explained and, until the final tense and heartbreaking moments neither the girl or the audience can be sure that her father is never coming back.

Dutch director De Witt works mainly in London and Holland after graduating from the UK’s West Surrey College of Art and working in Barcelona. Before Father and Daughter he had made the award winning shorts Tom Sweep (1992) and The Monk and the Fish (1994) .

I had a film in the British Animation Awards the year Father and Daughter won and Don Hertzfeldt’s much-loved Rejected was in contention when this won the Oscar for Best Animated Short, but I would have to say this classic of almost zen-like contained emotion fully deserved both awards.

Note: The 100 greatest animated shorts is an list of opinions and not an order of value from best to worst. All suggestions, comments and outrage are welcome but please don’t shoot us, it’s only a list!

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