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EIFF 2014: The McLaren Award, New British Animation 1

// Featured, Reviews

At this years Edinburgh International Film Festival the 25th recipient of the McLaren Award for Best British animation will be selected by a public vote. We’ve taken a close look at the previous winners of this award in a series of articles that demonstrate the nature of this special award, named after Norman McLaren who is also the focus of centenary celebrations.

The first of two screenings, this selection was well thought through and planned, each short, whilst independent in style from one another seemed to flow together nicely, maintaining the audiences attention throughout the selection of films. Here is a closer look at some of the best of British animation EIFF 2014 had to offer.

My Stuffed Granny

Dir. Effie Pappa

This beautifully crafted stop motion piece, set in Greece, is a tale in the traditional sense. The narrator is an innocent, wannabe horticulturist child regaling the audience with the story of her bitter old grandmother who has a ravenous appetite. The Grandmothers appetite sets her against the rest of her family as they are suffering from the economic crisis and food is scarce, with the only money coming from her pension. The childs perspective plays off against the reality of the struggle creating some humorous moments. When grandmother’s appetite leads her to her own bitter end the story takes a Weekend at Bernie’s style twist before arriving at a very satisfying, if rather macabre, solution.


A Recipe For Gruel

Dir. Sharon Smith

Set in a postindustrial hell hole, there is a sense of 1984 about this film as we follow the journey of an elderly woman gathering the ingredients for gruel. The story is narrated by a sarcastic, blunt, unsympathetic instructor who appears to be the representative of a careless governments attempt to sustain its loathed underclass. The quality of the animation and design is as superb as the narration which makes the film an engaging watch.


Two films About Loneliness

Dirs. Christopher Eales, Will Bishop Stephens

The audience get two films for the price of one here and a split screen interpretation of loneliness. Both are extremely modern, one character, a middle aged bald man, is creating a profile video for his online dating site and on the other side of the screen a German hamster is creating cookery video. Interaction is brief but when their worlds collide the short demonstrates the differences in the choices of both animators in this interesting collaboration. This film garnered quite welcome bursts of laughter from the audience who relished the awkward humour. Its always nice seeing something new and the dual perspectives of this film offered something at least fresh if not original.

two films about lonlinessAvocado Bear

Dir. Thomas Fraser

The character of this piece shines through and identifies the short as a strong piece immediately. With his grumpy demeanour and waddling walk cycle Avocado Bear is a tale of missing pieces and overcoming your own prejudices to find what is right for you. The animation style is simple but still effective as the smooth motion matches the sketchy/textured style brilliantly. This could be identified as a children’s short but the adults in the audience seemed to enjoy it as much as any kid would.



Dir. Bjorn-Erik Aschim

Having seen this film before online I knew what I was in for but seeing it on the big screen added a level of quality not even a fancy-pants MacBook can offer. Although only a minute long the fluid animation and extremely well observed scenarios will make any audience see something they are familiar with from a night out, either by having witnessed wallflowers like these before or by feeling sympathetic or even akin towards one of the bizarre creatures on display in this menagerie of oddballs. The length of the short matched with the superb animation make you instantly crave more.


Domestic Appliances

Dir. Lewis Bolton

Although this film spends its only joke relatively quickly the punch line lingers around without wearing out its welcome. It is the kind of film that could easily wind up as an advert as strong ideas like this often do.


Goodness Newness Oldness Badness

Dir. Mikey Please

Last years McLaren victor returns with a brand new film. Short and sweet, this film is Mikey in miniature as we zip between colourful scenes in his signature style. This sculpted whirlwind of ideas is accompanied by a cheerleader style soundtrack that presents a repetitive cycle of how age effects our perception of the value of things for better and worse. This is another film that is the perfect length, leaving the audience craving more rather than stretching the idea out too far as a less experienced filmmaker may be tempted to do.

goodnewoldbadPenismouse (Myszochujek)

Dir. Kristof Babaski

In the depths of a polish archive this film was discovered and restored by the Polish Film Club. This is a film that features ideas about censorship, jealousy, acceptance and a mouse running around with his willy out.


Monkey Love Experiments

Dirs. Ainslie Henderson, Will Anderson

Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson share directorial duties in this touching tale of Ghandi, a lab monkey who believes he is destined for the moon. This film is perfectly placed in its era through its use of colour, graphics and television broadcasts of the space race that influence the tiny test subjects ambitions. As soon as you see space obsessed Ghandi’s beautiful big eyes you know you’re in for an emotional journey one way or another.


Port Nasty

Dir. Rob Zywietz

The first thing I thought when I saw this was that its stark composition reminded me of the work of Saul Bass or of Sin City, the Frank Miller comic series, although the storyline is a different one, replacing dames, guns and deceit for Whalers, knives and isolation. A young man seems eager to be a part of a harsh and unforgiving tradition, as he abandons his own sensibilities and dices with death we see how inevitable his transition of consciousness is in such a brutal scenario.


Mr Plastimime

Dir. Daniel Greaves

A mime artist struggles to maintain an audience before returning home to reflect, unbeknownst to him his neighbour is a huge fan but when disaster strikes he must use his skills as a mime artist to save the day. This film displays humour and heart in equal measure and a great dose of intelligence. The film shamelessly recomposes earlier footage of miming into real life scenarios which, far from being a cheeky cost cutting measure is one of the most charming things about the film and something that the viewer will find hilarious. Its tricks like this and his mixing of styles where Daniel Greaves once again proves himself as the animator’s animator.


The second screening of the McLaren Award: New British Animation will be screened Thursday 6:15pm Filmhouse 1, tickets are available here.

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