Shortcakes is The Vocal Range’s weekly spotlight on animated short films. I’m changing the format this week. Instead of short blurbs about five different films, I’ve written a more in-depth review of a single short film.
The short featured in these articles is always highly recommended, and well worth a few minutes of your time to watch. Shortcakes is now less of a quick overview of what’s out there, and more a strong recommendation of a single animation.
Interested in seeing your film here? Comment or email!
Creator: Evan Hughes
Watch the film first. It’s only 5 minutes long, and here be spoilers.
Like a lot of animation fans, I’m a sucker for stop-motion. From Rankin-Bass to Laika, I can’t get enough of Claymation and found objects. There’s just something inherently cool about seeing real physical objects dancing around. It’s hard not to appreciate the sheer amount of effort, talent, and skill that goes into stop-motion productions. Their creators have an incredibly love of their craft, and it shows.
The other thing I love in cartoons is some good old-fashioned dark and disturbing themes. Cartoons are usually for kids at least on some level, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be some grown-up ideas underpinning them. Disney and Pixar understand this, and that’s why their films have such a universal appeal.
Balloon Ride isn’t for kids at all. It is entirely for adults, and the storyline is extremely dark. The creators describe it as a “short film which tackles the taboo topic ‘Domestic Violence’”, and they’re not afraid to take it by the horns.
Although there’s only one point in the film in which we actually see Dad abusing Mom, it’s implicit throughout the entire work. Most of the story takes place within the child’s dream, which horrifyingly intersects more and more with reality.
Ultimately, the child’s escapism doesn’t work. He never did save his mom. He just wished he could. We’re led to believe that the child is having some sort of clairvoyant dream, waking up just as his parents crash their car. A more realistic interpretation might be that the crash happened days, months, or years ago. The child is simply dreaming of them, as he likely would every night.
It’s a concept that’s been done before in feature-length films. Pan’s Labyrinth comes to mind, as does the recent Netflix production of The Little Prince. However, it’s hard to think of another film that does it so effectively within such a short span of time. In five minutes, and with no voice acting whatsoever, we’re taken from fear to hope to fear again, and finally ending in a very, very dark place.
Whatever awards Balloon Ride has won are well-deserved. I hope to see more from this team, in short form or elsewhere.