Short Film: “The Lighthouse Keeper” by Gobelins School of the Image

Those who know me personally may be aware of my peculiar fascination with lighthouses. The romance and symbolism of those beacons attracts me, romances me, and causes me to think of important things. The vital responsibilities, the potential loneliness of the keepers, the beauty and conflict of the two worlds, land and sea, meeting at the coast, the light shining in the darkness, even on cloudful nights…all these I love.

And so it comes as little surprise that a short animated story that gets all these elements right is bound to delight me. “The Lighthouse Keeper” (or “Le phare”) by those talented folks at the Gobelins School of the Image is one of their most restrained in terms of color, taking place, as it does, at night. But the light and dark contrast is superbly and dramatically used. A fantasy, like all the others, it involves but one creature…a huge mosquito! Not exactly a welcoming thing, in my opinion. Neither in the lighthouse keeper’s. But as it turns out that, just when disaster seems certain, a surprise of the mildly eucatastrophic kind decides to appear.

“The Lighthouse Keeper”
(“Le phare”)

Short Film: “After the rain” by Gobelins School of the Image

Fishing with bananas as bait can catch you some strange creatures, apparently.

This may be my favorite of the Gobelins short films so far. It’s a real story, for one. It’s funny, beautiful, energetic, touching, and pretty understandable (despite a heavily fantastic nature). A perfect example is how the blue creature moves: it breaks all the laws of physics, and yet absolutely works for the character. Thinking back, I’m not sure I’d expect it to move any other way. It’s too full of joy and energy to move the way physics says a body its size should.

And while the film’s focus is on the boy and the gargantuanly cute creature, I also find the city itself to be of an intriguing design. All colored boards and awnings, stuccoed towers and rickety piers. Like an enlivening blend of all the different Mediterranean architectural styles. A place I’d like to visit, even if only in more stories like this one. And what’s that rooftop of balloon-things and a huge pool at the end? I don’t know, but I can’t deny it’s pretty neat!

After the rain
(Apès la pluie)


Short Film: “The Kingdom” by Gobelins School of the Image

“The Kingdom,” or, as it is properly called in French, “Le Royaume,” tells with humor (and some dramatic flourish) a tale that cleverly satirizes the arrogance of greed in the way that a fairy tale or a fable from Aesop often does. As with the other Gobelins short films, the animation is bright and energetic, and the music and sound accompaniment just right. Please, enjoy.

You must wonder, though: what will that lonely and goofily-costumed king stop at to get castle of his very own?

Short Film: “Nano” by Gobelins School of the Image

Work has been heavy lately, and while I’m reading a lot I haven’t had so much time to write. Which is another reason I appreciate these little videos, aside from their inherent artistic and entertainment value.

This one, called “Nano,” is a fun thing with a neat twist at the end. While still not being a true story, per se, it nonetheless has more actual meaning than some of the other Gobelins short films I have posted. It made me smile and laugh. Also, it fulfills C.S. Lewis’ requirement for stories that they add to reality rather than merely describe it. In this case, the addition is both fantastical and charming!

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

~C.S. Lewis

Short Film: “Chaman” by Gobelins

A young (Native American?) boy stumbles across a shamanic circle; when he stumbles into it, everything suddenly changes, and he sees things the way the shaman sees them.

Again, a product of the Gobelins School of the Images in Paris, France. It doesn’t have quite the poetry or subtle emotional impact of “Garuda” — which is probably their masterpiece, going by what I’ve seen — but it’s still impeccably animated and quite a bit of fun for 57 seconds. These tiny films seem like they would be good fodder for brainstorming story ideas.


Short Film: “Fenrir” by Gobelins School of the Image

This is by the folks who also did “Garuda,” and like that one it’s more of an elaborate advertisement than an actual story. Still, the creativity of imagination and excellence of animation is worth sharing. What more is there to say about it? There’s not a real story to make sense of; it’s just an incident, as a weird wolf-creature eats the sun and is attacked for it by a weird forest-man-thing, and they battle with lots of color, fast drum beats, and some humorous touches. It’s fantastical, bursting with energy, and I wish there was more of it.


by the animators at Gobelins School of the Image (Gobelins L’Ecole de L’Image) in Paris

Short Film: “Garuda” – Chasing a bird of legend

An animated short film about a young boy in India chasing after his dream.

You may have noticed the two short animated films I have posted recently. Short films interest me in the same way that short stories and flash fiction do: they are focused and concentrated to create a singular effect. Eyrie is notably reflective and subtle, while Cat Piano is boldly lyrical and dramatic. But while both of these had strong stories and character development in four and eight minutes respectively, sometimes short films—due to their clipped length—sacrifice story and character in favor of style and emotion. This is true with Garuda, which clocks in at a mere one minute, yet tells of an extraordinary journey.

For one thing, its style is exceptional. The animation bursts with color and texture, creating a logically impossible world that is striking in its fantasy. The musical touches enhance the mystical atmosphere and elegantly bring out the emotion inherent in the imagery. For another thing, I think it has elements of a true fairy story. The difficulty is in its dreamlike nature and the lack of plot, and many viewers are likely to raise a puzzled eyebrow at the ending. Yet, the more I think of it, the more I rewatch the boy’s beautiful journey, the more I think there is some substance and meaning. It’s an open story, to be sure, with no “moral” or clear message in the conventional sense. But…well, why don’t you watch it and see for yourself.

Garuda from Andres Salaff on Vimeo.

What do you think? What I see is this: the boy chases the magical bird. He chases it far, up into possibly heavenly reaches, only to turn into the bird himself and fly away. The question of course, is what does the magical bird represent? I doubt the makers had a clear answer to this in mind—they probably desire it to mean different things for different viewers. Fair enough. The boy could be chasing a dream. He could be chasing an ideal, moral or artistic, I’d wager. And the ending: is he transformed into the same kind of thing he sought, or does he discover that he really was the very thing he sought all along? One of those “discover yourself” kinds of things? I don’t know. The important point, what I take away from it, is that he attained something good and beautiful.

The title refers to a lesser divinity of Hindu mythology, the king of the birds. Garuda was known for his stringent ethics and devotion to justice. He flew over the earth fighting evil wherever he found it. One of his most notable stories involves him rescuing his own mother from an underworld guarded by evil serpents, and defeating many of the other Hindu gods who tried to stop him. What relevance this has to the short film, I don’t know. The title is likely an allusion more than an indication that the bird of the film is meant to be the actual deity.

Credits: The staff of Les Gobelins studio in Paris
Niclas Athane
Meryl Franck
Alexis Liddell
Andres Salaff
Maïlys Vallade