We were out at the Walt Disney Animation Studios a few weeks ago and got to see the new short, and it's as groundbreaking as it is cuddly (in my notes are the words "cutest ever" with a circle around them). Director Patrick Osborne, who was head of animation on the Oscar-winning short "Paperman," was inspired by the app One Second Every Day, which records a second of your day and assembles it into a calendar-like virtual flipbook. He had two going -- one, he said, was "My Life," and the other was "Meals." This is what he pitched to Disney Animation Studios bigwig John Lasseter. And Lasseter ate it up (sorry, had to do it).
The resulting short takes place from the point of view of Winston, a Boston terrier with triangular ears and a love for the junky food his owner either feeds him or lets fall to the ground. Things, however, change when his owner meets a woman who is an aspiring chef, no less. She changes both of their lives forever. Sorry, to say anymore would be a crime. Also the movie is only six minutes long, so there's only so much you can reveal without giving away the whole shebang.
Osborne's experiences on "Paperman" have certainly informed "Feast." For one, it's an incredibly emotional experience that borders on the profound. Your heartstrings will be tugged, quite violently. Not only is the bond between Winston and his owner beautifully illustrated but so is the relationship between the owner and his girlfriend. The narrative is clean and clear and absolutely astute. It's a wonder. And if you don't well up, at least a little, then you are probably some kind of weird android.
Another holdover from his time on "Paperman" is Osborne's willingness to experiment with the form. A tweak on the "Paperman" style, where traditional animation was warmly "mapped" on top of 3D forms, "Feast" is even bolder, pushing a naturalistic, painterly feeling that mixes traditional animation and computer animation in wild new ways. At the screening Osborne said that he wanted lots of shallow depth of field and natural lighting, giving off an almost watercolor vibe to the whole short. And you can sense what Osborne is going for while you watch it -- the way that light dances in and out of the frame, lighting up tiny particles that dance along the ground, and Winston's blocky pattern of fur; there's a kind of vibrancy that only seems achievable through hybridization of the styles.
"Feast," though, is primarily an emotional experience and not a technical one. And, honestly, most of the people who watch the film before it plays in front of "Big Hero 6" won't be thinking about the artistry that went into it, they'll just be swept up by the story and the humor and the heart of the thing. And almost all of that is conveyed by the tilt of the head or a well-placed bark, supplied by Winston, the newest member of the illustrious group of animated Disney dogs and one that, after watching "Feast," you'll never, ever forget.