For the past two years, my daughter and I have attended the Leeds Young Film Festival (LYFF) which runs activities and events over the Easter weekend. We’ve met Aardman animations and the people who produce Nella the Princess Knight. We’ve created clay creatures, designed costumes, and made our own animations in a variety of mediums.

We were both looking forward to more fun this year and then every event was cancelled. My daughter was quite distraught as it is the highlight of the Easter holidays for her. Then, we got an email through saying that LYFF was looking for Jury Members for the Golden Wings Young Jury Competition.

Each child that became a jury member was given Vimeo access to a selection of short films and short animations – seven videos in each category. They had to watch them and then vote for their favourite.

My daughter needed a computer to watch them, which meant I had to put aside my work and watch them with her. I was amazed not only by the wealth of talent on offer but also the often serious issues that were covered in short films that ran anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 minutes.

In the next two blog posts, I’ll be giving you a little bit of detail about each of the entries. This week, we’ll be looking at the animation category.

All film stills are courtesy of LYFF and the directors listed.

Short Animations

I have to say that I was really impressed that not a single one of the entries relied on having any recognisable dialogue. There were sounds and the odd grunt, laugh, or cackle, but generally they didn’t need any form of speech to get across their message.

The Little Bang, directed by Jihyeon Bae (runner up)

Image courtesy of LYFF and Jihyeon Bae

This animation really was adorable. I have to admit that, being married to an astronomer, the inaccurate representations of the planets (Jupiter should be so much larger) and the complete disregard for any kind of physics irked me a little. But that’s just a personal pet peeve and there’s no denying that the sharp but cute animation was spot on and looked very professional.

The heart of the story was that of loneliness, something that can be understood by everyone everywhere. The story was engaging and well-paced, and the final conclusion was wonderfully heartwarming.

Rude Sleeping Beauty, directed by Paul Baker

One animator chose to give us a new take on the tale of Sleeping Beauty. It had a general theme in common with the recent Maleficent films in that the “evil” fairy was simply a victim of circumstance. It was charming but pretty standard all the way through – except for the end. The final resolution, of how the fairy got her wings back, was surprisingly dark, something even more astounding when you learn that this film was based on a short story that had been written by a child.

The animation on this was gorgeous as it was all done in a “stained glass window” style, like at the beginning of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I guess for a modern audience used to CGI it might appear a little stilted, but I found it wonderfully appealing. It reminded me of those programmes I used to watch as a kid when this kind of animation was normal.

The Witch and the Baby, directed by Evgenia Golubeva (winner)

Image courtesy of LYFF and Evgenia Golubeva

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked this piece, but I did feel that it was a bit too much like what is on offer with the series Ben and Holly’s Magic Kingdom in both animation style and general approach to storytelling. However, I have to say that The Witch and the Baby was unbelievably charming and very funny.

Like many before her, the witch from the title is trying to make a magic potion to make her young again. She has all the ingredients except one: a baby. As luck would have it, the local king and queen are at their wits’ end in relation to their grumpy newborn. After all the other interviewees for the role of nanny get turned into frogs, the witch is given the job.

However, despite having her final ingredient, the potion-making doesn’t go to plan and instead the witch learns that you don’t need to be beautiful to be loved and wanted.

I really liked how elements of the Russian folktale Baba Yaga was interwoven into this tale. I also have to admit that the scene where the king and queen hand over their baby then hurry out to their private jet and fly off, drinking champagne, really spoke to the parent part of me.

Misguided, directed Sanghyun Kim

A bored dog tries to dislodge one of its balls from its sleeping owner. The ball goes out of reach and as the dog tries to retrieve it, its owner wakes up. We quickly realise that the owner is blind and that it’s his assistance dog that is causing all the trouble. Cue a hazardous walk around a construction site for a blind man and his clumsy dog which results in an ending that I found quite surprising and made me laugh out loud as I really didn’t think that was the way the film was heading.

The detailed animation and the humour of this piece meant that it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a Pixar film short at the beginning of one of their movies. Being picky, I guess a flaw in this animation is that it didn’t have a particularly moral message, something which was present in all the other entries.

The Bins and the Bees, directed by K. Sucikova and G. Dixon-Lynch

This is a stop-motion piece with a very distinctive style that deals with the issues of recycling and waste within our communal spaces. This was a tough one for me because while it was clear that a lot of love had gone into making this movie, I didn’t feel that it hung very well together when compared to the other films. A bit like Scout in the live-action category, it seemed more a piece that put forward a message rather than a lesson. It told us something rather than showing us how to do it, especially as it was the bees who cleaned up the mess and the litter, not the humans themselves.

My daughter really liked this piece because she’s a big fan of recycling although, weirdly, she’s terrified of bees. However, the bee coming to check on the injured dog really won her over. She was also mightily impressed with the fact that the whole thing was made from recycled materials.

Playtime, directed by Toby Leung

Image courtesy of LYFF and Toby Leung

Another film that would speak to the parent part of me, Playtime has a large green androgenous monster who wants to keep its house nice and tidy but the baby orange monster keeps messing it up and playing with all the toys.

After seeing so many father-son films in the live-action category, it was nice to see an adult-child relationship that wasn’t strictly defined by gender. It was a cute film and the resolution was silly but heartwarming.

Jerich0, directed Sarah Andrews

One of the really short pieces, I somehow felt that this film packed a punch. I loved how the filmmakers had used a mixture of stop-motion animation but in a real-life setting, much like they do on the CBBC programme OOglies.

The little robot lizard was unbelievably cute and had the most expressive eyes. The message was clear and cute: that you can build everything according to the instructions, but real life requires a little touch of love just to get things moving properly.

Cassiopeia, directed by Lucy Hirst

This was by far my favourite animated piece. I loved that this video started with no explanation as to why there were was a woman (presumably named Cassiopeia) sitting on a cloud watching some stars that had been strung up apparently for her entertainment. It just was.

However, one of the stars gets loose and starts having way too much fun bouncing around on clouds. Although Cassiopeia captures it and puts it back, it encourages the other stars to escape as well and she recaptures them and puts them in jars, just to make sure they don’t do it again.

But the stars don’t do well in jars and start to flicker out to darkness. Cassiopeia is then faced with the choice of whether to have dead stars in her possession or let them free when they will be alive but no longer where she can admire them. Obviously, she lets them go. But as they’re flying away, they wave to her to follow, and they all head off for new adventures together.

The human protagonist looked to me like a cross between Mulan and Elsa from Frozen. Her facial expressions were so brilliantly drawn that it was easy to get across how she was feeling and reacting. This was important because the stars had no faces at all, only body language, so it was really up to Cassiopeia to bring the nuances of the situation to light. If I’d had to choose a winner, it would have been this one.

Hungry, directed by Yaou Chen

The last video we watched in the animated section was just loud and brash and bizarre and while it seemed to lack the moral messages and subtleties of the other entries, its sheer bizarre nature had a real charm to it.

If I had to summarise it, I’d hazard a guess at: random shaped monster tries to eat everything it can, often trying to steal from other monsters that chase it away. The ultimate answer seems to be to eat its own spines that have fallen off with some kind of guacamole, and then all the other monsters come and join it for a picnic.