In the run-up to the announcement of the nominees for the 2014 Best Animated Short Film, Toonzone is taking a look at some of the shortlisted candidates for the category. Out of the ten shortlisted films, three to five candidates will be nominated.
“Room on the Broom” is a half-hour short made by the same crew that adapted Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s children’s book The Gruffalo, and it shares that earlier film’s same gentle charms. With a script co-adapted by Julia Donaldson and an art style that neatly translates Axel Scheffler’s artwork to 3-D, “Room on the Broom” centers on a kind-hearted but slightly dotty witch (Gillian Anderson) and her cat (Rob Brydon). When the witch meets a succession of sweet, helpful animals — a dog, a green bird, and a frog — she invites all of them to join her on her flying broom (much to the chagrin of her cat). However, something big and dangerous and hungry is lurking in the background, and the broom canna take much more of this, cap’n!
Co-directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, “Room on the Broom” is delightful and even more satisfying than “The Gruffalo.” At least part of the reason is the wonderfully expressive animation in all the major characters, especially for Cat. While the Cat is completely loyal to the witch, she’s also quite possessive and jealous, and the increasingly crowded broom clearly doesn’t sit well with her. She’s the only cast member that gets no dialogue at all, and it seems that the animators compensated by giving her some of the most expressive animation in the short. She also gets some of the biggest laughs from her expressions and snippy attitude.
The animation of “Room on the Broom” is the same stop-motion-inspired CGI that drove “The Gruffalo,” and it’s still quite lovely and striking. While the bulk of the short has the same slow, deliberate pacing of “The Gruffalo,” the third-act climax picks up the pace considerably for a surprisingly intense action sequence that shows the crew can pick up the pace without missing a beat.
Top marks must also be given to Simon Pegg, who lends a wonderfully dry sense of humor (or “humour,” to humor our friends on the other side of the Atlantic) to the narration. It seems a bit of a waste to cast someone as talented as Gillian Anderson to do little more than giggle and make gentle “tut tut” noises, but it’s a mark of her skill as a performer that she can do so much with so little. The performance combined with the animation sharply defines the character of the witch. Similarly, the dragon who figures prominently in the third act is neatly defined by his character design and the performance by Timothy Spall, both having just enough menace to be credible but with enough big, soft, rounded edges to keep him from being truly threatening. It’s the same sort of balancing act done by Robbie Coltrane as the title character in “The Gruffalo,” in fact.
If this writeup seems a little sparse, it’s mostly because we have enough video clips from the short (and some behind-the-scenes material) that it can more than speak for itself. If you spend a few minutes watching them, I don’t think I really need to say a whole lot. “Room on the Broom” is already available on DVD from NCircle Entertainment. It’s definitely one worth checking out.