Evan DeRushie’s stop-motion animated short Birdlime does a phenomenal job of building character through small gestures. It does a lot of other things well, too—its visual appeal, heartwarming story, and warm humour all helped earn it our audience choice award at the 2017 GIRAF animation festival—but those little movements are what has stuck with me the most.
A lot of the film focuses on the growing relationship between a caged bird and its owner, seen only as a hand in the cage. But while the bird has certainly been stylized, it has only been slightly anthropomorphized—it doesn’t have the overly expressive brows and mouth of your typical cartoon character. So instead, its emotions are communicated through slight hesitations, tilts of the head, and slight openings of its beak. The motion has just the right mix of jerkiness to read as authentically bird-like, but there’s never a moment where its thoughts and feelings aren’t instantly clear.
The owner is also wonderfully expressive. Hands are not easy to animate, whether it’s drawn or in stop-motion, and this one requires a lot of emotional presence. Again, though, DeRushie manages to convey its personality, establish a relationship, and even pull off jokes through well-chosen, natural gestures. It’s an impressive feat—one of many he packs into this thoroughly charming short.
dir: Evan DeRushie
Plus a bonus peek behind the scenes that Evan was kind enough to share with Quickdraw: