Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: Papa (Animated Video)

Claude Harrington 02.09.2016

Typically in our PICK OF THE WEEK section, we like to highlight an exceptional explainer video or example of whiteboard animation. This week, however, we were so impressed with Natalie Labarre’s Papa, that we wanted to shine a spotlight on her inventive, evocative and entertaining short film.

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Natalie Labarre is a New York native who freelances as an animator/designer for commercial and feature film productions in NY. In Papa, Labarre’s first film, she explores the unique and seemingly mismatched dynamic between an introverted inventor father and his enthusiastically extroverted daughter. This short has screened at several festivals around the world, including France’s Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival and Canada’sToronto International Film Festival for Kids (Canada). The film was recently purchased by The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Education and will screen several times a year as part of the museum’s Family Film Program.

For those in the New York area: the Brooklyn Academy of Music will be screening Papa at the following dates and times:

  • Saturday, February 27: 12:20 PM
  • Sunday, February 28: 11:00 AM

But before you go and see Papa on the big screen, here’s a link to the animated video that you can watch right now:

  • by Natalie Labarre
  • Sound Design by Aaron Hughes
  • Special Thanks to Aaron Hughes, Don Poynter, Reza Imam, Mari Jaye Blanchard, the Labarres, the Desjardins and The School of Visual Arts

3 Things We Loved About This Animated Video:

1. The Little Moments (and How They Build Up Something Bigger):  At it’s core, Papa is about a story about the fragile relationship between a father and daughter–both likable and fascinating in their own right–but who just happen to see the world a bit differently and are distanced by that fact. The fragility of this relationship is so important to capture as that’s what sends the narrative into action and where the beauty in the story (and its happily ever after) is ultimately to be found. But how does one express fragility? How does one capture the nuances of a seemingly dysfunctional father/daughter relationship in such a short time and without alienating us to either of the characters?

Labarre’s solution to this problem is to find, create and harness the power of little moments. She does this in a variety of ways, but particularly impressive is her use of reaction.

Facial Reactions: In just a single frame, Labarre is able to seamlessly toggle between emotions and take us into the minds of these characters and depict the parameters of their dynamic.

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Reactive Behavior: Although long-lasting relationships can’t be summed up by a single moment this one, where the father ignorantly uses one of his daughter’s stuffed animals to clean up a spill does a pretty great job of presenting who these people are…

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Non-reaction: After the daughter gets injured (which results in medical tape all over her head), we’d expect for some kind of “reaction shot” where she’s sad, upset or annoyed. But instead, we get this: 

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2. Avoids Character Cliche: The example directly above is one indication that this animated video is not afraid to subvert traditional narrative beats and reactions. And that all stems from how these characters are created.

In an “odd couple” story like this, it would be so easy to make father and daughter opposites in just about every way. He’s big, she’s small; and so on and so forth. But this short doesn’t take the easy way out. It doesn’t paint the world (nor personality traits) in black and white.

For example: we know the father is an inventor, and we are led to infer that his passion/profession is largely responsible for the emotional gulf between him and his daughter. As such, the familiar story trope would dictate that our young girl is un-inventive. That she sees the world merely as it is. And, extrapolating forward this trope we would likely expect that by the end she’ll learn that being inventive can be a good thing after all.

That, however, is not the case. Labarre doesn’t relegate her characters to black and white character traits. Instead, ambitiously, she depicts them both as inventive, just in a different kind of way.

So while the father builds this:

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His daughter responds by “building” this:

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3. The (Happy) Ending: It’s probably implied from the tone of this film that all is going to end happily. But how it ends happily is a bit unexpected, especially the “costume” the little girl wears for that final climactic moment.

I mean, who would have ever thought that this motley attire would melt the hearts of so many viewers?

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If you enjoyed this short film, you may also enjoy these other animated videos that were amongst our favorites from the past week…

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The Fisherman (1:53)

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It’s All Downhill (4:12)

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Bleacher Report: The World’s Greatest Gatecrasher (1:23)

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Mirror (3:31)

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The School of Life: Why We Love to Blame Our Partners (3:08)

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