I just happened upon this film yesterday when I saw it posted on the blog of Alan Cook, a talented recent Sheridan Animation grad and a former student of mine. I've watched this short animated film over again several times now and must say that I just love it. It was created by a young animator from Korea named Hyun-min Lee, who has been accepted into the internship program at Disney and has apparently been working with master animator, Eric Goldberg. An interview with Hyun-min may be found here.
The film is a celebration of childhood imagination and the loving mother who encouraged that imagination to flourish. Now, some of you may be wondering why I am responding so enthusiastically to this film, when I recently gave quite a critical drubbing to "Adventure Time", which also centers around childhood imagination. Especially since the characters in "The Chestnut Tree" are also quite simplistic in design, with minimal facial features and a comparable amount of what we refer to as "pencil mileage" as that found in the designs of "Adventure Time". But that is really where the similarity ends, and for me the success is in the execution of the visuals and resulting animation in this charming film.
Though undeniably minimalist designs, the young girl and her mother are drawn with fully dimensional, simple forms and they are handled with fluidity and graceful movement in their animation. Unlike the awkward character animation and layouts I perceive to be at work in "Adventure Time", the skill of Hyun-min's animation is able to lead the viewer's eye pleasingly and playfully through each scene. Though the facial features are so simple in design, they register clear emotions that the viewer easily can respond to. Admittedly, as one who teaches Character Design, I myself prefer to see characters that have more specific features that can indicate more of their personality type, but when minimalist design is handled well at the animation stage, that's where the personality and emotional content can be put across through clarity of body language, expressions and timing of the motion. (I can also appreciate "Pocoyo" for that reason, by the way.) Still, I do expect to see more distinctness in the designs from my Sheridan students just to stretch their ability to depict personality through visual design alone, as they can all well attest to at this point! :)
I hope that Hyun-min Lee is successful in her goal to become a full-time animator at Disney and I look forward to great things from this young lady in the future!