By now, many of our readers have gone out to the theatres to see Big Hero 6, the 54th Animated Classic from Walt Disney Animation Studios, which has released recently to critical acclaim and remains a popular film at theatres heading into the holiday season.
If you’re one of those readers, than you’ve already gotten to experience the pleasure of watching Feast, the short film before Big Hero 6, centered around a Boston terrier named Winston with an especially enthusiastic appetite. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for quite a treat.
After a screening of our own, we spoke with Feast’s creator and director, Patrick Osborne, about the clever mix of elements that make the short so wonderful.
As soon as Feast begins, we’re introduced to our two main characters, Winston, a stray puppy, and a young man who adopts him. (You can see that opening shot in the preview clip above.) This initial moment acts as a wonderful example of the technique to come, as audiences will spend the entirety of the film looking at the world from Winston’s vantage point, inches off the ground. Patrick explained how this decision came to be, and what makes Feast so remarkably effective for a simple short.
“Compositionally, Feast is closest to Lady and the Tramp, as far as the camera height and the style of animation,” said Patrick. However, the star is entirely new for Disney. “We wanted to make sure that Winston had a unique design, and that he was the only one; that he’s the only small black-and-white terrier in the Disney universe. That was first. He also had to be below the table so that we could get the cinema of him on the floor, and then the chair, and then the table, and then knock him down, so that you could play this status game with him. That was important too. If he was a great dane, he could already reach the table, it’s a whole different set of story and jokes that you would need.”
By setting the camera so low to the ground and focusing on the dog, and by leaving the human characters offscreen or in the background, Feast allows us to fill in the gaps with our own story, and in that way we become participants in making the film. “I think the more you can do offscreen, the better, weirdly,” Patrick explained. “That’s because your audience fills those gaps in with the best possible thing from their own life. You show important stuff, and you show things when you’re giving information that’s not typical. But if with everything that you’re not showing you can pretty much guess what the audience is going to bring to that, you don’t need to show it. People understand and are already going to go that way. You only need to show them the turns you make. I think it connects people more because they just fill it in with their own life. That’s where the emotion comes from, completely.”
“I feel like the audience connects more when they start to invest themselves and try to figure the story out and get ahead,” said Patrick, diving deeper into the theory that drives Feast’s minimalist style. “We just leave little gaps, choosing a lot of moments where the audience has to be a little bit smart about it and then they get invested. Then, when the emotional thing happens, you’re rooting for the dog and you’re hoping that it’s what you think it is, and then when it is, that’s when everybody cries. It’s nice that that works. It’s lucky! But I felt like it meant something the whole time, and when it gets across, it works.”
Having seen the film, we can definitely say that it works, as Winston’s story somehow becomes both every adorable dog’s story, and also something wholly new. Don’t miss it before Big Hero 6, and let us know what you thought in the comments!