Disney’s Food-Focused ‘Feast’ Short Gets Stomping Ovation at Annecy

Disney's 'Feast' Short Gets Stomping Ovation

Walt Disney Animation Studios' latest short tells a moving romance from the point of view of a couple's food-obsessed dog

Five years ago, “Up” raised audiences’ expectations of what could be possible in animation. Over the course of a short montage, director Pete Docter spanned the decades of a lifelong love story.

Ever since, animation fans have been searching for anything that can come close to approximating the sublime emotional experience of that sequence from “Up,” which condensed so much feeling into 4½ dialogue-free minutes. Now Disney has done it via a 6-minute short with the understated title of “Feast,” which made its world premiere at the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival on Tuesday.

To call “Feast” a hit with that crowd would be an understatement: Erupting with laughter early on, then moved to the brink of tears in almost record time, the audience erupted into applause when the credits rolled, and then, realizing that clapping wasn’t enough to convey their enthusiasm, began stomping loudly on the bleacher seating while director Patrick Osborne stood stunned and speechless, overwhelmed by the response.

As in “Up,” the short relies on the tools of montage to compress a wide span of time — here, 12 years — into just under six minutes. Osborne imposed further restrictions on himself, too, setting out to tell a human romance from the p.o.v. of the couple’s pet dog, a Boston Terrier named Winston. But the challenges didn’t stop there: Inspired by an app that he’d used to record 1-second video clips of his various meals, Osborne decided to confine the story to whatever Winston happened to be eating at key points in his own relationship with these two owners.

Following on the success of “Paperman” and “Get a Horse,” “Feast” is the first project to result from a new in-house program in which employees of Walt Disney Animation Studios are invited to pitch short-film ideas to John Lasseter and the “Idea Trust.” If selected, the director can then put together a small team and step away from whatever project they were working on to develop and execute the short — in Osborne’s case, co-head of animation on the upcoming fall feature “Big Hero 6.”

Reuniting with “Paperman” producer Kristina Reed, Osborne tapped visual development artist Jeff Turley, with whom he’d collaborated on two month-long creative exploration projects in the studio’s Spark program. Together, the pair found a look for the short that mixed 3D digital rendering with a line-free style in which both the dog and his environment were designed in blocks of solid color. Without spoiling the specifics of the story (revealed in further detail below), suffice to say that the short begins with Winston as a starting abandoned puppy in the street and ends with him overstuffed and happy a dozen years later.

Along the way, Osborne found an indirect way to reveal the dynamic within Winston’s household, remaining firmly focused on the dog and its various unconventional feeding options. The approach rewards audiences’ intelligence, inviting viewers to identify with Winston while allowing everything else to fall slowly into place from there. Each shot is breathtakingly beautiful in its own way, with great attention paid not only to lighting — and of course the natural behavior of dogs — but also “live-air specks” (tiny flecks of dust that catch the sun, giving the impressionistically styled short a more real-world feel).

Rather than endow Winston with human characteristics, Osborne allows the dog to remain a dog, winning over audiences with his decidedly canine qualities. He’s an insatiable little pup, greedily gobbling up anything put in front of him, except Brussels sprouts and other icky dishes presented after his junk-food-eating master begins to date a health-conscious young lady. With minimal dialogue, the script details how this new g.f.’s arrival impacts Winston’s diet (and by extension, the relationship with his owner), culminating in a a stunningly rendered tracking shot through a restaurant in which Winston is confronted by all his favorite foods: steak, spaghetti, ice cream, etc.

The title may refer to the fact that each shot centers around food, but this exquisite short is a feast for the eyes and imagination as well, just one more way in which Disney is proving to the world that its animation department — which spent the past 20 years in Pixar’s shadow — is as vital and creative as ever.

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  1. Lilly says:

    Big Hero 6 was super funny! Out of all shorts I have seen Feast is THE BEST EVER! I have never seen anything like it. My dog Dixie begs just like this dog. I do not want to be a spoil alert.

  2. Lilly says:

    I loved feast! I saw it when I went to see Big Hero 6!

  3. Daan Velsink says:

    Having been one amongst the cheering and stomping crowd at Annecy’s world premiere of ‘Feast’, i feel this article shows the author has missed a significant nuance in the crowd’s reaction. I am fairly sure the well deserved ovation did not stem from the sentiment the story of ‘Feast’ clearly hangs on. As a professional animation storyteller myself, i can assure you noone in the Annecy crowd saw something new or original there. In fact, the story of ‘Feast’ resembles ‘Paperman’ so much, it’s almost embarassing. Both are centered on a relationship between a man and a woman that need to be brought together. One uses a dog to achieve this, the other paper planes. Where ‘Paperman’ makes the mistake of using ridiculous magic to resolve the story’s main conflict, ‘Feast’ makes an even bigger mistake. You see, this story shouldn’t be about the relationship of the dog’s owner and his love interest, but about the relationship of the dog with food. That’s where the heart of this idea is and derailing that original idea is a shame. No ‘chase to the airport’-type chase after the romantic interest, driven by an external story device, be it paper planes or dog, set to swelling romantic music, can fix that. Let alone compare in any way to ‘Up’s brilliant ‘maritial life’ sequence. If the author wanted to see a crowd cheer to a brilliantly boarded story sequence, like how all film professionals have over ‘Up’s opening sequence, he should’ve been in the same screening salon a few hours earlier, when Pete Docter presented the opening sequence of his new film ‘Inside Out’. Part in storyboard and rough animation, this sequence had all the storytelling power (almost) equal to his former film. The film is set in the mind of an eleven year old girl and has her five main emotions as lead characters. Within 5 minutes every member of the audience is convinced keeping this girl happy is the most important thing in the world, thanks to brilliant stortelling.

    So why did a room full of thousands of animation professionals erupt when it first layed eyes on Disney’s new short? Because of its sheer beauty and how every aspect in the animation production, both technical and creative, were designed to support it. Many animation professionals have felt for years that much of the concept art for many animation projects surpasses the final design in beauty and originallity. Osborne’s strife to counter this is admirable and the results are stunning. He takes the concept art he loves best and tries to make it move, rather than have it be a base for a final design that ends up looking as generic as the last. The cinematography, the visual style and the animation of ‘Feast’ are fresh, yes, even unique. More than anything else, Disney’s new short is a feast for the eyes. And nowhere else than in Europe will Osborne’s successful endeavor to put beauty first be welcomed with such a heartwarming and sincere applause, despite of its story’s cheap sentiment.

  4. Matt K says:

    Awesome, can’t wait! Congrats Patrick!

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