While looking for a more ‘adult’ animation to watch, I decided to rent Shane Acker’s 9. This post apocalyptic story is really not for children. It does have a PG 13 rating …. only one of four computer-animated films to receive this rating. The others were: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), Kaena: La prophet, (2003) and Beowulf (2007).
Even though I thought that the artistic animation was beautiful, I found that the storyline ended up being just another end ‘of the world/fight the machines’ story that we have seen many times before. As I watched all I could think of was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines!
Watching the Special Features section of the DVD, I found that Acker had first made 9 as a short film in 2005 when he was still a student at UCLA. After watching the original animated short of Shane Acker’s 9 my question was: Did the expanded story of 9 at 79 minutes give us more artistically than his 11 minute short film? I don’t really think so.
The animated short was based on visual story telling and pantomime — the story was brilliantly told without dialog. The CGI animation used a narrow color pallet with earth tones and a painterly saturation. This is different than most CGI animation that is usually more photorealistic and uses a broad spectrum of colors. It took Acker four years to bring his vision of a primitive culture evolving from scavengers to life. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 in the Best Animated Short Film category.
Shane Acker himself tells us that the biggest challenge in expanding the animated short into a full length feature was the storyline. He had to conceptualize a larger story that he could easily incorporate the shorter story into. He did not want to redo what he and already done. His focus on 9 helped him do this. The expansion of the story did answer some questions regarding how the world ended up the way it did but other than that the introduction of more monsters and chase scenes were the core of the expanded time. Acker did start the film with an absence of dialog for the first 10 minutes…giving it some of the feel of the original animation.
The animated short gave us the story in a visually perfect nutshell. The search for others, the confusion of the unknown, discovery of scavenged tools, fight and flight with a monster and the spiritual release at the end of life were all shown to us in 11 minutes.
9, DVD, Focus Features Spotlight Series with Special Features.