The hand-drawn animation style popularized by Walt Disney returns to the animation studio he created in Far From the Tree, a new animated short coming to theaters this November where it will play before Encanto. Debuting at the 2021 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the new short evokes the style and feeling of Bambi, using state of the art technology to create a hand-drawn look. If you’ve been missing the classic animation style that’s long been missing in mainstream animation, this latest short film is like a breath of fresh air.
A racoon brings their baby out of the woods to the shores of the Pacific Northwest to keep an eye on their kit while they forage. With danger never too far away, the cub must learn an important lesson, one that has been passed down for generations, essential to survival. The true forces of nature are ever on display in this beautifully animated short told without dialogue or narration.
Director Natalie Nourigat steps away from her Disney Short Circuit debut (Exchange Student) with a project that feels in many ways like a return to form for the studio. The cyclical nature of life is a well established theme in Disney animation, particularly in films like Bambi and The Lion King, to which Far From the Tree is easiest to compare. And like her directorial debut, a cel-shaded computer animated project, this new short takes further steps to take modern animation techniques back to the style most fans fell in love with.
Dusting off Meander, custom built software developed at Walt Disney Animation Studios for the short film Paperman, Far From the Tree at times looks hand-drawn. The technical wizards have devised a way to make the short look like it comes from the artist's hands, with watercolor backgrounds adding to the well pulled off illusion. But best of all, the short really brings out the “Disney eyes,” with the charm and appeal that everyone loves.
Far From the Tree showcases how we learn from our parents and try to be better with our own kids with a heartwarming story about caution. At times a little dry with the narrative, the real strength of this seven-minute short is in the visual splendor. Funnily enough, this hand drawn-looking short likely spared a lot of trees by actually being computer animated.
I give Far From the Tree 4 out of 5 raccoon scars.
You can see Far From the Tree starting November 24th with Encanto.