I watched the last Open Movie, Spring, from 2019, for the first time today; I had put it off because I was afraid of being disappointed. From what I had seen of the promos (mostly the main character and logo), it looked more like a Pixar or DreamWorks film.
The character of Spring (who looks like a young girl) is wide-eyed but full of inner turmoil. She comes from the mind of David Revoy, a popular French illustrator who seems to specialize in cute young girls and adorable creatures. We also get the original design of Autumn, a terrier-like puppy dog surprisingly intent on playing fetch.
Spring has a magnificent musical score that, when it starts, makes me think of the rural Scottish countryside. It progresses into a storyline that has overtones of Mononoke or other Ghibli hits. A classic nature-driven tale maintains some mystery till the end. The landscape was inspired by the director’s trips to the Alps during the time he lived in the south of Germany.
In fact, the music does such a good job of continually driving the story that I didn’t notice that there is not a single word spoken throughout the whole film. And entranced, score after score, the movie ends rather quickly, after a couple of major plot points and a suspenseful chase sequence.
But when it comes to risks, the film doesn’t take enough of them. I knew it was going to be a good production, with all the attention Blender is getting, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the music and environments were, but I wished there was more to help it stand apart from any number of Pixar or DreamWorks productions (starting with the title; e.g. Brave, Frozen, etc.).
The dog character was not a good part of the movie for me; he was very small, funny-looking and had no real defining characteristics other than pretty generic dog behavior. Honestly, I can completely imagine the whole movie with just Spring, and no Autumn, and no parts would have to be majorly rewritten. From what I saw of the production logs, I appreciate the work the animator did on Autumn’s walk/trot/run cycles, but they shrunk down the dog’s body so much that he looks silly, but at the same time not being very distinctive. Maybe if he was a ghost dog… something more creative.
The second part I thought could be improved was Spring’s eyes and skin. Her babydoll eyes and perfect skin made it seem like she could never inhabit that harsh environment of ice-cold frozen winters and windy mountaintops. Once the production team ran into so many problems with the gigantic eyes, they should have scrapped the idea and not been afraid to hurt the designer’s feelings. There is nothing about the film as a whole that necessitates that the main character should have anime-influenced eyes. And I don’t know whether that perfectly smooth, little bit plastic-y skin is something to be expected for cartoon CG animation, or just a side effect of subdivision surfaces and skin subsurface scattering without anything extra. Either way, it makes the character feel less real to me than the characters in Elephants Dream or Cosmos Laundromat.
The final “Spring” logo is nice, and it matches the main character OK, but it still feels out of place (it would go naturally into any Disney film). The credits, meanwhile, are beautiful and done with great taste.
Also, the movie is a little too short. It should have aimed for the 10-minute mark like Elephants Dream, Cosmos Laundormat, or Sintel. The actual feature ends just shy of 7 minutes, so it is about 2/3 of what it should be. Since it feels like it naturally wraps up at about that point, it means more story is necessary. Put like 1:30 into character development at the beginning of the film (such scenes as the house, which was shown to have been cut early in the production logs) and another 1:30 into another drama sequence in the forest.
Now that the Blender Foundation has proven that it can make movies that would fit in—in feel and appeal—alongside any of the big studios, I hope it goes back to taking more risks, rather than just going for a sure thing. However, the whole no-speaking thing was a little risky… and the scale and detail of the environments and cloud creatures were pretty epic. The movie might get an A, but all A-grade movies I watch don’t stand out. There needs to be separate criteria for what makes a movie good. There needs to be more of what makes Blender unique in these projects.
So, did you watch Spring Open Movie? What’d you think?