Sunday, December 26, 2010
Skywhales is another animated short found on The 19th International Tournee of Animation: Volume 1. It was released in 1983.
When I first saw this, I was transfixed by the depth of the culture of the Whalers (they don't have a name, nor are there any subtitles for their alien language in the short, so this name serves for now). The short is very detailed - the culture of the Whalers evokes Inuit iconography, but they aren't the only native whaling cultures. Whales have always been sacred beasts, and so their deaths have typically held much significance to those who pursue them, not least because the undertaking is extraordinarily dangerous and the goal, once achieved, requires quick industriousness to harness the whale's bodily products: blubber, ambergris and of course meat. The rituals to achieve those ends are presented here in an inventive, engaging manner; with the caveat that as the hunter takes life, so is his spirit taken from him - literally, in this case. The lyrical quality of the story, combined with the great score, makes for a really classic short.
By the way, I noticed that National Geographic (actually BBC 4, as they originally produced the program), totally ripped off the skywhales' design for a special on what alien life might look like on other worlds. Without any citation of the original short it just seems like crass plagiarism in service of a forced product.
Edit: I found a website which says that the short was shown on BBC 4 on Christmas 1983, which would presumably give them some sort of likeness rights to the skywhale's design. Also, the site says that the creatures are called Perlians, though this is never once mentioned in the short itself. It's an interesting article, and if you like Skywhales you should quickly check it out.