Out of the five nominees in the Best Animated Short Film category for this year’s Academy Awards, Pearlis by far the one I was most excited to see.The short film, directed by Academy Award-winner Patrick Osborne, shows the evolving relationship between a father and daughter through a series of scenes that take place in their family car. Patrick Osborne previously directed the Academy Award-winning Walt Disney Animation Studios short film Feast, a heartwarming short about the relationship between a man and his dog. While Pearl at times feels similar to Feast, particularly in regards to its storytelling format, the short diverges from Feast thematically and delves into slightly more serious subject matter.
Pearl is a 360 Google Spotlight Story – essentially ‘VR’ storytelling – which means the viewer can manually change his or her viewing angle at any time while watching the short. This 360 degree technique has been used for other Google Spotlight Stories, perhaps most notably in 2014’s Duet directed by Disney Legend Glen Keane. Google Spotlight Stories have definitely pushed the limit of animated storytelling, and Pearl is no exception.
The thing that strikes me more than anything about Pearl is how real the story feels. Immediately, I connected with the story and the characters. Osborne is able to find universally relatable moments that most, if not all, parents and children experience and integrate them expertly into his story. Nothing in this short feels forced. Instead, the story easily flows from one scene to the next.
While I absolutely love this short film, if there is one thing I could do without it’s the 360 degree storytelling. To be completely honest, while I love the Google 360 Spotlight shorts, I love them for their story and not for their technological achievements. “Virtual reality” storytelling feels a little gimmicky to me. Looking around distracts from the action of the story and the novelty of being able to view 360 degrees of an environment is essentially lost on anyone who has ever played a video game. The ability to direct viewers’ attention is an important storytelling tool available to directors and artists that is essentially lost when VR is utilized. However, there is absolutely nothing gimmicky about Pearl‘s story and when it comes to story, Pearl definitely does not disappoint.
What do you think of Pearl? Let us know in the comments!
Hannah, an animation addict currently living in Southern California, works in production in the animation industry. When she’s not working, she likes to spend her time watching movies with her friends, listening to podcasts, and going to Disneyland.