ANAHEIM, Calif.--Animation director Chris Landreth—who won an Oscar for his 2004 short Ryan and earned a second nomination with 1995's The End—is stepping into this year’s Academy Awards race with an inventive new animated short, Subconscious Password, which he showed this week at CG conference Siggraph.
The film debuted earlier this year and qualified for Oscar consideration when it won the Annecy Cristal award for best short film at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. It’s produced by the National Film Board of Canada (its third collaboration with Landreth), with the participation of the Animation Arts Centre of Seneca College and Copperheart Entertainment.
In the film, Landreth plays Charles, a man who cannot remember a friend’s name at a party. This leads to a mind-bending “game show of the unconscious.”
The film features animated celebrity guests, plus Charles’s mother and his childhood babysitter, who desperately try to prompt him to remember an old friend’s name. Iconic figures appearing in the film include Dick Van Dyke, Yoko Ono, Sammy Davis Jr., William S. Burroughs, and James Joyce.
Subconscious Password was animated by students as part of a Seneca College program, and incorporates a unique mix of elements and techniques. It was also Landreth’s first project made in stereoscopic 3D.
Parts of the film combine computer animation with pixilated—what the director described as stop motion with humans. The additional guests were brought to the screen in a variety of ways. Sammy Davis Jr. appeared by using live action footage that was available in the public domain. James Joyce was derived from a collection of photos, projected onto a pseudo-3D character.
The computer animation was created with Autodesk Maya. Meanwhile the opening title sequences were modeled and animated with SANDDE (Stereoscopic Animation Drawing Device), a digital animation technology created by Imax that allows artists to create hand-drawn animation in 3D space, and which has been licensed to the NFB to develop new creative applications.
On the use of stereoscopic 3D, Landreth admitted that he has been resistant to the format. "But I think it was actually helpful here," he told The Hollywood Reporter, citing as an example that as Charles' frustration increases, the film incorporates more depth to create the sense of his growing discomfort.
As it turns out, Subconscious Password is partly inspired by an experience Landreth had a couple years ago at Siggraph, where he had an conversation with a colleague thinking he was someone else. Shortly afterwards, Landreth saw some of the ’60s TV game show Password, and the concept was created.