TIFF Bell Lightbox's occasional Packaged Goods programs started out as an examination of advertising and media, using commercials and music videos to illuminate the intersection of entertainment and marketing.
The latest program, Packaged Goods: Artful Animation - screening Wednesday (February 20) at 7 pm - takes a few liberties with that mission statement. The link to advertising is occasionally a hair tenuous; some of the titles in the program aren't promotional at all, like the central triptych of Andrew Thomas Huang's Solipsist, Dan Charbit's Infime and Kaleb Lechowski's R'ha. They're just short films made by directors who've subsequently been courted for commercial and music-video work.
It's hard to fault their inclusion, though, as they're as good as any of the actual ads. Better, in some cases; several of the music videos are a little flat, though the Converse-sponsored collaboration between Gorillaz and Andre 3000, "Doyathing," has a fun, spiky integrity in drawing out the prickly relationship between some familiar-looking roommates.
On the advertising side, Julian Frost's Dumb Ways To Die is a delightful safety message from the Melbourne Metro, with a series of horrific deaths presented in bright, happy animation to an insidiously catchy song. (There's nothing so persistent as an earworm with a moral function.)
And then there's the closer, The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which won last year's Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject - and absolutely earned it. Again, this one's neither an ad nor a music video, in fact, it's likely here to pad out the program to a reasonable running time. (At 15 minutes, it accounts for almost a quarter of the package.)
The thing is, I can't crab too much about it being here. Twee title aside, The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore - produced by Louisiana animators William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg - is a lovely work, visually inventive and emotionally stirring in all the right places, and it really sings on the big screen. If you missed it in last year's Oscar Shorts program, it's worth sitting through the other stuff just to catch it now.