Based on a short comic strip by Fabio Coala called Perfection, Jacob Frey’s animated short The Present plucks at the heartstrings in almost Pixar-esque fashion. In less than five minutes Frey takes us through the entire emotional spectrum, ending on a perfectly-executed reveal that’s at once heartwarming and thought-provoking.
We open on an all too familiar sight: a young boy alone in his living room, blinds drawn, the heated sounds of screams and gunfire blaring from the FPS he’s playing. We see only the boy’s face, but the sounds of violence make the scene uneasy. It’s an effective opening – one which only serves to up the “awww” factor when the boy’s mother returns home with a special surprise for her son.
It’s hard at first to understand the boy’s hostile reaction to one of the most adorable dogs in the history of animation (sorry, Doug from Up), even by stroppy teenager standards. But as he finally warms to the dog and gets up out of his chair to play with it, the truth becomes clear. This is a short about coming to terms with disability and living with it – a message that feels especially relevant with the Rio Paralympics starting later this week. Refreshingly, we’re offered no explanation for either the dog’s disability or the boy’s. It’s simply a fact of their lives.
The Present earned Frey and his team plenty of word-of-mouth buzz and well-deserved accolades upon its release in 2014, and it’s almost certain that we’ll see more of Frey’s work in the future. In fact, odds are good that you’ve seen some of it already. After impressing the animation world with The Present, Frey and some of the animators he worked with were recruited to work on the likes of The Good Dinosaur, The Secret Life of Pets and Zootropolis.
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CAST: Quinn Nealy, Sam Brown
DIRECTOR: Jacob Frey
WRITERS: Jacob Frey (screenplay), Fabio Coala (comic)
MUSIC: Tobias Bürger
SYNOPSIS: The short tells the story of a boy who rather spends his time indoors playing videogames instead of discovering what’s waiting outside the front door. One day his Mum decides to get a little surprise for her son, which makes it hard for him to concentrate on his videogame.