TIFF 2018: Animal Behaviour

Animal Behaviour. Courtesy of TIFF.

Created by an Oscar-winning duo, Animal Behaviour is one of the finest animated short films that anyone will see in all of 2018.

Writers-directors-animators Alison Snowden and David Fine won an Oscar for Bob’s Birthday back in 1995.  This was also the last time the two filmmakers made any kind of theatrical short.  They’re back over 20 years later with a film revolving around a group therapy session.  What makes this therapy session so fun and unique is focus is on animals.

Best-selling author and canine psychotherapist, Dr. Leonard Clement (Ryan Beil) runs this group.  There are five group members who come to sessions regularly.  Much like humans, these animals are no different than we are.  A leech, Lorraine (Leah Juel), discusses her separation anxiety issues.  This only leads to a panic attack.  A single mom to 1,000 children or so, praying mantis Cheryl (Andrea Libman) suffers from sexual cannibalism.  A pig, Todd (Toby Berner), is a recovering chocoholic.  A bird, Jeffrey (James Kirk), is dealing with guilt from his days in the nest.  Finally, a cat, Linda (Alison Snowden), has some major OCD issues.

Things are going well until an ape, Victor (Tasman Van Rassel), suddently walks in.  Victor has anger management issues and it really shows.  How he responds to the group session has an effect on everyone.  Some respond to his behavior by reverting to their native ways.  Honestly, this short film gets downright comical!  If the whole idea of animals needing therapy wasn’t comical enough, both Snowden and Fine are able to find the humor in the premise.  On top of that, it’s a film that makes me wish I could vote on short films!

Dr. Clement is very much the alpha in the room.  This makes quite a bit of sense because he’s a canine.  By way of the animated graphics, they make sure to let us know that he’s also an established author.  He may have had two books published but it’s hard to tell if one of those is just a poster on the wall.  We for sure get a glimpse of his best-selling book, Heel! and Become Your Own Master.  It’s such great wordplay on what we know about our canine friends.

Animal Behaviour may very well give this Oscar-winning duo their second win.  They have a knack not only for the animation but the dialogue, too.  There’s a lot of great comic timing in the situation.

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS:  Alison Snowden, David Fine
CAST:  Ryan Beil, Toby Berner, Leah Juel, James Kirk, Andrea Libman, Tasman Van Rassel, Alison Snowden

Animal Behaviour holds its North American premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.  The 14-minute short film will screen in the Short Cuts 7 program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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