Short Starts is a column devoted to kicking off the week with a short film, typically one tied to a new release. Today we look at two early films by director Brad Peyton, whose latest feature is the sequel "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island."
So far the Hollywood career of Canadian filmmaker Brad Peyton has been limited to low-anticipation sequels. For his feature debut he helmed "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" and now this Friday we get the opening of his next effort, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." While it's not too surprising given his background in animation that he's become a director of family-friendly and CGI-heavy fantasy films, it would be a mistake to think his past works were similarly kid stuff. In fact, his "Addams Family"-ish CBC claymation series "What It's Like Being Alone" (which you can watch on YouTube) came with a disclaimer each episode noting that the show was for adults only.
What's more shocking is the kind of family films he's making now. His short films and series are so comparable to the style of Tim Burton (one interviewer also once described him as "looking like a Tim Burton character") that you could almost call it a rip-off. Not that he's hiding from the obvious. When his 2002 Genie-nominated thesis film, "Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl," premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival he acknowledged that it is "very, very Seussian and Tim Burtonish." Indeed it is a bit like "The Grinch" meets "Edward Scissorhands," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Beetlejuice." I would not be surprised if he was recruited for the next live-action Seuss adaptation. Are there any of his books that particularly appeal to the Hot Topic crowd?
Watch the award-winning 8 1/2-minute short, which co-stars "Diary of the Dead"'s Joshua Close and reportedly cost $16,000, below:
That film, which Peyton made while a student at the Canadian Film Centre, was basically the director's calling card. It got him a deal with Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, where he was supposed to write and direct an animated feature film based on the children's book "The Spider and the Fly." I'm not sure of the status on that project, but it took a while longer before the filmmaker actually got to work on a feature (the "Cats & Dogs" sequel).
In the meantime, before creating "What It's Like Being Alone," Peyton made another short film titled "Bad Luck." It's basically a music video for the band Royal City, but it works on its own as a stop-motion film about a teddy bear who selfishly abandons his doll girlfriend when a tornado approaches. It's not unlike "Evelyn" in that it's another gothic love story with dead characters finding romance. Watch this 3 1/2-minute short, which screened in competition at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival and reportedly cost $15,000 (Canadian), below:
Though I find "Evelyn" a tad too mall-goth for its own good, and we probably don't really need another Burton wannabe, I would love to see Peyton get to direct something more of his own, something dark, funny and creepy. Maybe he could reboot the Lemony Snicket movies or something even. Otherwise, if he could continue making some fun shorts on the side while earning those Hollywood paychecks, that'd be cool too.