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Alexandra Bruce
September 12, 2014

Balance is a German animated film, Directed by brothers, Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein and released in 1989. It was shot using stop-animation, similar to ‘Gumby’ or ‘Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,’ so despite is apparent lack of digital enhancement,
a stop-animation film today would possess many of the same qualities of this film and those mentioned above – and be primarily be driven by the figurines used.

I briefly work at probably the “coolest” and most important animation studio in New York, on a pilot for the ‘Wayside School,’ Whish Wikipedia tell me debuted in 2007 but which I can assure y0u was in development at least a decade before that.

In this studio, just north of Houston Street, there were more complex, motion-control pieces being be filmed all around me, with camera cranes timed, in conjunction with a second camera on a little train track, to film the stop-animation movements of the figurines “starring” in these projects.

What struck me as extraordinary at the time (mid-1990s) was how many young, black New York City kids were gunning for careers in animation and who were there, plugging away, primarily in the 2D department, sketching still, after still, which would alter slightly each time and become a cartoon.

But that’s enough of Memory Lane.

THIS film depicts five individuals living on a small platform floating in space. Whenever one of them moves, the others must do so, as well, to ensure that the platform does not tip over.

The group works cooperatively to maintain a “balance” until one individual pulls a box onto the platform with a fishing pole, which they all seem to have and had also cast out, in search of something, anything.

Since all are curious as to what the box contains, the individuals try to inspect the box.

Their actions disrupt the balance of the platform, and those on it. All but one of the individuals is pushed or falls off the edges of the platform.

In the end, the lone individual must maintain a balance with the box, which is well out of reach – and where he must stay, at the opposite end of the platform, having murdered his colleagues, to see the contents of the box.

‘Balance’ won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short of 1989 and I think stands as an apt analogy of geopolitics and the health of the biosphere today.

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