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A Look at the Singapore Student Competition Section of Cartoons Underground 20208 min read

11 December 2020 6 min read


A Look at the Singapore Student Competition Section of Cartoons Underground 20208 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cartoons Underground, Singapore’s first animation festival, returns for its online edition with an international selection of 17 animated shorts — all available online for free for a limited time only. Supported by *SCAPE, the ongoing festival, running till 13 December, has moved from its traditional venues to an interactive 360° festival environment. 

On 10 December, Cartoons Underground featured Q&A sessions conversations with Despicable Me series director Kyle Balda and award-winning short film director Patrick Smith, best known for his work on animated series Daria. An exclusive Q&A session with the Cartoon Undergrounds film directors will be held on Friday, 11 December at 7 pm. 

The year’s edition will wrap up its last two days with Animation Story Labs, a showcase of films from the National Youth Film Award, and the festival’s Golden Durian Awards Ceremony. The full details of Cartoon Underground 2020’s programme can be found on its website. 

We take a look at the Singapore Student Competition section of this year’s edition, which featured an eclectic mix of animation styles and themes. These shorts, lovingly crafted by Singapore’s up-and-coming animators, are bound to thrill, excite and delight as they explore the section’s overarching theme of nostalgia and memories.

foto time

By Renee Chua

Created by Renee Chua, an illustrator and animator based in Singapore, currently in her final year at NTU School of Art, Design and Media, foto time centres around a class getting ready for school picture day. Everything about it evokes nostalgia unique to Singapore. From the school uniforms to the organised chaos, the film captures the adolescent anticipation of the moment.

The art style is very cute and simple. The students are drawn such that it is reminiscent of something that you would doodle in the margins of a textbook. The lack of outlines also gives the animations a sense of freedom as if they aren’t bound by anything. foto time also has a fun, colourful sequence that looks like something you would see in Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time.

It Grows On You

By Mok Yuin Peng

It Grows On You by animation student Mok Yuin Peng at NTU School of Art, Design and Media is a conversation with a friend about growing up with a “difficult to pronounce” name. While there is a dissonance with the speech and animation, it explores identity and questions what is in a name and what a name is worth.

The film uses bright visuals which do not really line up with what is being said. It feels almost like Midnight Gospel in that the animation serves its own purpose while the speech is almost like a podcast played over the visuals. The visuals are bright and colourful and It Grows On You comes off as a stylistic experimentation using animation more than a story or short film. 

Watermelon Please

By Lim Jia Ying

In this short by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student Lim Jia Ying, a young man experiences a chain of events which lead him to think about his own impending end. While out to buy watermelons, he creates a disastrous accident that costs a life. As such he begins to contemplate his existence and eventually seeming to pledge to do more.

The film is one that focuses on the themes of life and death. As such the art style matches it, switching from bright colours and illustrations to more bleak recreations of the same scene. The sound design of the film is also impeccable, adding to the more tense beats of the film and really creating the sense of existential dread that comes along with living.

A Walk in Void Country

By Marina Chaw

The beautifully crafted work of Marina Chaw, A Walk in Void Country takes you on a journey through Singapore by exploring its most unique and iconic feature; the HDB. Using simple black-and-white sketches highlights Singapore’s mysterious beauty as the scenes chug along like tranquil train ride.

The short has a strong eye for detail, capturing all the unique sights of a typical heartland suburb. From the long empty void decks to the overhead bridges with a smattering of plants alongside, the film evokes a sense of home and familiarity, truly capturing the essence of HDB living. The art style is also the most unique in that it feels like an honest recreation, with no embellishments.

Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu

By Wong Shi Teng, Gloria Yeo, Hana Lee

Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu is the creation of Wong Shi Teng, Gloria Yeo and Hana Lee. The trio came together and created Strange Occurrences for their final year project in Nanyang Technological University, School of Art, Design and Media

While claymation can be quite unsettling sometimes, Strange occurrences: Bukit Bulabu uses the medium perfectly, exploiting the strange eeriness of stop-motion claymation to create a hilarious horror-comedy. With sequences that are visually complex Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu is a treat. 

Told in the style of a documentary, the film explores the experiences of three people who entered a haunted bathroom atop a hill in the jungle. With a very distinct aesthetic and style, it gives off a sense of being inspired by works from Wes Anderson in the same medium.

It is outlandish and hilarious with a touch of dramatic irony. Beginning with the story of an influencer who explores the toilet as a potential party venue, the story unfolds to become more of a soap opera-style family drama, that the characters are none the wiser to.

The animated short takes a good premise and spins it into a hilarious drama with unexpected twists. With a uniquely Singaporean flavour, it is an absolute riot that will have you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention that the voices of the characters and their clashing personalities create a hilarious dissonance. Especially endearing was the ‘superstition expert and Auntie’, Koh Ah Hwee, who not only had the best lines in the short but was also filled with so much personality. 


By Novella Lian

Taximan shows us a day in the life of a taxi driver. Its premise is simple yet feels real and familiar, showing us the life of a hardworking man and father. With no lines of dialogue, it still comes across as a heartfelt tale. It also has a very distinct Singaporean vibe, giving us caricatures of the people here, be it the loud-mouthed auntie we know or the liability that gets drunks and pukes in cabs that we’ve had to help.

Created by Novella Lian, a student at LASALLE College of the Arts, Taximan feels personal and akin to a love letter to the country and the people here. It has the unique quality of making the mundane look just that little bit more magical.

Sexy Sushi

By Calleen Koh, Amanda Teo

Created by LASALLE College of the Arts students Calleen Koh and Amanda Teo, Sexy Sushi is one wild ride. Starring its titular character, the animation short swerves from a hilarious over-the-top advertisement not unlike those seen in Japan, to an existential crisis inducing nightmare as the sushi faces its inevitable fate. 

It is as ridiculously entertaining and ambitious as it sounds, channelling all its chaos into a short that is somehow still easily understood. Sexy Sushi has to be seen to be believed — and it may make you think twice about your next trip to the sushi bar.

Show your support for your favourite film by casting your vote for the Golden Durian Audience Choice Awards here. If you would like to support the festival, you can make a donation or check out their limited edition merchandises from the store.  

Read more:
Presenting the 2020 Film School Graduate Productions: LASALLE College of the Arts
Staff Picks From the National Youth Film Awards 2020 Nominations

An avid reader and movie watcher struggling to balance a love for life with inherent existential nihilism.
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