#341) Moon Breath Beat (1980)

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#341) Moon Breath Beat (1980)

OR “Feline Drawing”

Directed by Lisze Bechtold

Class of 2014

This video is a private link from Lisze Bechtold’s website, which you can visit here!

The Plot: In a five minute animated stream of consciousness, “Moon Breath Beat” is an exploration of lines and colors turning into, among other things, two cats, their shape shifting owner, dangerous birds, and the moon as it inhales the entire scene. All of this is synchronized to an abstract beat.

Why It Matters: The NFR gives a rundown of the short’s production and praises Lisze Bechtold’s “fluidity and whimsy”.

But Does It Really?: I’m always on board with the NFR recognizing experimental animation, and “Moon Breath Beat” is an excellent choice. The film is an entertaining view if you allow yourself to just go with wherever it takes you. “Moon Breath Beat” gets a pass for its fluid animation and its representation of Lisze Bechtold, an animator I’m glad the NFR brought to my attention.

Everybody Gets One: For starters, most of this information comes from Lisze Bechtold’s website, and if you like what you see, you should check out her other work. Bechtold spent most of her childhood drawing, which didn’t translate into pursuing animation until she went to college. She transferred to CalArts, and made several short films, including one in which her animation was projected onto dancers. “Moon Breath Beat” came to be when the CalArts experimental animation instructor – former Disney and UPA animator Jules Engel – challenged his students to follow “a line, a patch of color, or a shape into the unconscious”.

Seriously, Oscars?: I couldn’t find any evidence that “Moon Breath Beat” was on the Oscars’ shortlist for Best Animated Short in 1980. The winner that year was the Hungarian short “The Fly”, not related to “The Fly” or “The Fly”.

Other notes

  • In Lisze’s own words on this film’s process, “I animated straight ahead from bottom page to top, with only a pre-composed rhythm as the film’s framework….We’re talking 35mm magnetic track and tape, kiddos! No ctrl Z undos.”
  • My assumption is that this is how most cat people see their cats.
  • I will never see a personified crescent moon and not think of Mac Tonight. That may be the most obscure reference I’ve ever made on this blog.

Legacy

  • Bechtold continued in effects animation for many years, including the effects for ‘90s kids favorite “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”. She pivoted to illustration for children’s books (far less time-consuming than film), and is the author of the “Buster the Very Shy Dog” series.
  • Early on in her varied career, Bechtold was involved in another NFR entry almost 30 years after its release: she helped edit the photos for the reconstructed scenes on the “A Star is Born” restoration.
  • Although she is no longer active in the animation community, Bechtold did return to effects animation for the extended cartoon sequence in “Mary Poppins Returns”. Apparently many former animators came out of retirement for the opportunity to work on the sequence.
  • Although Bechtold studied hand-drawn animation, she went back to school to learn digital animation. You can learn more about Lisze Bechtold and her work at her website, including digital animation of her “Buster” illustrations.

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