If you haven’t seen Skyler Page’s animated short Crater Face yet, then watch it. Right now. Don’t finish reading this sentence, click the link, watch it and then come back and finish reading this review.
Crater Face is the tale of an astronaut sparking an epic love between two lonely hills on the moon that is oddly endearing, with a gentle humour so warm it could melt the heart of a snowman. The premise of these two craters being separated, facing away from each other is set up in a brusque fashion within the first few seconds of the short. Page taps into the emotions of these opening scenes beautifully, for example, the point where the spaceman draws portraits of each crater, running between the two in order to foster affection between them is so evocative of those early stages in a relationship: the joy and excitement of meeting someone.
After a number of ideas are considered between the astronaut and the male hill to bring the two lovers together, he realises that with low oxygen in his rocket, the only hope is through winching the two lovers together. At the mid-point, we see the explorer grasp the male crater tightly, a point that will make the manliest of men weep. For those who didn’t take my advice to watch it immediately, the ending is wonderfully crafted though it won’t be ruined in this review.
The animation style is incredibly reminiscent of the work of Spümcø, the now-defunct company that most famously worked on The Ren & Stimpy Show (follow the influence through and you might feel a certain proximity with Spongebob Squarepants which was also indebted to Spümcø). Rarely have I seen an animated Short with quite a striking feeling of pared-down modesty. This owes a great debt to the animation style that Page chose to pursue with the characteristic look to the eyes and mouths that was popularised by John Kricfalusi’s production company.
Oftentimes it’s too easy to slip into mawkish sentimentality whenever themes like love and sacrifice are explored. Here, however, the emotion is thankfully restrained by the subtlety and honesty in the facial expressions and the incredibly reserved sense of humour. This follows the time honoured tradition where comedy breaks up, and amplifies the emotional impact of the film. Indeed, in addition to the heartbreaking scenes in the film, there are some genuinely funny moments; check the reaction of the crater after the spaceman suggests using a catapult to launch him over to the other crater for sheer hilarity.
On a final note, the choice of soundtrack, Dan Deacon’s ‘Skyler Page’, is a rather brilliant decision. The interplay between action and music works beautifully in a manner of the great early animated shorts.