Short Film Review: Grandma’s Hero.
This comedic animated short follows a brave knight and his doting grandmother into misadventure.
Looking for recent short films featuring Yeti to pair with this weekend’s release of Abominable, I stumbled upon Grandma’s Hero. Animator Ben Ozeri directs a quirky and charming adventure story about a newly minted warrior who just can’t seem to get out from underneath his grandmother’s watchful eye. While the Yeti only shows up briefly, I’m glad I found this whimsical short. The animation is fluid and stylish, with plenty of interesting takes on classic mythological beasties. While it has a heartwarming theme, it’s not afraid to bit a few heads off unwary adventurers.
Grandma’s Hero (2013).
Lulu longs to be a brave knight, hunt monsters, and woo damsels. Unfortunately, he’s constantly embarrassed by his doting grandmother. While other knights get fearsome helmets for graduation, he gets a knit cap with cute little horns. Desperate to prove himself, he chooses the most dangerous beast on the list of final assignments – a green fire-breathing dragon. Well…it either was that or a giant bunny rabbit, so off he goes to kill the dragon.
As he sets out on the quest, he discovers an unwelcome companion: Grandma is tagging along, and constantly making friends with all of the monsters he wants to slay along the way.
Ozeri’s creations really stand out. The Nordic inspiration to the characters remind me of The Banner Saga. The big, expressive features and wacky monster designs feels a bit like Invader Zim. Finally, the animation style has his characters bound and scramble a lot like the creations of Don Bluth, a la Dragon’s Lair. It all adds up to a fun and frantic look that leaps from story beat to story beat.
Our hero meets so many interesting takes on classic monsters, from a toothy sea serpent with bones stuck its teeth to a one-eyed Yeti wearing a pretty pink bow. Each encounter is recognizable as a legendary creature, but has its own imaginative twist. Adventure montages can be a cartoon crutch, but here I liked seeing all of the ideas Ozeri was able to generate for his menagerie, and the way they all reacted. Seeing them gear up for battle with Lulu only to be charmed into submission by Grandma was engaging.
Coming of Age.
Another striking element of Grandma’s Hero is that it’s not afraid to mix whimsical elements with mature elements. Our hero meets a bridge troll and fantasizes about lopping its head off in gory detail. Instead, Grandma gives it a cookie and it waves them away happily…before turning around to bite the head off the next unwise adventurer who opted to fight instead of empathize. Later, Lulu is relaxing in a hot spring with two naked young ladies when Grandma jumps in, nude as well, sending him fleeing for his clothes. When he’s finally had enough to her defusing every heroic encounter with kindness, he chops his way through an army of goblins in frustration. There’s teeth behind the grandmotherly smile in this short.
I like the juxtaposition. The sweet and funny parts are sweet and funny, while also not selling short the adventure narrative. Like many young adult fantasy stories, they’re most effective when they show flashes of real risk and danger. It also underscores the moral of the piece. When Lulu fights, he’s no slouch. Killing everything in sight is actually a viable tactic for our hero. Instead, he learns that gentleness can also win the day, even if it feels less than ideal for him. Sure, fighting the monster would be sexier…but empathy has the advantage of getting your head bitten off a lot less.
Overall, Grandma’s Hero takes what could be a pat, goofy story and punches it up with imagination. While Grandma’s Hero is Ozeri’s only directing credit to date, he has gone on to lend his animating skill to mega-hits like Avengers Endgame and Solo – A Star Wars Story. I hope that we get to see more from this talented animator.