The Thing Under The Tree

The Thing Under The Tree is a video made by the artist Lily Fang, who was a finalist for an “Adobe Design Achievement Award” in 2013[1]. The fantasy genre is not the one that first appeals to me, but I decided to have a look at it anyway with an open mind.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that right from the beginning I identified with teenager Tam, who was split between playing with her cellphone and entertaining her younger sister (I have a six years younger sister). Annoyed by the constant requests of her younger sister Gabby to tell her a story or play with her, she takes Gabby outside and invents a story about a monster that lives in the forest. She tells her that she should never let the monster see her face.  When her phone rings, she has to go and doesn’t have the time to tell her sister more about the “thing”. So, Gabby is left with only her imagination to entertain herself, alone in the forest.

From this moment, the movie does very well in switching between the realistic and fantasy realms.

From an artistic standpoint, the detail of the forest and the figures is absolutely amazing.  Since it was an “Adobe Design Award” nominee, I’m assuming all of the elements were computer generated.  But, the attention to detail in the bark, the pieces of chestnut shells, sticks, acorns, and grass, etc. in the forest seem as though the artist has actually constructed the scene with actual materials.

Indeed, the forest they enter is far from any real forest but the details enable you to understand that this is a forest.

The fantasy comes with the imagination of the younger girl imagining the “thing under the tree” once her sister leaves.  As an homage to ‘Alice in Wonderland’, or ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, Gabby looks into the lair of the “thing” and decides to enter. Eventually, her older sister will enter in the fantasy as she returns to apologize for leaving Gabby in the woods… the adventure is well underway by that point.

Aside from the fact that I love to have been thrown into a microscopic universe, surrounded by organic matter that looks and sounds, well, real, the movie is visually pleasant and could be a comment of how electronic devices –like a cell phone- takes away our need for creation or limits our imagination. I urge everyone to take five minutes to watch it, especially for the aesthetics and the whimsical story.

[1] Vimeo, “The Thing Under the tree”, accessed November 14, 2014. https://vimeo.com/68866825.

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3 thoughts on “The Thing Under The Tree

  1. I really enjoyed this short film. I was amazed at the stop-motion and the detail of the “set” – I can’t even imagine the effort that must have gone into creating it! I really liked that you compared it to Pan’s Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland, as I definitely made that comparison myself. Personally, I enjoyed the scene where the young girl and the monster switch heads – although it was slightly creepy, there was a playfulness to it. This interplay between the creepy and playful carried throughout the film, and I thought it made for an interesting tone. You also made a great point when you highlighted the contrast between the organic materials and the theme of technology – great insight!

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  2. I’m a big fan of stop-motion animation, and I definitely like the feel of this one. My only qualm with it is its story-telling elements. I say that it would probably have benefited more if it had been longer. More development in the characters and an introduction of some sort of conflict may have made a bigger impact on me. The first concept I thought of from the idea of switching faces with the monster is the importance of knowing and loving your own identity before you lose it. When she conquers it, I feel like she conquers the influences that challenge her. However, that’s just me grasping at straws, because I cannot think of nor connect to a moral without any theme to prompt me. I’m not even sure what the moral of the story is. Family neglect might be the next best thing I suppose, but I can’t quite connect that to any allegory this story proposes.

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  3. Your statement, “Indeed, the forest they enter is far from any real forest but the details enable you to understand that this is a forest” had me thinking; the boundaries of the real and the fantasy are not as of difference as we would think. In fact, most fantasy realms often parallel our own versions of reality and the structure that embodies it. I think this is what film attempts to achieve, a paralleling of reality that the viewer can relate to. In a way, I would almost call the technically “most REAL” films (such as the romantic love story) a paralleled-fantasy version of reality. These under the tree scenes might even be more relatable than the classic love story, in some instances. Ironically enough, it is the fantasy that we end up relating to the most (our inner subconscious desires) and the fabricated reality that the media aggressively pushes on us, that we find the least relatable. For example, the whole idea of love at first sight and the “perfect” relationship, is a mere fabrication of our own reality in itself. So think about it, where does the real truth lie?

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