Dog’s Breakfast [Matt Bissett-Johnson, Australia, 2020]

Oft-times, the trials and tribulations of life can feel like a misguided wander through the halls of cosmic insanity. In Dog’s Breakfast, the latest short from prolific Australian animator and cartoonist Matt Bissett-Johnson, this comparison is all the more accurate. Following the misadventures of one small, polygon dog as they journey, quite literally, through the ‘Hall of Cosmic Insanity’, Bissett-Johnson’s 3-D animation style offers a fusing of old and new, with a visual aesthetic that is proud to be a part of the computer age, whilst retaining a truly homemade feel.

Transported into a disturbing, high-octane world of neon – think Wallace & Gromit on acid – the viewer follows our protagonist, a visually disconcerting, yet spiritually endearing dog, as they journey through the Halls of Cosmic Insanity. Donning a fake moustache to avoid detection, our hero journeys through a nightmarish realm, complete with monsters and ghouls, attempting to attain enlightenment from this hellish funhouse of treats.

Jack-of-all-trades and undeniable master of some, Bissett-Johnson also lays credit to the composition of the soundtracks of his shorts. And well he might, with the musical accompaniment to our hero dog’s misfortune seriously striking. The interplay between the animated antics before us and the confusing, lilting soundtrack that scores it are the film’s real triumphs. Honestly, it is hard to imagine that the score’s integration being so seamless if it were not the same auteur at the helm for both fields. Dramatic and strangely timeless, whilst also managing to sound somehow futuristic, the music flits between many different influences and genres, forging something wonderfully original. Whilst it may not be one available for download on iTunes, viewers would miss its ethereal presence from this film were it gone.

Dog’s Breakfast’s other strength lies in its creative fusing of visual styles, with a hand-drawn moustache atop a 3-D composite dog, a well appreciated hodgepodge of forms. The use of colour throughout is beautiful and rich, with a magenta landscape on the periphery of the Halls of Cosmic Insanity a really nice touch. Similarly, the use of handwritten signs, as opposed to stock fonts, remind us constantly that there is a human hand overseeing the work, providing reasoned variety and balance to the affair. Of the monsters that stalk the polygon dog, a different approach to character design is taken entirely, with several of them having the lovable gloss of a character forged from clay, and fired into manifestation deep within a kiln.

Dog’s Breakfast will divide viewers, but will be well worthy of a deserved YouTube cult following, simply waiting to discover Bissett-Johnson’s work. Whilst it may fittingly be a mess of styles, the outcome, though bizarre, is anything but a dog’s breakfast.

'Dog's Breakfast' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.

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