948. The Missing Key – Jonathan Nix

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SUMMARY: In 1920s Vienna, pianist Hero Wasabi and his oboe-playing cat Jacuzzi prepare to enter the Abacus Scroll music competition. But the villainous Count Telfino is embarking on a campaign to eliminate the competition.

WHY IT’S HERE: In 2003, Jonathan Nix made a delightful film called ‘Hello’ in which all the characters had mechanical communication devices for heads. The story followed a tape-player-headed boy struggling to ask out his discman-headed neighbour and receiving guidance from Hero Wasabi, a wise old gramophone head. Nix enjoyed creating this short so much that he decided to write an ambitious prequel which followed the story of Hero Wasabi in his youth. Seven years in the making, ‘The Missing Key’ is the result and it was well worth the wait. A lover of hand-drawn animation, Nix created over 20,000 pencil drawings in order to retain this warm, intimate style, although the film does incorporate small elements of CG animation in creating its vivid world. The result is a half-hour gem, a mini-masterpiece which expands on ‘Hello’s concept perfectly. The reimagining of 1920s Vienna is beautiful and the half-hour runtime allows the audience plenty of time to immerse themselves in this richly realised world. Nix has created a range of fantastic song snippets through which the gramophone-heads communicate and one of the finest sequences comes early on in the film as Hero dashes to catch a boat, frantically switching records in order to greet, thank and apologise to the various other characters he encounters. A spellbinding labour of love, ‘The Missing Key’ will appeal to the whole family and it was well worth those long years of production to create such a unique piece of work.

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