Without warning, a sailor’s life flashes before his eyes in Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’ animated short, The Flying Sailor.
It’s a typical day on the docks for our hero sailor, who is out on a morning walk. Out in the distance, two ships are on a collision course, and unfortunately, one of those ships is loaded with TNT (WHY?). The resulting explosion sends our protagonist skyward. The narrative takes a contemplative look at the adage “life flashing before our eyes” as our hero begins reliving quick snippets of his life from childhood onward as he descends slowly to earth to a gut-wrenching end.
“…reliving quick snippets of his life from childhood and onward as he descends slowly to earth…”
What shines in The Flying Sailor is the animation and, to be more precise, the art direction. It shows how the medium of animation can enhance a story. Though the short is computer generated, filmmakers Tilby and Forbis employ a soft-edge watercolor art style, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It looks like many watercolor children’s books from my youth.
Most impressive are the fated ships on the water. They move and float like toy boats in a bathtub. Tilby and Forbis then combine these soft-edge photo backgrounds with their animation. This blending of styles gives The Flying Sailor its childlike, dreamlike, and surreal feel to the final moments of one man’s life.
The Flying Sailor has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and it screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
"…the medium of animation can enhance a story."