“Girl 24” takes the “Frankenstein” story and tells it in reverse: this time around, two robots create a human. In Meredith Root’s droll stop-motion animated short, a desert laboratory is run by a pair of rather weird robots who mix a variety of potions and chemicals and inject their concoction into a child-sized mannequin which they bring to life. The finished result, called Girl 24, is a precious child whose humanity is immediately obvious when she bonds with the doll given to her by her robot parents/creators. The robots also discover some degree of humanity, lovingly combing the girl’s hair and caressing her face. But when the robots decide to make a Boy 24, their child takes her doll and escapes from the lab and into the desert.
“Girl 24” is a silent film, with a soundtrack filled by an electronic music score and the sound effects one associates with computer sci-fi films of the pre-Internet era. The lack of dialogue spares “Girl 24” from the atrociously self-righteous speeches that inevitably invade mad scientist films, but at the same time it leaves a surplus of unanswered questions. Who or what are these robots? And where is their desert-based lab? And why can’t their newly-created child accept the arrival of a playmate? Did the robots intentionally program negative emotions such jealousy into the girl?
Although the questions never get answered, the film nonetheless has more than enough compensatory charm thanks to Root’s highly imaginative animation. The robots look like a Buck Rogers villain redesigned by Joan Miro: inappropriately surreal limbs and excessive features (one robot’s face is just a huge eye and the other has a crudely painted circular face fastened to a mechanical neck and spine). The laboratory would make John Carradine feel at home: endless rows of mysterious bottles, a number of syringes and beakers, and a television monitor to keep track of the outside world. And the moment when the child, after gazing into an evening sky, connects the stars into constellation shapes is truly inspired.
Who is Meredith Root? She is the assistant professor of film at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has, over the past decade, created three animated shorts in addition to “Girl 24.” Her films have played at a variety of festivals and non-theatrical engagements, and if her earlier works equal “Girl 24” for wit and style then perhaps it is time for her to enjoy greater and consistent exposure to wider audiences.