Using just imagery and music, Canvas is able to create beautiful emotion in simple moments. Starting in traditional hand drawn animation for a dream sequence of a man and his wife as he paints her, the film continues with the man awakening into computer animation. He is older and a widower who has lost something so that he can no longer paint, even though he wants to. Yet, he is not completely alone. His daughter brings his granddaughter over for him to watch, and the granddaughter takes joy in drawing pictures at a desk he has for her.
There is no dialogue, so all that is translated in the images and especially the facial expressions of the characters. A simple moment of the grandfather, staring at the blank canvas for several seconds then suddenly knocking it over, was given just enough time for us to sense the tension, anger, hurt, and frustration without us seeing his face, just seeing time pass. This minimalism and technique of switching to hand drawn animation during dream sequences also creates a different mood immediately and helps to keep us engaged throughout the eight minute story.
Director Frank E. Abney III has been developing this film over five years through animators on three continents working after hours. Their dedicated work paid off. They give us just enough to become invested in what the characters are going through. Even seeing the daughter and granddaughter at the side of the grandfather at the end with just the looks on their faces translates how emotionally meaningful the moment is. I am not ashamed to admit that I teared up.
Award chances: I would say very high. I have by no means seen all of the animated shorts, but this is a very effective story told beautifully. Being on Netflix also gives it very high visibility already and makes it easy to come back to. Besides that, the narrative of director Frank E. Abney III, who again worked on this for five years, as one of the founders of Rise Up Animation (a group dedicated to elevating Black professionals in animation a cause that seems more and more necessary), and who worked on several high profile films with Pixar, including animated feature frontrunner this year Soul, makes him well known in the industry and means he will have a lot of people promoting him. All of this adds up to some very strong chances for this film.