ByRoselyn, writer at
Lover of cinema old and new, connoisseur of wit and style, and seeker of the unusual and extraordinary

A 2015 Oscar nominee and Annie Award winner, the highly successful short film "The Dam Keeper" is on its way to becoming a feature-length film that's destined to be an Oscar-winning animation. Designed by former Pixar art directors, the film has been in the works for some time, and Fox Animation recently announced that they are teeming with animation studio Tonko House to distribute the movie worldwide. Though a release date has yet to be announced, the graphic novels and animated TV series coming out next year will help make the wait less painful.

Here's everything you need to know about the film, the transition from short to feature and what a full-length version of "The Dam Keeper" might look like:

Meet 'The Dam Keeper'

"The Dam Keeper" is a beautifully animated and incredibly moving film about young, hardworking pig who operates the windmill that keeps the dark fog away from the town. However, despite his important work, Pig is ceaselessly bullied at school, until the day that clever and artistic Fox arrives, and everything changes. Apart from brief voice overs at the start and end of the 18-minute film, "The Dam Keeper" is dialogue free, letting the lovely soundtrack and impressive animation speak for itself.

Directed by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo, who lent his talent to Ratatouille and Monsters University, and Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi, whose impressive resume includes Ice Age, Toy Story 3 and Horton Hears a Who, it's no surprise that "The Dam Keeper" makes exceptional use of light and color as a part of the storytelling. Featuring over 8,000 paintings, the short film is a magnificent combination of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation.

From Short To Feature

The decision to turn "The Dam Keeper" into a feature-length movie was not made lightly, according to directors Kondo and Tsutsumi:

"The core of this story originates from our personal anecdote. We initially wanted to avoid going back to the world of 'The Dam Keeper' just because of the success of the short. But when we realized where this feature adaptation story came from, we felt it was important for us to share this story with the world as Tonko House’s first feature film."

While most films start out with the intent of becoming either features or shorts, it's not uncommon for a short film to inspire a feature-length movie. Popular films such as District 9, Saw and Evil Dead all started out as shorts. It has also been done for children's movies; Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is a perfect example.

Plot, character and overall aesthetic and design will likely carry over from the short, but the feature film will be a 3D CG and will feature talking characters. In order to achieve a smooth transition, the directors have been collaborating with Japanese studios that specialize in 3D animation. If the initial animation tests are any indication, the movie will be both adorable and visually stunning:

What To Expect

Going from 18 minutes to a 120-minute film means that a lot more will have to be added to the story. All that has been reported so far is that the film will take place two years after the short, and that the characters and world will be further developed. However, there are some obvious directions the film could take.

Since "The Dam Keeper" was all about bullying and friendship, these themes will likely continue to play a central role in the feature film. This also means that it will likely pack the same emotional punch as the short did and will be just as heartbreakingly beautiful.

Some questions were left unanswered in the film, such as the origins of the mysterious fog and how the dam and windmill were built. There's also the question of what happened to Pig's parents, but as these will be covered in the graphic novels, the film could take a different direction.

A mystery or adventure will likely form the core of the plot, as seems to be the norm in children's movies. Perhaps there's a new threat to the town that Pig and his friends will have to find a way to defeat, or perhaps they journey beyond their town to explore other parts of the world. Either way, it's sure to be great fun.

An Oscar Winner?

With gorgeous animation, a plot that hits you right in the feels and talented directors at the helm, a feature-length version of "The Dam Keeper" is guaranteed to be a success. Though it's still way too early to tell, it seems more than likely that it can accomplish what the short film could not, winning the Academy Award for best animated feature. At the very least, it's definitely a movie worth keeping an eye on.

(Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Tonko House, The California Sunday Magazine and Indie Wire)

What do you think? Are you exited for 'The Dam Keeper' to become a feature length film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


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