Just when we think a large amphibian covered in caviar and salivating at a glass jar of cookies inside a deserted mansion will be the most memorable shot of Garden Party—a French short directed by committee (Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Victor Caire, Théophile Dufresne, Gabriel Grapperon, and Lucas Navarro)—the sextet leaves us with an image we’ll never forget. The clues are there considering conditions are anything but sanitary with rotten food and flies buzzing everywhere, but even a few glimpses at bullet holes in the windows can’t quite distract us from the action in the foreground of toads gallivanting wherever their impulses demand. We become engrossed by what these creatures are doing within this environment that we’re distracted from realizing the environment is the focal point.
This bait and switch is expertly handled with physical comedy and an unavoidable cute factor thanks to a spry young frog leaping inside and out in search of butterflies and companionship. We revel in the impeccable animation (I would believe the artists if they said the whole was live-action) and enjoy the odd juxtaposition of amphibious material wealth, embracing the notion that these oft-ignored beasts are finally getting their day of unfettered luxury and excess. And as the music diverts our attention to the background in key moments, we start to pull away and take stock in the bigger picture despite remaining completely unprepared for the climactic reveal yet to come. It’s an attractively dark and surreal picture of one’s demise leading to an ecosystem’s delight.