Parent raccoon is off to find some food to eat for themself and their child. They peek out from under their rock cave, sniff the air for predators, and tell the youngster to stay behind before ambling a couple feet out into the sand to dig. Every time they look back, however, their offspring is nowhere to be seen. Natalie Nourigat‘s Far from the Tree is thus revealed as being a tried-and-true tale of curiosity and excitement inside the mind of an impressionable youth. Who could blame the little raccoon for wanting to follow in their parent’s footsteps? They see what they’re doing and want to mimic them to show they have what it takes to be an adult too. They don’t yet understand the danger that’s looming.
Inspired by the animation style of Manu Arenas, the short film has a wonderful aesthetic seemingly ripped from the pages of an old school Little Golden Book. Seeing two-dimensional cel animation is always a treat now that most Disney/Pixar fare has gone full computer-rendering. The characters have personality (the young raccoon is adorably precocious) and the lessons shared are depicted with a warm glow even as they portray some harrowing experiences. Because we inevitably must come face-to-face with that which the parent raccoon is so worried about. The child will eventually follow a whim and go too far before seeing the wolf readying to pounce. Will a close call scare them straight? Or would the parent being less overbearing have prepared them better? Act Two has the answer.
Why? Because a brief pause in the middle of the runtime transports us into the future to see that same young raccoon take the place of their parent with a young one of their own. Everything initially unfolds identically to the first act as nature and nurture are nothing if not consistent markers to either repeat past mistakes or use them to push forward into a better future. It will be up to the child-turned-parent to remember what it was that frightened them most: the wolf or their protector. Do they risk traumatizing their own child or do they realize that sheltering them from the truth isn’t how you teach. We must prepare the next generation for what’s in-store by acknowledging experience will always out-value isolation.
courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios