Nobody gets to the Moon alone. Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts would be the first to give credit to the engineers and mission specialists who made the Moon landing possible. Luna Chu dreams of following in their historic footsteps. Her support team consists of her loving father. He is only one man, but his influence is profound in Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas’s animated short film, One Small Step, which screens as part of the 2018 Woodstock Film Festival.
Small Step is the first release from TAIKO Studios, but it has already made considerable waves in the animation world—especially for an eight-minute short. Honestly, it is easy to see why, because it packs an emotionally wallop. The narrative spans at least a decade, but it also includes charming depictions of young Chu’s imaginary space flights that have a sweet whimsy reminiscent of Calvin & Hobbes.
There are some neat visuals in Small Step that will stir the idealism in viewers who remember when we actually sent astronauts to the Moon. It is also inspiring to see a humble cobbler like Mr. Chu support his daughter as she pursues her dream. However, it is a depressing fact the events of this film probably could not happen in real life today, because an aspiring astronaut needs a space program to send them out of orbit. Right now, can launch a satellite, but after decommissioning the last Shuttle, we have no vessels that can safely take crew into space and back. Currently, if we want to visit the International Space Station, we have to hitch a ride with the Russians, which is highly problematic.
Maybe the release of Chazelle’s First Man will help wake us up. Yet, everyone who watches Small Step will find it even more motivating. It vividly captures how the promise of space exploration still fires up young minds. It is also a well-crafted and an unusually poignant work of animation. Very highly recommended for animation fans and anyone going to First Man tonight, One Small Step screens this Sunday (10/14) as part of animation block 2 at the Woodstock Film Festival (and it is also available for online viewing).