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|The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello|
|Directed by||Anthony Lucas|
|Written by||Mark Shirrefs|
|Narrated by||Joel Edgerton|
|Music by||Bruce Rowland|
|Edited by||David Tait|
|Distributed by||Monster Distributes|
|20 January 2005|
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello is a 2005 Australian short film. It was developed and produced in association with the Australian Film Commission; developed and produced with the assistance of Film Victoria and produced in association with SBS Independent.
The film opens in the city of Gothia, a smoky industrial metropolis where steam-powered dirigibles are the primary mode of transportation, and where a terrible flesh-eating plague is decimating the population. The protagonist, royal navigator Jasper Morello (Joel Edgerton), is deployed by the government to distribute mobile weather beacons along the route of his next voyage. He has difficulty concentrating on the task, guilt-stricken over the recent death of one of his crew members which was caused by a mistake in his calculations ("one degree can be a very large distance - enough to unmake a man"). He fears for the safety of his wife, alone at home amidst the plague. Their airship the Resolution is also carrying a passenger, the eccentric Dr Claude Belgon (Helmut Bakaitis), a "controversial biologist" searching for a cure for the plague, and motivated by a thirst for fame.
Soon after taking off, the Resolution is caught up in a storm and wrecked in a collision with an abandoned vessel; Jasper loses his compass. The crew then prepares to continue on their way in the new ship. Learning that his wife Amelia, whom he left at home, has contracted the plague, Jasper despairs and tries to turn the ship around; he is sedated by Claude.
As the voyage continues, one crew member contracts the plague. The captain decides to turn around and head home, but is forestalled by the sighting of an uninhabited levitating island. While exploring there, Jasper is attacked by a large bug-like creature, which they manage to kill, despite the protests of Claude, who had wanted to capture a living specimen. Upon eating the remains of the monster, the crew notices that the boiled blood of the creature cures their sick mate. Claude insists on bringing back some cocoons of the creature to Gothia, in order to establish a breeding colony to cure the citizens.
The cocoons are brought aboard the ship. One by one they hatch, but die before Claude can innovate any suitable method for nourishing them. At length he realises that they live on human blood, and he feeds the remaining creature with his own blood. Two of the crew go missing, rousing Jasper’s suspicions, but Claude sedates him when he discovers that the doctor has been feeding the monster with them.
When Jasper comes to, he is chained to the wheel and Claude tells him that the whole crew is under sedation, waiting to be fed to the creature. Jasper, without a choice, guides the ship towards home. However, as the days continue and home is almost near, Jasper unexpectedly rams the ship into a nearby iceberg. Claude falls overboard, but grabs the ledge, and begs Jasper to save him. Jasper tries but is still chained to the deck and unable to reach him. Claude is crushed against another iceberg.
The film ends with Jasper, left alone, attaching a blood-sucking machine to his arm to feed the last creature. Knowing that he may not survive, prior to reaching home, Jasper reassures his wife that he will be, with "The great company of souls, riding the borealis to eternity" (a reference to his previous observation, of such a sight). "Perhaps," he muses, "they will require a navigator".
The short film is set in a world styled after mid-Victorian England with Steampunk style, iron dirigibles and steam powered computers, where giant mechanical airships are the main mode of transport. The characters are animated in the style of Wayang (Indonesian shadow puppets), best described as silhouettes. The visual style of the characters is similarly compared to that used by the 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed (one of the oldest-surviving animated feature films).
The animation production style was essentially 'anymation', using anything that served the purpose. Scenes featuring characters were composed out of a variety of materials, including card cut-outs which were then scanned and manipulated in Adobe Photoshop, and also various found objects. The backgrounds are actually 2D, consisting of many layers to simulate 3D. These background layers were later selectively blurred in the compositing application, to simulate distant views. Certain sequences (notably those featuring airships) are entirely computer-rendered 3D scenes using an assemblage of parts from a variety of commercial 3D models of vehicles and ships in the Despona 3DS Max series, textured and animated using 3DS Max. The final product consists of all of these elements brought together using the compositing program Combustion (software). Combustion added the particle effects for smoke and similar, while cloud layers in certain scenes were rendered using Maya.