GenreAnimation, Short ScreenplaySteve Box, Tess Daulton WriterSteve Box LanguageEnglish
Release dateNovember 19, 1997 (1997-11-19) Initial releaseNovember 19, 1997 (United Kingdom) CastGraham Fellows, Tess Daulton Similar moviesAladdin, The Peanuts Movie, Pacific Rim, Paperman, Cars 2, Get a Horse!
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Stage Fright is a stop-motion animated film produced, directed, and co-written by Steve Box. Tess Daulton is also an uncredited co-writer. The story follows Tiny, a music hall (vaudeville) performer, Arnold Hugh, a silent film actor, and Tiny's co-worker Daphne, as they attempt to adjust to the coming age of film. Tiny and Arnold are voiced by Graham Fellows, and Daphne is voiced by Tess Daulton. The movie is eleven minutes in length, and won a BAFTA Award for Best Short Animated Film in 1998.
Tiny, a dog trainer, hides with his dogs in a wicker basket on the stage of an abandoned vaudeville theater. He emerges to have them practice a trick, attacking a tattered straw boater hat on command. When a second man, Arnold Hugh, emerges menacingly onto the stage, Tiny fearfully backs away from him and falls into the orchestra pit, getting his clothes snagged on a broken plank.
Years earlier, Tiny had found one of his dogs missing while performing his trained-dog act in the theater. Even though he fears that the crowd no longer likes the act, his friend Daphne encourages him to go on with the show. He is booed off the stage in favor of a silent movie, which stars Arnold and Daphne and features the missing dog, taken by Daphne. Arnold pressures her not to tell Tiny about the theft and goes on to make a string of successful movies with Daphne and the dogs.
Tiny trains the dogs to jump up and place a boater on his head at his command. When Arnold uses this trick in one of his movies, though, it fails because he is taller than Tiny; he angrily confronts Tiny and threatens to torture the animals unless they can reach his height. Angered, Tiny re-trains them to attack instead, prompting Arnold to leave the studio for the confrontation seen at the beginning of the film. Daphne decides that she no longer wants to work with Arnold and follows him to the theater.
Daphne swings a sandbag across the stage, knocking Arnold down, and confesses her involvement to Tiny. Arnold gets up and begins to strangle Daphne, but Tiny delivers his attack command and the dogs advance menacingly toward him. Arnold pulls a metal latch off the wall to use as a weapon, triggering the movie screen to come down on his head and kill him.
Daphne sees no sign of Tiny when she turns back to the orchestra pit, but he is lifted into view on the organ that had been used to provide background music for Arnold's movies. It now glows white, being played by a spectral organist; Tiny climbs off, unhurt, but Arnold's spirit rises from his body and steps on at the organist's beckoning. The organ swiftly drops out of sight, carrying a terrified Arnold down to hell. As the theater begins to collapse, Daphne persuades Tiny to overcome his fear of rejection and leave with her. They and the dogs exit into the light of the outside world.
Stage Fright won a 1998 BAFTA Award for Best Short Animated Film. It was also nominated for Crystal Star for Best European Short at the 1998 Brussels International Film Festival, for the Jury Award at the 1998 Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, as well as the Best Animated Film Award at the 1998 Molodist International Film Festival.
The title "STAGE FRIGHT" that appears in the organ pit foreshadows what happens to Mr. Hugh's ghost.
When the movie screen falls on Arnold's head and kills him, he literally kicks a bucket over as he collapses (with 'kicking the bucket' being an idiom for death). In the commentary for the film, Steve Box mentions that this joke was a reference to the comedy film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, in which the character of Smiler Grogan kicks a bucket after he dies from a car crash.