The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005) Poster

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Excellent short animation feature
Baldrick4429 November 2005
This is an immensely enjoyable film, with hints of Tim Burton's early animation work. The plot revolves around Jasper Morello, a navigator who has gained a reprieve after a past mistake and his explorations into unknown territory which lead to a twisted discovery, which while may prove to be his town's salvation, may come at the cost of his own soul.

A word of warning. This is not a children's animation film. The neo-Gothic animation as well as the minimal amount of colour except to emphasize blood ( reminding me of Sin City ) gave the film an effect that may scare young children.

The themes of the greater good and personal over objective feelings come through very well through the film and the ending is actually extremely well-handled under the circumstances. My only gripe, and it really isn't a gripe, is that this could have been lengthened into a longer film. However besides this small criticism there is nothing to complain about. The cast is great, with Edgerton fantastic as the beleaguered navigator Morello and the music is very good. I only wish that this movie got the publicity of Harvey Crumpet, because it certainly deserves it.
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A magnificent film
Link000720 July 2005
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello is absolutely amazing, and deserves a huge audience.

The film is set in a world that resembles Victorian England, but different, in that giant mechanical airships are the main mode of transport. Jasper Morello is a navigator who undertakes a dangerous expedition into uncharted territory in order to escape from his plague-addled city. The film has a Jules Verne-like sense of wonder and imagination that is irresistibly appealing.

The distinctive look of 'Jasper Morello' deserves the many accolades which will definitely follow in due course. The characters are rendered in layers of silhouettes, a look which must be seen to be fully appreciated. The design of the airships and of the world in which they float in is masterful.

The combination of Victorian-era story and cutting-edge animation makes for an extremely enjoyable film, one that should be seen by both children and adults.
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What animation shorts are invented for
kerecsen22 January 2006
This flick has just the perfect blend of experimental ideas, an interesting story and meticulous animation work. The creators opted to use a 3D-flattened-to-silhouette animation technique, which is quite unique and hard to describe. Suffice to say that it works well to emphasize the mood of the story. Oh, and it also looks absolutely stunning...

Jasper Morello is a navigator on an airship, who gets a chance to help save his wife, as well as humanity from a plague, by venturing to unknown territory. His Verne-like trip takes him to strange lands and strange creatures...

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that you should go check it out (or at least the trailer at
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A dark steampunk fantasy
Tura2328 December 2006
As short horror films go, this is one of the best I've seen in recent years. The story is genuinely chilling and the cut-out animation style is a perfect fit for old-fashioned narrative. Capturing the creepy essence of classic writers like Blackwood, Lovecraft, and Poe, this film is a mini-masterpiece and well worth tracking down. Fans of animation may notice a slight stylistic resemblance to some of the works of the brilliant Karel Zeman, although Zeman's work was seldom as intense or scary. The only problem I have with the film is that the disk is PAL encoded and won't play on standard North American DVD players.
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Beautiful Animation Sets Off A Marvelously Macabre Story
noralee2 March 2006
"The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" is a wonderful cross between the animation of Hayao Miyazaki and the science fiction of Jules Verne.

Beautiful animation sets off the stark, futuristic, macabre story by Mark Shirrefs that has historic resonance from the Black Plague to AIDS to "On the Beach," and recalling tales of mad scientists from "Frankenstein" to "The Island of Dr. Moreau" to the cloning scandal in today's South Korea yet creates a completely original and very suspenseful film.

Not only is a whole other worldly environment and civilization created, but the silhouetted people (with their all too human foibles) and their complicated vehicles travel through breathtakingly beautiful weather and dangers. This is a very fresh take on the human role in nature vs. technology in the guise of an old tale of obsession as if told by Herman Melville or Edgar Allen Poe.

Joel Edgerton's gentlemanly journal narration as the titular navigator marvelously captures the Victorian formality of the storytelling, like an Australian Sherlock Holmes or Robinson Crusoe.

This film was viewed as part of a commercial screening of Oscar nominated shorts.
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Frank Frankson10 March 2006
This is a wonderfully made film. Stunning effects, fantastic in nature but still believable stories and characters. This definitely should have won the academy award it was nominated for. Weird, wonderful and just a little bit creepy, this is a very funky film.

And to Alan Jacobs, you do not know what films are supposed to be. If you can't see what a good movie this is then you don't deserve to watch films at all. It's as if you'e seen a horror movie then complained that it was bad because it scared you.

Would you rather see the same old Hollywood drivel over and over or would you rather see quality, original and affecting film-making? Obviously for you it's the former. Have a nice day :).
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Fantastic visually and very effective
sparklez33377720 May 2006
The short film form restricts the storyline of a film, making it very intense and preventing huge amounts of plot detail. To be effective the director Anthony Lucas has to be very creative, and The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello does this remarkably well. The silhouette style creates a perfect Gothic, industrial feel and is very effective in transporting you immediately to a distant but still familiar world of huge lumbering airships, cogs and smoke, and mysterious creatures. It is a fantasy that is also very real; it draws on the 'what-might-have-been' of steampunk, blending the genre's idea of advanced Victorian society with the dark imagery of Lucas' Shadowlands.

The extras on the DVD are also very good - included are other short films by the same director and his commentary about the making of the film (very interesting). Well worth it.
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Rectangular_businessman15 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I consider "The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" to be a fairly impressive short at every single level, which not only has a beautiful animation style but also a rich and fascinating plot.

Visually speaking, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" is flawless, having a magnificent atmosphere and stylish designs, with a visual aesthetic heavily influenced by the works of Lotte Reiniger. The result is in my opinion, simply breathtaking.

The story takes cues from the literary works of Jules Verne and Gothic fiction the 18th century, resulting in something quite dark but captivating at the same time, which never fails to the amaze the viewer. It could be sad, even slow at moments, but for me, it never stops being interesting.

From beginning to the end, "The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" shows a brilliance that hardly could be achieved by other films that use the Steampunk elements in a shallow manner.
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Wonderful Gothic animated short film
bob the moo17 February 2007
In a Victorian world of steam driven air ships Jasper Morello is an aerial navigator haunted by a mistake he once made that caused the death of one of his crew. He leaves his home with his wife ill with the fatal plague sweeping the country and joins a mission with Doctor Belgon seeking a possible remedy for the disease but also redemption of his soul. The mission looks like it will be a success but with Belgon maddened with his discovery, Morello must decide if the terrible price is worth paying.

Nominated for an Oscar, this animated short is a great piece of work. The plot has elements of old Jules Verne adventures in the design but it is seeped in a wonderfully dark, Gothic air that runs from the animation through the music into the story and characters. Those not used to short films might moan at how the plot moves quickly and how it is quite superficial. These are fair comment but can be forgiven by the nature of this film, besides the film has much to cover minor issues. The story is engaging and well told with tragic characters complimenting the dark tone. Edgerton makes a great lead character and brings out a lot with his voice. Likewise Bakaitis is strong as the doctor while the support cast fill in the rest of the characters.

The animation makes this film though. Delivered mainly in 2 dimensional shadows, the design is impressive and captures the Gothic atmosphere just right. It is full of imagination and is beautifully dark to watch. Overall then a very strong and enjoyable short film. Gothic, dark and visually impressive with a solid narrative it is just a shame that the nomination did not get the film more exposure and a bigger audience.
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Excellent animation style which suits the story being told very well.
Robert Reynolds26 March 2006
This short, which was nominated for an Academy Award, is a form of stop-motion where the figures are primarily shot in silhouette to make them darker and to heighten the overall mood of terror and suspense. The technique is perfectly suited to the story being told, which has so many literary and cinematic influences that its hard to know where to begin.

In addition to the more obvious suspects (Poe, Verne, Wells, et cetera) I would also add Bram Stoker and a sub-genre of Science Fiction/Fantasy called "steampunk", which Lucas himself has cited as an influence. Novels like The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and Lord Kelvin's Machine by James P. Blaylock (both highly recommended, though not as dark as Morello, if you like the basic idea of a high(er)-tech Victorian England) are excellent examples of "steampunk" and I would be a bit surprised if Lucas hasn't read at least one or both. The feel is certainly there.

One warning: this is NOT a short for children, especially young children. There are at least two scenes unsuited for anyone younger than 12 or 13. This is available on an all-region DVD made in Australia. Most highly recommended.
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Beautiful and bittersweet Gothic steampunk tragedy
jennyhor20049 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A nominee for a Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 2006, this is a visually beautiful and richly layered Gothic steampunk adventure story that is equal parts Lovecraftian and Conradesque horror. Young navigator Morello (voiced by Joel Edgerton) in the industrial city of Gothia accepts a commission to help fly a dirigible to parts unknown. He does this partly to atone for a previous voyage in which, due to a mistake he made, a crewman fell to his death. Morello leaves his wife Emilia at home as she is needed at a hospital to nurse patients dying from a mysterious plague.

An eccentric scientist Claude Belgon joins the crew and the ship chugs away; it crashes into an abandoned vessel and the crew quickly transfer to that vehicle. In his regular radio correspondence with his wife, Morello hears her hacking coughs and realises she has contracted plague. Nevertheless the men continue their journey despite one man also sickening from plague and they soon come across several sky islands. By accident, they discover that the boiled blood of a strange creature on one island cures the sick crew-member so they collect cocoons and take them back on board the ship. While on the journey home, Morello realises that crew-members are mysteriously vanishing and stumbles across the awful truth about the hatched larvae from the cocoons and their link to the disappearances.

The story is very focused, not too complicated, and the pace moderately fast. The animation is a mix of layered 2D pictures and cut-outs made to resemble 3D objects and the characters themselves appear as silhouette cut-outs reminiscent of an Indonesian wayang shadow-puppet play. The use of first-person narrative makes the film resemble a Joseph Conrad novel and Joel Edgerton's measured and refined tones make his young navigator a sensitive character. Morello does tend to be passive and easily influenced by the sinister Dr Belgon and the blustery Captain Griswald, and this passivity brings a touch of J G Ballard to the proceedings. The mix of Australian and near-English accents brings a salty nineteenth-century flavour to much of the film. The story gradually transforms from the thrill of adventure in its first half to quietly macabre and devastating in its second half, topped by an open-ended conclusion in which Morello, in the manner of a Ballardian hero, submits to the advice of the malevolent Belgon in the near-hopeless belief that by so doing he will save his wife's life if not his own.

Themes of sacrificing one's own life for the greater good of society and the advancement of scientific knowledge, and of the moral dilemma that faces Morello when he discovers what the last larva from the cocoons needs to survive – yes, if he kills it, he'll save his own life but not his wife's life; if he allows it to live, then he must offer himself to it - give "… Jasper Morello" a deep, dark intensity befitting its Victorian Goth look of sepia, blue and grey tones. Belgon is a typical mad-scientist type who embodies Conrad's Kurtzian hero: his thirst for knowledge and fame drives him to commit heinous acts of murder. Interestingly the film has as its climax a conflict between Belgon and Morello that forces Morello into choosing whether or not he should repeat a past mistake, and it is this choice that determines whether Morello becomes his own man, albeit with horrifying consequences.

Morello's passive nature, the switch from Jules Verne adventure to macabre horror and the anti-climactic cliffhanger ending probably counted against the film in competition for the Best Animated Short Oscar but I find this is a very immersive short piece of great intensity, technical detail, bittersweet tragedy and many allusions to great horror and science fiction writing: depending on where viewers are coming from, they can probably find hints of Edgar Allan Poe, H P Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, H G Wells and Bruce Sterling. The film is aimed at a general audience though it is very creepy and chilling for young children, and it's well worth watching a few times to appreciate its distinctive animation.
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Very narrative story driven & Has a different style of animation that I've never seen before
vibespidersstudios1 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film is very gorgeous of its unsettling themes of Gothic, and horror. The animation is very different than most animation films that I've seen because for most of the movie it just a silhouette. However they put the details of buttons on their clothes to recognized class. Our main character, Jasper Morello's clothing is very nice and the audience knows that he is intelligent because of his career of being a geographic. However at the beginning of the film, he feels unhappy of one little mistake during one of his explorations leads one of the crew members died.

This film made me feel for the main character a lot and he cares about the people of his city that he lives in. I can't say that much of the climax but I have to say that it is very creepy and gets into the monster horror element of the story. And it is something that first time audience has to experience first.

My only complains about the film is the story is just narrative driven by at the end of the film someone finds his journal and reads it because my theory suggest that Jasper's city that he lives in no longer exists because of the plague has already decreased the human population. And after a long period of time, someone found the journal and reference the title of the film. That he is a "mysterious geographic" and his explorations. And that is what I believe this is the whole point of the title of the film, and the last of the human population that found his journal use that to cure the plague that spread in Jasper's world.
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Travel diary to disaster
Warning: Spoilers
I imagine this must be a feast for navigators or people working in the aviation industry a lot. I thought that the animation, some kind of shadow figure depiction, was quite unique and despite having seen a truly huge quantity of animated movies, I'm not sure if I ever came across something similar. However, it's a style I have difficulties appreciating. I like black and white films, also in animation (and it almost was with a few exceptions like the blood) and the style certainly fit the very bleak atmosphere appropriately, but somehow it's not my cup of tea.

The main character (voiced by Joel Edgerton, who recently starred as Tom Buchanan in a new version of The Great Gatsby) narrates his travel with a group of seafarers who run into complications and end up on a mysterious island where they encounter even more mysterious creatures which end up having a huge impact on the group's travels and lives.

This short film is worth checking out, at least the first couple minutes, as I'm sure if you are more fond of the style than I am it can make for quite a haunting watch.
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A film to search for
dbborroughs28 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Mind bogglingly animated tale of a world where people fly instead of sail, its tale of a navigator called into service after a tragedy only to find himself on a voyage of a life time.

One of the best looking animated films,I've ever seen. This is a film filled with very Victorian and steam punkish images and contraptions. Its great to look at. The story about a man taking a job a a means of redemption and then having things begin to go wrong though no real fault of his own is the sort of things that make for grand adventure. I really fell in love with this film and by the time it was over found myself clamoring for if not a sequel (I want to see what happened next) at least another film set in the same world. One of the best animated short films in many a year.
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Beautiful but very, very dark
MartinHafer11 April 2008
This was a wonderful film visually--with an artistry and style that were truly unique. The machines and people are created in an unusual fashion--using mostly sepia tones and blacks as well as never showing details of the people's faces. Instead, the people are very reminiscent of Asian shadow puppets. You really just need to see it to understand how unusual this all looks--but it sure is very striking.

The story takes place in an alternate reality--a planet where steam-powered flying machines are common. Additionally, there is a bizarre plague breaking out and this, combined with the shadows and colors, creates a truly dark story. Making it worse, the story itself if very cold and creepy--truly macabre.

If you can get past how weird and disturbing it all is, then you'll probably love this film. I didn't particularly enjoy all the death, but because of the artistry and vision I still strongly recommend it to viewers with a relatively open mind.

This film, by the way, is very similar in spirit to another animated short, THE PERIWIG-MAKER (1999)--both having a theme that revolves around plague and both films are amazingly beautiful but dark.
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Rich animation uniquely stylized.
Polaris_DiB12 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I love this because I feel, to a degree, that this is the best argument for what animation is for: creating an entire unique world that no amount of special effects and actors could bring out in a live-action movie (how close were the Star Wars prequels to being animation anyway?).

It's one of those fantastic child imaginations that go into worlds anachronistic and improbable, one that has airships powered by coal and dusty sultry air with islands floating amidst them, that have no real basis in real physical being but still has scientists and its own set of rules.

The imagination is very richly animated in a weird sort of 3-D/2-D way, where the majority of the world definitely has an optical illusion of three dimensions but the characters are simply silhouettes constantly moving in two variable directions. It's pretty unique and at first it's hard to distinguish just what kind of animation it is... if it's just the silhouettes shot on cells of paintings, if there's CGI, if the backgrounds are thus animated. It becomes pretty clear from a lot of the movements that it is, actually, CGI, but still, it's very rich and painterly. It's a definite argument to the artistry of animation that can be created when involving a lot of creative approaches to a time-consuming and difficult field.

My only problem with it is that it's about as anticlimactic as any other surviver-journal story. We spend our entire times following a narrator who eventually throws it up in the air over whether he even survives or succeeds on his adventure. It's an interesting cliffhanger... maybe the first time you're introduced to such a story. But it gets tiresome after a while and one has to really question if it's worth it to really bother sometimes.

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Alan J. Jacobs4 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It was a sunny day when I entered a theater to watch a series of animated films nominated for Oscars. This long and boring retro-sci-fi was the second movie, and it was grim and death-obsessed. The creator is talented at drawing, but has no ability to draw you into a story. He is a maker of moods, not a teller of tales. A captain, a navigator, and a scientist go on a voyage, and discover a creature that can, when cooked, cure a disease that is plaguing the land. Before they can carry the creature home, it eats everyone. It's a gloomy cartoon that seems never to end, and once it ends, it leaves you feeling empty.

It was fashioned like a Jules Verne tale--it takes place in a 19th century milieu, but is filled with gadgets and contraptions that suggest a vision of the future past. Heavy machines laden with gears and dripping oil transport the travelers through the air. Everyplace they go floats in the air, like islands in the ocean. This would be nice if it were pretty, but it's all done in dark shadows, in an atmosphere filled with grime and dark clouds.
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