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Western Animation / The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

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The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello is a 2005 Australian animated short film directed by Anthony Lucas, notable for its unique CGI cut-out animation style which shows almost everything in silhouette.

A plague has beset the Steampunk city of Gothia. Jasper Morello (Joel Edgerton) is tasked with distributing weather beacons, but is distracted by guilt over the death of a crewmate and worry over his wife back home. When his crew finds an apparent cure for the plague, Morello clashes with one of the passengers, scientist Claude Belgon (Helmut Bakaitis).

Sequels were planned but never materialized.

This film contains examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Largely averted, despite it being a steampunk setting with some very outlandish fantastical elements. Some of the names are rarer, but none of them are completely unusual. Jasper, Amelia, Claude, Ebeneezer, Hieronymus.
  • Affably Evil: Dr. Claude Belgon. He's the nicest of the crew towards Jasper, and gets on well with him. Right up until the good doctor starts letting the creature feed on the crew.
  • The Atoner: Jasper, for accidentally knocking a man off the ship on his last voyage with a navigational error.
  • BFG: Kovacks wields one while out on the island. It appears to be steam-powered, and is fired to save Jasper from the carnivorous vegisectoid creature.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The creatures on the island are mixture of this and man-eating plants. The first of them transforms one of its tendrils into a tropical bird, and even sings with it to draw in prey!
  • Bittersweet Ending: Or just a Downer Ending, depending on how you interpret it.
  • Body Horror: The Sickness, which starts out with flu-like symptoms, then goes into horrific glowing orange boils and growths.
  • Character Title: Overlapping with The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles.
  • Cool Airship: The Resolution and the Hieronymous.
  • Death World / Everything Trying to Kill You: According to the Gothia Gazette, it seems that everything can and will malfunction, maul you, poison you, kill you or drive you insane.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film uses B&W with Silent Film-influenced tinting: the island is green, the stormier areas of uncharted air are dark blue, the mountain peaks are pale blue, and everything else is sepia or grey.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: Wholly fitting the 19th century-style society of this steampunk setting. A more serious take on the trope than a comedic one, though.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Gothia is essentially a gothic/steampunk version of Victorian England.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. There are some firearms and even clockwork-powered ranged weapons.
  • Flying Seafood Special: At one point, Captain Griswald and the crew members of the expedition's ship hunt the flying-past porcfish by spearing or shooting them right out of the sky. They serve them for dinner and it seems to boost the crew's morale.
  • For Science!: Dr. Belgon seems to be a positive example of this at first, what with his kooky, harmless experiments and fascination with insects. Then he gets obsessed with the creature from the island...
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Dr. Belgon wears Scary Shiny Glasses and is willing to feed the ship's crew to the creature for the sake of his research and personal gain.
  • Human Resources: The only cure for the plague that's killing the people of Gothia is a creature that feeds on human blood. And tissue, when it can get it.
  • Machine Worship: Word of God says that The Ebeneezer, who is continually referred to, is a living computer.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Claude Belgon. Looking at his character profile, he appears to have plenty of motive to be desperate for a find, no matter the cost.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Mobile and intelligent, too!
  • Meaningful Name: The design of Gothia, Jasper's home city, looks like something out of a Steampunked-up piece of 19th century Gothic Horror fiction.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The "porcfish", a flying fish / porcupine hybrid.
  • My Greatest Failure: Jasper is haunted by a mistake he made as a navigator in the past, resulting in the inadvertent death of a crew member on the ship he served on. This led him to become The Atoner afterward.
  • Nothing but Skulls: The crew of the Resolution find a pile of these with skeletons in the cargo hold of the Hieronymous.
  • Ominous Fog: All of the airships have to navigate through it. And like the sea, many dangers can be concealed within.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Used when LeBrun is eaten by the creature.
  • The Plague: The Sickness, which ravages Gothia. Dr. Belgon and Morello are sent out on an expedition to search for a potential cure.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Dr. Claude Belgon's bright glasses stand out noticeably against his otherwise all-black silhouette.
  • Scenery Porn: Every single frame ? Despite the often limited colour palette, the animation is a positively gorgeous blend of traditional animation and computer animation.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Inverted — everything else is monochrome and shown in silhouette, but blood and gore are red and very visible.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A gentle-sounding leitmotif, reminescent of a music box, is heard throughout the film - even in (and especially in) some of the more macabre scenes.
  • Steampunk: Pretty much Steampunk: The Animated Film. And rather than adopt a more lighthearted approach, the film sticks closely to steampunk's more grittier roots and implications. Even Morello's ostensibly cosy hometown, the metropolis of Gothia, is an endless cluster of stylised metallic buildings spreading steam and soot, with a complex system of overlapping rails and elevators for public transport. The city looks foreboding even before it is beset by a scary plague. The faraway lands studied by the expedition have mysterious and intimidating wildlife, and that part of the storyline feels like a deliberately dark and serious take on the "19th century adventurers exploring a jungle" theme. Jasper struggles with his guilt over causing the death of a fellow crew member and with his fears of not being able to save his wife from the plague. The animation style and backgrounds, while beautiful, have a very melancholy and slightly macabre atmosphere to them.
  • The Sky Is an Ocean: None of the landmasses seen in the setting are part of a recognisable planetary surface. Islands and entire continents just float in mid air, and there are even fish-like creatures that "swim" through the skies as if they were endless seas. The airships are also designed to look more like literal ships or even submarines, rather than the gondola-and-cigar-with-ballonets shape.
  • Sky Pirates: Captain Griswald suspects that the ship may have been attacked by these. Unfortunately, something far worse was responsible...
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The various flying ships and vehicles of the setting look like illustrations from a Jules Verne novel... if Tim Burton gave them a slight makeover.
  • Wham Line: "One degree changed my life... It might do so again!"
  • World in the Sky: Every single landmass in the setting seems to be this, including the land Gothia stands on, and the unexplored lands eventually reached by the expedition. In colder climates of the endless sky ocean, there are even giant flying icebergs !
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Largely averted in a literal sense. The flying ships of the setting are closer to hybrids of maritime ships and submarines with the features of traditional real world blimps and zeppelins.