"The Ribbon" is an animated short which has already gathered a large number of awards on the festival circuit. It is the brainchild of Polla-Ilariya Kozino, a young filmmaker from Kazakhstan who was initially based in San Francisco when work started on "The Ribbon". She worked as Visual Effects Production Assistant on the 2019 animation "Missing Link" but her current passion is writing, directing and producing animations. The plot of "The Ribbon" begins with a young girl crying. The scene brightens and the girl realises she is in a wonderful, colourful, magical world with fluffy clouds and rolling hills covered in flowers and mushrooms, and populated by cute foxes and unicorns. As she explores this realm, the long ribbon of her dress becomes caught, holding her back. As she pulls on the ribbon to break free, we begin to realise that all is not as it seems. It would be a shame to spoil the story but suffice it to say that it is both touching and thought-provoking.
The score for this animation has been composed by Jonathan Galland, a French composer currently working in San Francisco. He is classically trained, having studied the violin since the age of 6 before going on to study Music Production and Sound Design for Visual Media. Galland is now focussed on putting sound and music to film, and working with filmmakers across the world. Galland's score for "The Ribbon" has also gained a lot of attention at festivals, and as a result he has also won a string of awards for his contribution to the film. At present this amounts to 25 international Soundtrack Awards (including 4 British Awards)! "The Ribbon" is expected to have a worldwide online release sometime in 2020, but will also get a limited theatrical release in some theatres. The soundtrack itself has now been released, and details about this are given below.
The film starts out with a little girl crying in a dark landscape. One of her tears drops to the ground, and the landscape brightens to show a magical world and some sound design heralds the start of the music. Initially this takes the form of a sustained atmosphere with little ethnic wind flourishes, but a melody begins when the girl climbs a mushroom to look around her. She then meets a succession of denizens of this strange land. As the composer remarks at this point the music adopts a "Mickey-Mousing" approach, which is quite common in animations and means that the music closely follows the screen action which typically changes from second to second. However there is still room for a playful recurring melody to develop from the earlier fragment. She spots a unicorn at the top of a hillock and runs towards it. It is at this point she realises that her dress ribbon has got caught, and the music briefly takes on a more poignant tone on cor anglais. Despite some help from her new friends she is still unable to escape from the ribbons and she falls back.
The whole scene dissolves to reveal a very different scene and we suddenly realise the significance of all we have seen so far. It is at this crucial point that the composer brings in a piano, to transport us into the heart of this new emotional scene. Then equally suddenly we are back in the magical land and some strings hold the attention until the girl sees that her ribbon is now free. The landscape and music both seem brighter now. The happy theme returns stronger than before as the girl leaves her friends at the bottom of the hillock to climb up towards the unicorn. The final scene shows the girl riding the unicorn as it flies towards the sun. The end titles kick in, and the main theme returns in a new arrangement whose guitars and percussion accompanying strings and piano seem to strongly suggest a Japanese anime, which seems entirely appropriate. The music becomes more atmospheric once again as the end titles reach their conclusion, and poignant reminders of the main theme on piano accompany a ribbon which spells out the film's title before dissipating.
"The Ribbon" is a great little story which takes us on something of an emotional roller-coaster ride. The music is an essential part of this journey and it is pitch perfect, turning on a sixpence and yet with an overall flow and narrative consistency, it follows and reinforces the story. The core orchestration is fairly traditional but the composer expertly blends in some more unusual sounds including ethnic flute, ocarina, washboard, cajón, langeleik and psaltery. On the evidence of his score for "The Ribbon", Jonathan Galland has a great career ahead of him.
The following external websites provide additional information about the film and filmmakers:
Update 11th Oct 2021: The complete short film has now been released on Youtube at this link - The Ribbon.
Jonathan Galland's score for The Ribbon is now available to download on most online music platforms. You can find it at these links on Amazon.co.uk, on Amazon.com, and on iTunes. Even better, you can preview the whole score including bonus track at YouTube.