A Rubik’s Cube is Brought to Life in this Short Film!

In the world of puzzles, there are certain images that are unmistakable, no matter what language you speak. A few concepts that are universally familiar and instantly recognizable.

A Scrabble tile. The black and white pattern of a crossword grid.

A small, multicolored cube.

The Rubik’s Cube is iconic, and it feels like part of the fabric of puzzles at this point. We’ve seen people set new records in speed-solving them, computers designed to solve them, and foods crafted to look like them. There have been Rubik’s Cube Halloween costumes, marriage proposals, and art installations. People are even designing and 3-D printing their own Rubik’s-inspired creations.

But no one has ever brought the Rubik’s Cube to life quite like Bastiaan Schravendeel and the team at Polder Animation.

In the short animated film Scrambled, we’re introduced to two unforgettable characters on a train platform: a girl named Esra and a nameless Rubik’s cube.

When Esra misses her train and busies herself with her phone while waiting for the next one, the perceptive little Rubik’s Cube makes its presence known.

This short is reminiscent of a Miyazaki film — a world with hidden surprises — as well as the charming interactions of Pixar films like Wall-E, and it will no doubt be the best six minutes of your day:

I could talk about all the messages and subtext underpinning this wonderful little story: analog play vs. digital, the value of feeling a well-earned sense of accomplishment, the magic of puzzles. You no doubt detected the same themes while you watched the short.

But instead, I’d rather give a shout-out to the wonderful animators who brought this world to life. Esra is instantly relatable, shutting out the world for a bit while waiting for her train, and the hilarious, puppy-like antics of the Rubik’s Cube are immensely engaging. You can’t help but root for the little guy, even if solving him seems to bring an end to his interactions with Esra.

It’s amazing how quickly you forge a bond with the Rubik’s Cube, and the animators deserve high praise for making a puzzle that inspires wonder and frustration in equal measure into one so endearing.

In an interview with Short of the Week, Schravendeel said:

The biggest challenge was to create a genuinely believable, likable and relatable character from a Rubik’s cube without making it about anything other than it being a Rubik’s cube. I’ve always liked films that manage to evoke emotion and personality from objects that usually don’t have any, especially if it can be done without dialogue.

Dialogue would have ruined the simplicity and wonder of Esra and the Cube’s interactions, and the mix of wordless communication and physical comedy made for a wonderful viewing experience.

Scrambled is a delight. I hope you enjoy.


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Not in so many words…

A British reader and friend of the blog passed along this link to me this morning. It’s from the UK publication The Guardian, interviewing filmmaking Steve Simmons about his newest production, Crosswords.

The seven-minute short film takes us into the thoughts of a man puzzling out various crossword clues, even as he’s distracted by an attractive woman who shares his park bench.

Most of the clues are fairly straightforward instead of the more wordplay-based British cluing — “Not right (4)”, for example — but others could give you as much pause as the protagonist. (I admit, “The more you take, the more you leave behind (9)” had my gears turning.)

Seeing synonyms and red herrings pass before the solver’s eyes (and settling onto the screen) was a marvelous touch, reminiscent of some of the visual panache of BBC’s Sherlock.

The silent film style adds a touch of tongue-in-cheek flair and melodrama to the whole affair, making for a thoroughly enjoyable short.

Hmmm. Makes me wonder if PuzzleNation should get into the short film game. Exploring space with the intrepid crew of Starspell Command, or heading into dusty puzzle catacombs in search of treasure with the Crossword Raider

On second thought, maybe I’ll leave it to pros like Simmons.