In a slightly altered version of World War I in which Belgium’s sole means of defence is the waffle, and Germany is building a bridge across the English Channel to invade Blighty, Britain’s sole hope is The Jockstrap Raiders.
A former amateur rugby club for freaks and geeks (one character is rejected from the army on grounds of rigor mortis), the team switches balls for bombs to become a flying squadron and foil the Kaiser.
(Although odd-shaped balls are still in evidence: for… uh, aerodynamic reasons, the Raiders elect to go into battle shaved, and wearing only underwear.)
One man’s five-year labour of love
Amazingly, the 19-minute ‘short’ (it’s long enough to have its own intermission) is essentially the work of one man: animator and director Mark Nelson.
Nelson began The Jockstrap Raiders as a thesis film at the UCLA Animation Workshop, then worked in previz for the next five years to fund its completion.
“When I needed money, I would work for six months, and once I’d saved enough I’d go back to my film,” Nelson told Animation Magazine.
Some of the technical details are functional rather than beautiful (Nelson says he had no idea how to do fluid simulation before he began, despite the second half of the film taking place over the English Channel).
But the direction is so smart, the pace so sustained, and the jokes so offbeat – Aardman fans will find a lot to love in Nelson’s skewed version of Britishness – that ultimately, it never matters.
The short went on to win a string of prizes, including a Student Academy Award, but this is its first showing outside the festival circuit. Pull up a chair, clear 20 minutes from your schedule, and enjoy.