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  • Genre : Sci-fi, drama, wow
  • Episodes: 1
  • Studio: A-1 Pictures


Alone in her room, a young girl bides her time. She is isolated, cut off from the outside but that’s OK. With a little bit of imagination and a lot of technology she has access to worlds we can only dream of. She can run through purple fields under multicolor pastel skies or linger in the shade of a beautiful tree in the pristine beauty of a perfect summer afternoon. Her tiny universe is boundless, limited only by the reach of her fantasies. She is a little lonely. It’s been a long time since she’s talked to anybody but that’s OK. She’s not alone. She’s been loved dearly and those powerful memories keep her company, stay by her side and comfort her. She can visit anytime she wants. She’s always welcome. The universe can be a cold and harsh place, but that’s OK. She is safe in her shelter.

Have you ever seen UP? It’s one of Pixar’s earlier works and helped secure the studio’s impressive reputation. It’s sweet. You should see it. Anyways, the movie starts off with 5 or maybe 10 minutes of establishing narrative in which the entire life of the main character is recounted in vignettes, focusing on how he met fell in love, lived with and lost his wife. These few minutes manage to make me care so deeply about two imaginary people that I was in tears in a packed theater before the opening credits. And all this without a single line of dialogue.

It remains Pixar’s crowning glory in my mind and a tour the force the likes of which I had not seen reproduced since. That is until I saw Shelter.

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I can’t bring myself to be a smart*ss about this movie

Shelter is a singular experience. I know that’s a very silly statement after I just spent two paragraphs comparing it to something else, but although there are clear similarities between the two, Shelter stands apart, completely unmistakable.

A short 6 minute movie, it has the daunting task of telling its story, presenting its characters and setting up its entire world in what is a cold open for most series. Unlike the previous work I mentioned, which relied on very familiar and instantly recognizable events to immediately situate the audience, Shelter takes on the additional challenge of creating a futuristic slightly dissonant world. Everything is just a little off. There are just enough hints in the images to let you know that not everything is as it seems. The pacing of revelations intertwined with the gorgeous surreal imagery and deeply emotional glimpses was so masterfully crafted that I may not have blinked at all for the entire 6 minutes. I’m not entirely sure, I was completely engrossed but that’s probably the reason I was tearing up so much….

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you won’t know until you see it

To give you any proper description of the actual storyline would be a great disservice. The journey of Shelter and the discoveries made along the way are a big part of the enjoyment and quite frankly a stirring experience that you should really have for yourself. Like a great meal or a beautiful song, it’s something that can never be entirely captured by words anyways. Suffice it to say, there is enough depth in this little gem that I have now spend an hour writing about 6 minutes and I am holding back.

Make no mistake, Shelter is a work of art. Not only does it strike a personal and visceral chord that’s open for interpretation, but it goes out of its way to show off the sheer talent of the production team. With only a few lines of monologue to frame the piece, the bulk of the airtime is dedicated to music and images, all of which have been so lovingly crafted that you can feel the care radiating of them.

It’s not simply that the art is breathtaking, that the colour palettes are fully reimagined from one scene to the next to wordlessly set the mood, that each frame of animation is carefully coordinated to the soundtrack creating a visual ballet… It’s that somehow, and I can’t really explain how, you can tell that this work was important to everyone involved. The artists, animators, editors and producers all loved that girl. They cared about this work, they nurtured it carefully. This project was a beloved child and not a paycheck. Maybe I’m just a sucker but I could swear I saw some passion, some desperate need to communicate somewhere beneath all the pretty pictures.

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in any case – I loved her…

And you know, whether it was intentionally put there or not doesn’t matter. One of the great magics of art is that it can be all things at once. The meaning of a piece is as much up to the creator as the audience. It is meant to be filtered through each individual’s experience and personality and come out the other side as a unique snowflake.

The Shelter I saw will not be the one you see. You will get from it your own message, draw your own conclusions. You will be just as correct as I am. Your thoughts will be just as insightful and important.

I’m not sure this will work but I’m going to try a little project with all of you. Since this piece does have something to say about the nature of community – I thought that maybe we could do something together. If you’ve seen this short, please let me know what you got out of it. Just a brief line in the comments, telling me how it made you feel. If you haven’t, take 6 minutes and watch it:

Since this is the channel of one of the creators, I’m pretty sure it’s not piracy!

If enough of you are interested in playing along. I’ll compile the reactions and we can see how different and contrasting interpretations can be. If not, I’ll pretend this never happened and we will never talk of this again!

To me: I was left with a slight longing for connection and a huge feeling of hope.

Suggested drink: Shelter from the Storm

  • Every time we see water – take a sip
  • Every time we get a close up of Rin’s eyes – take a sip
  • Every time Rin uses her tablet – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a pixelation effect – take a sip
  • Every time Rin visits a new world – raise your glass
  • Every time we see Rin’s messages – take a sip
  • Every time we see Rin’s dad – cheer!

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61 thoughts

  1. (Late to the party, I know. I’m going through your backlogs, lol).

    Shelter was very special to me for multiple reasons. I used to love anime/manga and all that back in Middle School, but in order to “grow up and be mature” I kind of left it by the wayside. Playing Doki Doki Literature Club got me thinking about anime in general and the great stories that existed in it, so I decided to maybe give it another shot.

    Shortly after playing the game, I came across Shelter which (like several songs in Porter Robinson’s “Worlds” album) has a lot of similar themes so my fanfic connection-making brain was having a hayday on that end. More than that, though, was Rin’s rediscovery of her past. Seeing her get flooded with the memories of her past life and reaching out to them, trying to reclaim them after having seemingly forgotten them reminded me of myself and how much I truly had loved this genre/medium/aesthetic. Shelter’s a big part of what got me back into it, albeit in quite a different way than 15-17 years ago.

  2. I’m not sure what was more impressive: the energy, creativity, and ambition that went into this 6-min film, or the fact that you sat down just for an hour to write this. Why are you always so good, Irina?!

    Beyond all the pretty visuals and entrancing music, I found the most incredible part of this short to be the project’s origins and history. Never would I have imagine that Porter Robinson and his friends’ dreams could be realized through a professional animation company like A1. And yet here we are, placing the power to create within fellow fans’ hands.

    Also, it’s nice to hear about Up—not many people talk about it anymore, and that’s a shame since it is easily their best film. 😉

    1. Maybe I’m a starry eyed naive idealist but I like to think most production companies are full of fans but I get what you mean.
      I think a big part of the emotional impact of the piece is due to the hopefulness of novice showrunners.
      Thank you so much for such a sweet comment!

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this! 😀 I loved this short not going lie! The idea, animation and music combination is just beatiful and I enjoyed all seconds of it and yes, I was not expecting that ending for a second. I do understand what the creators are trying to transmit, the love of a father who sacrifices himself so the child can live and gives her everything he can so she can have the best life she could have.

    However, if I go real for a second I think I would not go the same route as him… I understand of course, but a full life always alone? It seems way too empty and basically is sending your child towards a life unhappiness, so I think I would just let her die with me and the rest of the world. It is sad of course that she does ends up having such a small life, however at least it is full… Of course at the same time I do believe in hope and that everything can be worked out and Ibelieve that we never try to quit… However the world ending IS the world ending, it seems the most final you can get.

    1. I understand – it’s a very reasonable stance and one most people would probably share with you.
      I would totally send my kid out. I subside on the notion that every minute is a gift and every opportunity is treasure. Go forth, explore, maybe you’ll find aliens, maybe immaculate conception is possible, maybe you’ll live a rich and full inner life. After all, the alternative is always available if you don’t want to want to go on, right.

    1. wow Thank you so much. I’m afraid you’ve stumbled onto one of the better posts though. Pease lower your expectations for the future….

  4. As soon as she said she wasn’t lonely, I knew that she was and I was on the brink of tears throughout the beautiful scenery. She only has her imagination. I want to know more about how she got to her shelter and why. It’s beautiful.

  5. It’s been a while since I watched this, but I saw it as exploring the meaning of familial bonds and where the line between reality/fantasy blurs (although this may just be me confusing my reaction with the discussion after the music video first came out). It didn’t make me tear up, but it did elicit a bittersweet feeling on first watch and eventually it swayed me to find the song on Spotify (because the song didn’t really grab me on first listen).

    Come to think of it, I haven’t tried embedding YouTube videos into my posts yet. I have the perfect post for it though…

  6. A “…stirring experience that you should really have for yourself…” That’s a good way to put it! When I watched it the first time, I was about half way through when I began to fear — yes, fear! — what was going on.
    I like your project idea! Is it okay if I put my entry in the comments? Here goes!
    Shelter left me feeling a bittersweet hope that felt like the last strains of a symphonic work.

  7. I was just thinking about this a couple days ago, but for some reason I couldn’t remember the title. I’d forgotten about it, but I’m glad I was able to watch it again.

    If I described Shelter in one sentence it would be:
    Sacrifice for love, and pushing forward in the hopes tomorrow will bring your desires.

    It’s really a genuis work of art, I felt choked up at the end especially. And your post on it was beautifully worded!!

  8. Shelter was great for a watch through and I really found it beautiful and interesting while it was on. However, like music videos in general, I didn’t really remember much about it after the fact. I know it tells a story, but due to the way that story is presented my memory doesn’t latch onto it the way it does other forms and really I don’t remember this at all until I read a post about it.

    1. See Im sort of the opposite. My wiring forces me to fill in the gaps so abstract works make me think and tend to linger with me longer than more structured narratives

  9. Too much past, too little future.

    Is this the reply that reveals the cold, black spot in Dawnstorm’s heart? What I saw was either stunning visuals ruined by the maudlin monologue (“forgot how to think,” – then how are you talking right now?; “must be strong for the future,” – and what sort of future is it that you’re strong for, when you’re only living in the past?”), or a series of illicit experiments abusing a child’s trusts (corporate experiement in isolation and VR – who cuts her hair? A series of employees – different one every time to avoid attachment. Where does the power come from? – There’s plenty.).

    I saw shelter for the first time today, and I’m sort of sorry to be a downer after reading the review, but it didn’t really affect me emotionally at all.

    1. That’s the point. Experience is personal and relative. And the fact that you took the time to share a an absence with me is sort of sweet. I like it

  10. Short, sweet, what’s not to love about Shelter?
    On rewatch, the fun playful atmosphere takes on more of a tragic tone…
    That’s the stuff I love seeing! Causes more emotion in 6 minutes than most anime can in 4 hours!
    Thanks for reminding me of this gem!

      1. lol, it’s the truth though, very beautifully written post. I can only hope to write reviews this colorful! <3

        I haven't been able to blog lately….as you know, but…I have been writing stories 😀 I'll be back to the blogging world…hopefully sooner than later.

  11. I watched it thanks to you… Now I know where this girl came from! I remember liking her character design a lot (especially those stars in her hair) and pinning a few versions of her on Pinterest without knowing where she came from.
    As someone who used to build imaginary worlds, this really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Shelter is beautiful not only in terms of the colors and vibrant emotional scenes. The story line is very interesting though short because at the end, I wanted to see more. Overall, it is a fantastic experience delving in a surreal world filled with hopes and optimism. A masterpiece in the name of art but above all humanity. Profoundly touching and heartbreaking at some point.

  13. How should I say this, I am just unable to express my feelings towards it. My heart became so heavy at the final scene though. The visuals are soooooo damn good. I really loved it.

    1. I’m so happy you liked it. I think it’s very pretty and a little fragile and it makes my own heart swell to be able to share it with people.

  14. This short still moves me every time I watch it. When I’m in a creative slump I look at it and see the masterful work of telling story in a short time. You are right it is art and there is something screaming behind it telling us the story and the emotions. Just telling us to feel and we will all take meaning away from it. I like to show it to my students every year in hopes that they can see it for what it is and read their reflections.

    1. oh wow – it must be fascinating to see a classroom full of people trying to assimilate this all at once. You should film THAt at some point.

  15. 6 minutes? I’ll have to check this out, it sounds beautiful… Although, I’ll have to have some tissues nearby because (although, I hate to admit it because I’m NOT soft) UP made me cry, and by the sounds of it, this may as well! … You suck. Lol! I’ll definitely need that drink! 😉👍

  16. I freaking love shelter! It manages to achieve in 5 minutes what others failed to do in whole seasons. It’s a gem, and one that you should definitely give a watch whether you like it or not.
    And being the crybaby that I am, yes, I cried for Shelter too.

    1. I just finished watching that 6 minute video and god do I love it! It’s heartbreakingly beautiful and I’ll have it no other way.

      Thank you for sharing this!

  17. When I was reading this I was first like, “Damn, that sounds like a work of art.”
    Then I went, “W-Wait! It’s only 6 MINUTES?!”
    Then I watched it and now I’m like “…”

    That was some story Rin-san!
    Thanks for sharing~

  18. Shelter is so beautiful and touching, I absolutely adore it. I don’t usually like the genre of music that accompanies the video but it fits so well and I even downloaded the song and whenever it comes up in my iTunes shuffle it sends shivers down my spine and brings tears to my eyes.

    1. Same – although I could see myself boping along to that song there’s no way it would make my heart race like it does now

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