Film students find inspiration in the some of the best places, and the bright minds behind Miss Todd are no exception. The story of Lilian Todd is barely an asterisk in most history books at this point, but Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti of The National Film and Television School in London saw something special in the story of the first woman who engineered a working airplane in 1909 and made her the focus of their gorgeous stop-motion animation, musical short film.
The film is barely more than ten minutes long but it packs a punch in the beauty, music, and story departments even while it’s distracting you with a moving story about a young woman who dreams of flying. The disclaimer at the end lets us know that there is no proof that the real Miss Lilian Todd ever flew her planes. I am pretending I didn’t see that part and that this is a completely true, bordering on documentary-level, fact-driven short because who doesn’t love the idea of a little cross-dressing to soar through the clouds alongside a bird?
After you’ve been wowed by the story itself, take a minute to appreciate the technical greatness of this little film. I found myself distracted by the puppetry and attention to detail that the crew gave each character from lip movement to individual locks of hair blowing in the wind. I’m not the only one who was impressed. The film has been honored by The Royal Television Society, The Annie Awards, and the Edinburgh Film Festival Screen Academy Awards just to name a few. (Seriously, I could fill my word quota for this piece just listing the awards and film festivals that have honored this short.) In addition to the acclaim it has garnered, stills from the film itself have been published as a children’s book titled Miss Todd and Her Wonderful Flying Machine. You can grab it on Amazon if you have a child you’d like to inspire.
Make sure you give this one a watch and keep an eye out for these talented creators as I can imagine we will be seeing great things from them in the future.