MSPIFF review: “Papa Cloudy’s Orchestra”


Courtesy of Akiko McQuerrey

Akiko McQuerrey’s newest short film, “Papa Cloudy’s Orchestra” hits the festival circuit at this year’s Minneaepolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

Elena Deeter, Senior Reporter

With nothing but a camera, a box of felt, and a sewing kit, Akiko McQuerrey makes an animated series that entertains and raises awareness of environmental issues for children. “Papa Cloudy’s Orchestra” is McQuerrey’s newest animated film and it’s circulating around festivals, including the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), which begins this week.

The short follows Papa Cloudy, a white cloud with a black mustache who enjoys his music and animal friends. He gets a call from his polar bear friend who seems to be dying on a melting ice cap with its cub (who is eating melting ice cream, which is both cute and depressing). The phone falls into the ocean and Papa Cloudy is inspired to save them through music.

He composes a song, and needs some of his animal neighbors to learn and perform it with him in order to save the polar bears. The cats are sassy and hesitant to help but everyone else is engaged because they too are being affected by climate change.

Overall, the film is cute and the theme is effective. The puppets are well crafted. They have a charmingly imperfect look to them, making it obvious that they are homemade. Because the short is stop motion animation, a technique that makes it seem that inanimate objects are moving and alive, through photographing each frame, at times editing is glitchy and changes in lighting are noticeable. However, these technical concerns don’t come across as bothersome and tend to add to its crafted charm.

The sound design is impressive as it makes the short complete. The film’s sound has some glitches, but to McQuerrey’s credit, animal noises can be difficult to find sound bites of.

The foley is all spot on, and nothing feels off or out of place. All of the animal sounds come across as accurate and adorable. The music motif is catchy and McQuerrey does a great job of varying it by using different sounds. For example,  there is a song that plays throughout the short that features instruments, but at the end the animal noises create those instrumental sounds.

When the animals perform Cloudy’s composition, it is a little awkward. The animal version of the song is a little all over the place because McQuerrey replaces instruments with animal sounds, and it doesn’t have an amazing flow, compared to the original. That being said, it’s impressive that McQuerrey can even recreate the same song substituting animal noises for instruments, as it’s difficult to match pitches.

All things considered, “Papa Cloudy’s Orchestra” is a fun and important piece that I am sure children will love. Not many animators create children’s films about climate change.

“Papa Cloudy’s Orchestra” is only one of McQuerrey’s successful animations in her Papa Cloudy series. One of her most famous shorts is “Papa Cloudy’s Restaurant,” which won Best Animation Short at Children’s Film Festival Seattle in 2015, and Best Film for 2-5 Year Olds at BAMkids Film Festival in 2014. This short focuses on sustainable eating and the overfishing problem.

She has many other Papa Cloudy shorts, some of which are available for anyone to watch on her website, On her website, you can also find out how she creates these fun movies. I recommend you take a look. Although the series targets kids, even adults can learn a thing or two from Papa Cloudy.