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Blind Mice Bluff: The Loan of a Lifetime

Blind Mice Bluff: The Loan of a Lifetime
Tagline: When the mice set the mousetrap...

Logline: In this animated feature set in the fictional land of Centralia, out-of-work engineer Lenny applies for the LOAN OF A LIFETIME to pay his bills, and takes an unwitting journey through his nation?s surreal financial circus where he must help other Centralians confront the verminous consequences of their economy built on debt.

Project Summary: My name is Alyssa Barber, and I?m an animator, artist, and graduate of the USC School of Cinema?s Animation Division (MFA 2008). As a young potential jobseeker in 2008, I felt I was watching the future that I had always imagined for myself withering in the heat of recession. But instead of sinking in gloom, I used the recession as a spark of inspiration; I decided to learn, and help others learn, some of the economic lessons that I was not taught in high school or college. I began studying some of the forces that shape the economic landscape, and turning my research into a compelling and humorous visual story told in computer animation. Blind Mice Bluff: The Loan of a Lifetime is my answer to the daunting economic trials that America and other nations are facing for the foreseeable future. Its purpose is to educate high school and college students about some of our critical, immediate economic realities such as banking problems, debt, and deficit, all in a non-partisan way. The film communicates this educational content through its unique allegorical characters, all of whom might seem equally at home on the pages of Gulliver?s Travels or Alice in Wonderland. Overall, the intent of the film is similar to School House Rock, but for an older audience.

In the story, the fictional land of Centralia?a nation familiar and yet fantastic?is struggling in the strangulating coils of a prolonged recession. Lenny is an unemployed engineer unable to find any work and surviving on credit. Faced with imminent eviction unless he pays his rent in cash, Lenny reaches for an offer he has just received in the mail, a brochure for the Loan of a Lifetime. Eagerly, Lenny arrives at the Bank, signs for the Loan, and embarks on a strange but eye-opening journey into his country?s financial system: a literal economic funhouse. Each subsequent episode in the narrative illustrates some of the developments in (mainly) American economics over the past few decades (like the ongoing trade deficit) in visual metaphors that serve as springboards for further discussion and study, especially with the curriculum that I have developed to follow the plot of the film. Accompanied by eager mentor, Dollar Mouse, Lenny meets presidential eyebrow-eagle, ?Nixin,? soars with inflated floating currency, and nearly drowns in an ocean of green liquidity before washing onshore at the very heart of Centralia?s dysfunctional financial system: The Stock Market Circus. Here, elephantine banks balance playfully on teetering towers of plastic cards (loans) while acrobatic stock traders walk the tightrope without a safety net. Lenny becomes the unwitting guest star of the credit bacchanalia, until he discovers the sobering truth of what the terms of that Lifetime Loan really mean, and what Dollar Mouse really represents. Then he must help his fellow Centralians finally confront the verminous consequences of their economy built on debt. The strong characters drive the story to its uplifting final chapter, where together they explore some possible solutions to their (and our) financial quandaries. At its core, the most basic message of Blind Mice Bluff is a call for neighborly compassion in difficult times, which gives the story a timeless quality that extends beyond any topical news item.

Because of its universal subject matter and whimsical Dr. Seuss-like atmosphere, the story of Blind Mice Bluff has wide marketing and distribution potential. Although Centralia most closely resembles the United States, the general fantasy nature of the narrative opens the film to a wider audience, especially in places like Europe, where many of the key economic issues (like looming defaults) are the same. Beyond its life as a film, my story is also adaptable to other formats, such as illustrated books (also mobile book app) and creative, funny live shows with the film projected in segments with puppet commentary in between (along the lines of MST3K). The film would also be easy to adapt to an interactive medium, with one-click pop-up text that pauses the story and explains the on-screen narrative by illuminating the key facts underlying it. This type of presentation would make the story more accessible to special needs students and anyone who might find it more beneficial to take in the story a piece at a time. This overall adaptive flexibility makes the film suitable for multiple distribution channels, such as the Apple App Store (as interactive mobile app), Kindle Store (as a book), Web viewing (as a website), and even tours to schools and other public venues for live performances. Thus far, my family and I have kick-started the film with funding for animation equipment and the contract for some top-tier musical talent as composer (yet another incentive to do live performances); I am now fundraising to hire acting talent and get the sound recorded so that animation can begin! I view the completion of this project as the service that I can do for my country and for my neighbors worldwide at this critical juncture in our shared economic history. It is important to target a young audience just ready to cast their first ballot because we will all live with the fruit of the lessons they?ve learned (or not) for half a century or more from now.
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SKU SKU17720
 
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