Featuring that perennial stalker of the genre, the buzzard.

My favorite character in any western is the buzzard. Yeah, I’m talking about that bald-headed bird of prey that always seems to circling overhead or perched nearby when death is afoot. I like the disposition of the buzzard, that of a casual scavenger, of an almost debonair denizen of carrion. The buzzard is completely at peace with its place in the world, it is comfortable in its own feathers, and it doesn’t need to be gregarious or brazen; death, after all, never gets scarce. Comedic, dramatic, sardonic, symbolic: the buzzard has it all.

Maybe that’s why animator David de Rooij chose the buzzard for the subject of his short film Bird of Prey, a quick little western that stars two gunslingers about to draw on each other and the buzzard that hangs out in the tree between them, waiting to feast on the entrails of the loser. Acting as an odds-maker, the buzzard sums up the two contestants and makes his prediction by leaping from branch to branch, closer to the one he reckons will be his meal. Of course, there’s a bit of a twist to the ending that I’ll leave for you to discover, but by way of recommendation let me just say de Rooij’s work here – the animation, the storyline, the characterization – is so classic and reminiscent of the work of Chuck Jones, the legendary Looney Tunes animator, that I honestly felt like a kid again watching this. Charming, chuckle-inducing, smart, wily, and just good clean fun, Bird of Prey is a nice dash of comforting nostalgia in a week that could use one. Enjoy.

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