Based on the comic strip by Fabio Coala, director Jacob Frey adds an almost Pixar twist to the famed strip about a boy and his dog, injecting so much more emotion and a touching final scene. If the original comic weren’t bittersweet enough, “The Present” realizes the concept for a full fledged animated short that deserves a feature film. Jake is a boy who spends most of his time in doors playing video games and avoiding the outside world. One day after work his mom comes home with a present, and Jake is elated to see it’s a puppy. Initially surprised, he’s disappointed when he notices the pup only has three legs.
Rejecting it wholeheartedly, he soon realizes the dog has no idea of the rejection he’s just received, and may not even care that Jake doesn’t really want him. As Jake tries hard to ignore the pup, he realizes the dog is enjoying his world, and embracing what he’s capable of doing, rather than focusing on the fact that he’s missing a leg. Filled with sheer heart and emotional power, Frey realizes the initial strip with beautiful animation and wonderful voice work, expressing the conflict of emotions by Jake, who coldly pushes the puppy aside and gradually comes to respect, and even adore the puppy.
To the puppy, the missing leg is more a unique element that makes him different and perhaps better. This inspires Jake to embrace his new dog, and come to his own sense of self-realization that brings the entire short film full circle. I admit I’d never read the comic strip before, so sitting through “The Present” really packed a punch for me personally. In a cold and harsh world, it’s nice to see a life affirming short film conveying the message we can find strength in one another, and that being disabled doesn’t make you different. It just makes you one of a kind.