1997 short film “Geri's Game” and 1951 mystery story “Fool's Mate”

1997 short film “Geri's Game” and 1951 mystery story “Fool's Mate”

Jul 14, 2015, 12:49 AM |

Pixar's "Geri's Game" won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1997. It was unique at the time for being Pixar's first feature with a human as the main character. 

 The story begins with old fellow Geri happily setting up a chessboard in a park on a sunny autumn day. 

 Chessplayers are never so happy as when they are setting up the board — they are artists at heart, and a new game is a fresh canvas, a blank sheet. Nothing that happens after that is fun — losing is sliding down the edge of a knife, winning is merely a relief.

 Geri owns a very nice set and board, and he even sets it up correctly, which is rare for popular media. Can you imagine the uproar had they done that incorrectly in a short film about a chessplayer?!

 Unfortunately — or maybe on purpose — Geri doesn't have anyone to play with, so he throws out 1. e4, then takes off his glasses. Without his glasses, he totters to the other side of the board, where he is a different person who replies 1...e5! Thank goodness for this. Millions of kids saw chess for the first time because "Geri's Game" was released with "A Bug's Life", and they might've been exposed to that Sicilian nonsense first. 

 The game goes on. Geri has been shambling back and forth the whole time, but once we see hands from both sides of the board. Black is just kicking White's butt. With mate in one in view, White suffers a heart attack and falls out of his chair.

 Black is understandably rattled, but while he looks under the table for his fallen foe, White sneaks up and turns the board around. Black lets this happen, and loses the stake — a set of dentures. The end.

 An amusing little story, a great little animated film, and an acceptable introduction to chess for movie-going kids... Was anyone else (Pixar director Jan Pinkava?) familiar with the 1951 Stanley Ellin story "Fool's Mate" and therefore a bit unnerved?! 

 Appearing in the Nov. 1951 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, "Fool's Mate" is about old retired George (hmmmm), who's in an unhappy marriage. He receives a chess set as a gift, and learns all he can about the game, but his wife won't let him out of the house. So, like Geri, George invents a different side of himself to play the other side of the board. Trbetr'f nygre rtb crefhnqrf Trbetr gb xvyy uvf jvsr. The end.

 After seeing the new Pixar film "Inside Out," I was inspired to watch a DVD collection of Pixar shorts. "Geri's Game" freaks me out every time.