Produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1985, The Big Snit is also a strong contender for the most celebrated animated short of all-time upon the subject of nuclear devastation, rivaled only the 1956 film A Short Vision by husband and wife team Peter and Joan Foldes. Acclaimed upon release, it went on to win a multitude of awards, including the Hiroshima Prize at the Hiroshima International Film Festival in 1985, and was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 58th Academy Awards in 1986 but lost out to Børge Ring's Anna and Bella. In addition, Matt Groening has cited the film as the inspiration for the opening scene to The Simpsons episode "Bart The Genius"; in both cases, various character quirks and relationship dynamics are established through a particularly agonising game of scrabble.
The Big Snit sees the impending threat of nuclear war played against the petty squabbles of an anonymous suburban couple who have had their momentary fill of one another's company (cleverly, the title does not make it clear to which "snit" it is referring, although as the short progresses there can be no question as to which of the two conflicts best commands our attention and emotional investment). The wife's habit of detaching her eyeballs from her body and shaking them in order to align her pupils is irritating the snot out of her husband, who in turn has a tendency to saw compulsively at household furniture. He's also not above a bit of foul play in his tactics on the scrabble board. The initial tension between the couple is established entirely through understated means - awkward silences, rattling eyeballs, the futile rearranging of scrabble tiles - to the extent that we're over a minute and a half into the short before any actual dialogue is heard. Having reached an impasse with their game of scrabble, the two decide to take a breather - the wife in order to hoover around the bathroom, and the husband to indulge in a guilty pleasure by watching his favourite show, Sawing For Teens. By the time they return to their game, tensions have merely escalated (not helped by the husband's attempt to take a stealthy peak at his wife's scrabble tiles), with the husband finally reducing his wife to tears by making one angry accusation about her eyeball rattling habit too many.
The Big Snit takes an immensely touching turn in its climax, with the husband looking to make amends with his tearful wife by playing to her on an accordion, a symbol from the early days of their relationship which serves as a wordless reaffirmation of their enduring bond. During the accordion performance and the couple's subsequent reconciliation the commotion outside is completely tuned out, as if anything beyond it ceases to matter. Only when the cat, apparently having had enough of being on the receiving end of so many accidents, motions to be let outside and the husband dutifully reaches for the door knob, does the chaos of the outside world finally permeate the internal world of the household, a few rumbles and an ominous white glow seen through the keyhole indicating that the nuclear missile has landed.
Like When The Wind Blows, The Big Snit focuses extensively upon a single couple in order to emphasise the individual lives affected by global affairs, and in the process reflects much upon what it is to be human, from the individual quirks and habits which can sporadically cause us to lose patience with those closest to us, to the various smaller, everyday pleasures which ultimately make life endurable when so much else lies beyond our control. It is over an entirely frivolous game of scrabble that the occurrences causing the disagreement between the couple are set into motion, and in the same entirely frivolous game of scrabble that the couple find the promise of a new day (albeit no longer in this world), having decided that whatever minor disputes or grievances they might have are simply not worth it in the end.
Availability: Watch The Big Snit on the National Film Board of Canada's website: http://www.nfb.ca/film/big_snit/