2012 Nominated Animated Short Films
More than any other Academy category, this is the one that I wish had a more access to a mainstream audience. In a world were you can browse and purchase the “Kristen Stewart Collection” on iTunes, you should be able to do the same with any of the below films (All the nominated shorts will open in more than 200 theaters nationwide on February 10 (http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/locations.php) – ed.). In recent years this has become the “Pixar Jr.” category (and there is another entry below), but there’s more to short animation than just the grande dame of CGI.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – 15 Minutes, dir. William Joyce, Brandon Oldenberg
Conceived and co-directed by popular children’s author William Joyce, this film is described in its materials as, “Inspired in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books.” I can’t describe it any better. Put out by Joyce’s Moonbot Studios, it could just as easily have had the Pixar stamp on it, probably due in part to the fact that his concept art went into movies like A Bug’s Life and Toy Story. As a casual animation fan, this entry seemed to have the most well integrated use of different animation styles. It holds tight to cgi, but there’s model work, and even some flipbook. This surrealist tearjerker is my favorite to win for several reasons, not least of which is its popular iPad app. Speaking of which you can actually watch it for free (for now) on iTunes.
La Luna – 7 Minutes, dir. Enrico Casarosa
The official Disney/Pixar entry into this category, this is a cute nugget of a film. While it may not pull at the emotional strings quite as hard as we’ve come to expect from them, it has a sweet family-bonding theme. It feels like someone watched The Little Prince and wanted to give a shortened, preschool, rounded edge feeling to it. If you like kids, the moon, and stars, gather those three things together and download a pirated copy of this potential new Disney classic (please don’t sue me Disney).
A Morning Stroll – 7 Minutes, writer Grant Orchard
Based on “a true story” from The New York Literary Review, this is really the same story told in three different time periods … with a punch line. A Morning Stroll uses computer-generated imagery, but the animation’s appearance changes significantly in each era. His film is artistically clever, has moments of inspired brilliance, and it makes a cute and cogent point with its punch line. This is absolutely worth watching, if you can find it.
Dimanche/Sunday – 9 Minutes, dir. Patrick Doyon
In a lot of ways I feel that this is the true hidden gem in this category. It appears to be animation of a more traditional nature, which means that it’s “flat.” In what appears to be a quirky bit of self-commentary, this is the story of a young boy who likes to flatten coins on train tracks. There are other examples of this story playing with the concept of “flat,” and in less than nine minutes we get a fairly tasty and amusing piece of animated cinema. This one may be hard to find, but it appears to have been released on a Canadian DVD collection called “Animation Express II” … that doesn’t seem to be yet available in the States. Mark my words; this is one to look for.
Wild Life – 14 Minutes, dir. Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby
Also available on the Canadian DVD collection “Animation Express II” this too is film using more traditional 2D style animation. This film also stands apart from the pack, because it’s neither cute, nor overtly humorous. This is a hand drawn film that seems to be examining the nature and life of one man who dared to brave the untamed Canadian west of Calgary in 1909. I wouldn’t call this film inspiring, but it is a fascinating transposition of hand drawn animation, academic definition, and the ungraspable drive of western expansion. In the States we’d call this an examination of “Manifest Destiny” – in Canada they probably call it “Let’s check out over there, eh?”
This will probably never happen, but I imagine a day when the post/pre Oscar celebrity clothing interview shenanigans are drug out into the street and shot. Then these vast wastes of time are replaced with two-to-four-hour long broadcasts of the nominated short docs, films, and animation. If you get a chance to see any of these films, take the opportunity. It’s like watching an episode of The Simpsons, in their heyday, in less than half the time.