It’s time, once again, for the “Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films”. For the 4th straight year I’m fortunate enough to have a local theater screening the shorts. This year’s group includes some familiar faces and studios, which makes it a bit challenging to pick-out the one that will win on Oscar Night. However, this year, for me, only one really stands out.
Traditionally with the Animated Shorts program the films are shown back-to-back with nothing in between. But this year, last year’s winners in the category: veteran animators William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”, host the event and share insights and personal stories in between each of the shorts. They discuss what it’s was like on Oscar night, how hard it is to pitch an idea to the studio executives (esp. for DreamWorks’ 2012 feature “Rise of the Guardians”; Joyce wrote the books the film is based on) and their love for animation. This is a great edition to the shorts screening and hopefully becomes an every year event.
Now – my thoughts on the animated shorts themselves, in what will be remembered as “The Year of No Dialogue”. Only one short (“The Gruffalo’s Child”) features regular talking characters:
“Adam and Dog” – Hand-drawn Oscar frontrunner that puts a slight spin on the biblical “Adam and Eve” story. Before Eve entered Adam’s life, he interacted with a loyal dog. The watercolor backgrounds are gorgeous and the characters are solid. An emotional story that works for the most part. A little long, but is deeper and more impactful than most of the others. B
“Fresh Guacamole” – Believe it or not, this short is animated. It’s also only 2 minutes long but very creative. It’s mostly an exercise in animation, with a little humor thrown in. B
“Head Over Heels” – Uses classic stop-motion claymation to tell the story of an older couple with a marriage literally turned upside down. Looks nice and initially inventive, but the story gets tiresome midway through. The ending is kinda sweet, but not enough to save it. C
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'” – The first
“Simpsons” short on the big screen was originally seen before “Ice Age: Continental
Drift”. Maggie goes to a day care center and faces off against her arch
nemesis over a butterfly. It’s funny and has a great pay-off at the
end. Still my favorite of the nominees. A-
“Paperman” – Disney’s black and white short, which was shown in theaters before “Wreck-It Ralph”, combines hand-drawn and CGI animation. As I mentioned in my “Ralph” review, I love the first half. But after a key pause in the story, it seems that the writers couldn’t come-up with a way to end a promising love story. Beautiful animation and score, but the ending is a major disappointment. C+
“Abiogenesis” – This five-minute short is about a machine that goes to a distant planet and begins to grow. Flawless computer animation makes this interesting to watch, but there’s really point to it. B-
“Dripped” – Has the best first minute of all the 2012 shorts, as a clever art thief escapes from a museum. Then it turns into a wacky story about why he steals the paintings: to eat them! Fun animation style and clearly the creators put in a lot of effort. But it’s way too off-beat and deep for my liking. C
“The Gruffalo’s Child” – Sequel to 2011 nominee “The Gruffalo”. Basically the same story as the original, except the focus is on the Gruffalo’s daughter as she goes on an adventure in the woods. The outstanding animation and all-star voice cast are on par with the original (and its length: 27 minutes), but after #1 there was no reason to make #2, let along watch it. C+
“Adam and Dog” – There’s a chance that either “Maggie Simpson” or “Paperman” will take the prize. However, I don’t think the Academy will go for something as mainstream as “The Simpsons” (the 2007 movie wasn’t nominated for Animated Feature). And even though “Paperman” won the Annie Award in this category, I don’t believe the Academy will award the same studio for both Best Animated Film (“Ralph”) and Best Animated Short. “Adam and Dog” has the story and emotional impact that screams Oscar. Or, it could be too religious. In that case “Paperman” wins.