With the incredible wealth of animated short films of all genres and techniques which have emerged to delight audiences across the globe in the last year, we didn’t envy the Academy’s task of narrowing down the 56 qualifiers to this 10-film short list…and while the eventual nominees announcement on January 15 will leave us all with equal feelings of elation (So deserved!) and despondence (But they so deserved it!), we know by the time the ceremony kicks off on February 24 whoever takes home the statuette will have duly earned the honor. Here’s our annual rundown on the stiff competition:
Adam and Dog
Director: Minkyu Lee
Studio: Lodge Films
Synopsis: This Genesis-themed short explores the age old friendship between man and man’s best friend, as well as the beauty, idealism and simplicity of the fabled origins of life in a tranquil Eden.
Background: This labor of love crafted frame by frame by a team of Lee’s (a visual development artist at Disney) dedicated friends/cohorts in TVPaint was aided by the enthusiastic guidance of Mouse House legend Glen Keane and serves as a reminder of the soft sumptuousness that ol’ “out-dated” 2D technique can attain–and beating out big studio toons for last year’s Best Short Annie Award ain’t too shabby, either.
Combustible [Hi no Youjin]
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Studio: Sunrise Inc. [Japan]
Synopsis: The age-old tale of star-crossed lovers is given a new twist in this film set in 18th century Edo Period Japan, which follows Owaka, the daughter of a wealthy merchant torn by her love for her childhood friend whom she must avoid due to class differences in a drama unfurling against the backdrop of one of the terrible fires which ravaged the ancient capital at the time.
Background: Praised throughout the animation community, legendary Akira director Otomo’s latest effort–part of an omnibus feature titled Short Peace–has been enthusiastically welcomed by audiences and aficionados around the world drawn as if by magic into the 300-years-past world Otomo and his team have crafted using a unique blend of 2D and computer techniques. Last month, the short picked up Japan’s Media Arts Award for Best Animated Short.
Director: Léo Verrier
Studio: ChezEddy [France]
Synopsis: The short tells the odd yet oddly relatable (metaphorically, bear with us) tale of a man obsessed with the ecstasy he feels after literally consuming a great work of art, and the peril emerging as his stolen treats lead to a dwindling resource of genius pieces.
Background: This loving if odd ode to the works of Jackson Pollack–and much of both art and cartoon history–blends techniques the way it blends the genres of exalted artwork represented. Lauded for its worthy design efforts, the short has taken home honors at the Sitges, Nashville, Cleveland and Krok fests.
The Eagleman Stag
Director: Mikey Please
Studio: Royal College of Art [U.K.]
Synopsis: This intriguing tale focuses on a man battling with his quickening perception of time and his battle to counteract it, putting the director’s unique spin on the value of time–exploring the idea that as your past gets larger, your present seems shorter.
Background: Please’s darkly comedic stop-motion thesis film was crafted with the help of his brother Benedict who crafted the music and sound design and cult actor David Cann (Brass Eye) who provided his vocal talents–for this painstakingly crafted monochrome effort, Please was rewarded with a BAFTA prize in 2011.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Director: Raul Garcia; producer Stephen Roelants
Studios: Melusine Productions, R&R Communications Inc., Les Armateurs, The Big Farm [France, Spain, Belgium]
Synopsis: Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting words come to animated life in this story of a once proud family’s decay into ill health and madness … though the line between insanity and supernatural is blurred in this disturbing tale, narrated by Christopher Lee.
Background: Following the success of his first Poe themed short, The Tell-Tale Heart, Garcia is steadily amassing his planned many-hued adaptations of the great writer’s stories–this take is done in gothic infused CG tones.
Director: PES (Adam Pesapane)
Studio: Animation by PES and Dillon Markey
Synopsis: This delectable short guides audiences through a vibrant, colorful and unexpected recipe for cooking up the perfect batch of the Mexican green cuisine.
Background: Long known and lauded for his ability to blend spot-on stop-motion techniques with a unique viewpoint on the seemingly everyday, PES’s latest effort which replaces edible goods with visually similar objects was commissioned by Showtime as a follow-up to Western Spaghetti and went on to wow the festival circuit with its zesty charms.
Head Over Heels
Director: Timothy Reckart; producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Studio: National Film and Television School [U.K.]
Synopsis: The natural drift that occurs in long-term relationships and opposing points of view within a marriage are reimagined quite literally in this short about a couple that legitimately can’t agree which way is up.
Background: This stop-motion animated student short, which Reckart crafted with the help of an 11 student crew over the course of 14 months, has been garnering acclaim at festivals around the world with its comical exaggeration and tender handling of the issues explored and taken home prizes at the Galway, Hiroshima, Anima Mundi events.
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Director: David Silverman
Studios: Gracie Films, Film Roman
Synopsis: When Maggie is dropped off at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, she must outwit and out-toddle her smash-happy nemesis Baby Gerald in order to protect the one beacon of beauty and freedom in her dreary daycare: a lovely blue butterfly.
Background: See our story in this issue on page XX.
Director: John Kahrs
Studio: Walt Disney Animation
Synopsis: Set in 1940s Manhattan, this short explores the potential of chance encounters and the anxiety of missed opportunities as a young man is set on–and aided in–a romantic mission by windswept pieces of paper.
Background: Kahrs first came up with his concept while working at Blue Sky Studios–but it took the experience of working with 2D legend Glen Keane on 3D effort Tangled and the ingenuity of the Disney tech team, which developed a new CG/2D hybrid software called Meander for this effort, to bring his ideal aesthetic to life. The film premiered to raves at Annecy and went on to screen ahead of Wreck-It Ralph.
Director: Michaela Pavlátová; producer Ron Dyens
Studios: Sacrebleu Productions, Negativ [Czech Rep., France]
Synopsis: Pavlátová’s erotically charged film focuses on a tram driver whose sexual fantasies begin to sync and intensify to the rhythms of her vehicular routine.
Background: Bred out of the search for inspiration for a collaborative effort among women animators to explore feminine views of sexuality (“Sexperience”), the 2D short’s blend of humor and sensuality, coupled with an approachably cute aesthetic contrasting its sexy theme earned Pavlátová the Annecy Crystal last year among other honors.