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35 Animated Shorts to Explore, Ponder, Ignore, or Enjoy*

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35 Animated Shorts to Explore, Ponder, Ignore, or Enjoy*

***This article originally appeared in the 35th Anniversary Issue of Animation Magazine (June-July ’22, No. 321)***

Alright, so here’s my list (not really in any order, and I recognize that it’s a lot of late 20th century and early 21st century stuff) of 35 animation shorts that have resonated with my internal demon more than others:

  1. Crossing the Stream (Skip Battaglia, U.S., 2006). A man takes his horse across a stream. A magnificent, mind-blowing evocation of movement and spirituality.

    Crossing the Stream

    Crossing the Stream

  2. I Am So Proud of You (Don Hertzfeldt, U.S., 2008). A hilarious, profound and deeply troubling work that puts us firmly in the shoes of a conflicted and sick man as he drifts through the fragments of his past and present.

    I Am So Proud of You

    I Am So Proud of You

  3. 1895 (Priit Pärn & Janno Põldma, Estonia, 1995). How does Pärn celebrate the centenary of cinema? By deconstructing and ridiculing it, Pärn uses the journey of Jean-Paul to show how cinema has impacted our perceptions of history, nationality, and identity. It’s hilarious, overwhelming, and clever.
  4. Jukebox (Run Wrake, U.K., 1994). A stream-of-consciousness masterpiece littered with wild beats (including bits of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up”) and an array of looped, drawn and collaged imagery that ranges from the surreal to pop culture.

    Jukebox

    Jukebox

  5. Crazy Mixed-Up Pup (Tex Avery, U.S., 1955). It’s Avery’s fish-slapping dance, an utterly manic piece of nonsense about a world thrown into chaos as the participants defiantly struggle to maintain order.

    Crazy Mixed-Up Pup

    Crazy Mixed-Up Pup

  6. Bimbo’s Initiation (Dave Fleischer, U.S., 1931). In a godless world, you make up the meaning. You get to decide who you are and what you want.
  7. Git Gob (Philip Eddolls, Canada, 2009). All you need to know about life, and about the (ur) stuff of the universe, is right here.
  8. Mouseholes (Helen Hill, Canada, 1999). The late Helen Hill’s raw, real, and moving tribute to her grandfather. One of the most unpretentious and humane animated films.
  9. We Lived in Grass (Andreas Hykade, Germany, 1995). A harrowing, mature coming-of-age tale about masculinity in crisis.
  10. Yield (Caleb Wood, U.S., 2014). A slew of images of roadkill race by at random until they reach a magical point where – if you look closely – the carcasses appear to claw, walk, and run towards rebirth… until a final shocking image puts a halt to any and all dreams of immortality.
  11. Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day! (Christian Larrave, U.S., 2014). A wonderfully dark and demented piece of silliness that nails the often hilarious, surreal and hyper-violent world of children’s drawings/creations.

    Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day!

    Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day!

  12. The Hat (Michèle Cournoyer, Canada, 2001). An exotic dancer remembers a childhood of sexual abuse. One of the most important and uncompromising films to emerge from the National Film Board of Canada.
  13. Teat Beat of Sex (Signe Baumane, U.S., 2008). A very intimate, raunchy, hilarious and personal depiction of various aspects of sex from a female perspective.

    Teat Beat of Sex

    Teat Beat of Sex

  14. Koko (George Griffin, U.S., 1988). Using a 1945 Charlie Parker song, Griffin greets us with a dizzying dance of torn Pop Art images. Shreds of consumer culture flash before us, swayed and absorbed by the tempo and power of Parker’s horn.
  15. Revolver (FilmTecknarna Studio, Sweden, 1993). Composed of a series of disparate, repeated images that flow to the rhythm of a nightmare. It can be read in a variety of ways or merely savored for its formal, aural, and graphic beauty.
  16. Son of Satan (J.J. Villard, U.S., 2003). A raw, urgent and ugly howl against the pain of abuse, bullying and the cyclical nature of violence.

    Son of Satan

    Son of Satan

  17. Girls Night Out (Joanna Quinn, U.K., 1989). Quinn’s rough, almost punkish drawings aptly capture this unharnessed celebration of female desire.

    Girls Night Out

    Girls Night Out

  18. Marcel, King of Tervuren (Tom Schroeder, U.S./Belgium, 2013). Based on a true story about a neighborhood rooster, Marcel is an existential tale of survival, perseverance, betrayal and mortality. Using a beautiful, energetic, and freewheeling abstract painting style along with rotoscoped sequences — Schroeder precisely captures the chaos, uncertainty and violence of Marcel’s daily existence.
  19. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (Phil Mulloy, U.K., 1995). Part of a series (The Ten Commandments) of blistering satirical attacks on socio-cultural and religious absurdities and hypocrisies. Some of you will be offended, but that’s okay. The world needs more Mulloy.
  20. Please Say Something (David OReilly, U.K., 2009). Takes a video game aesthetic and a cat-and-mouse story and squeezes them into a fresh and thought-juicing narrative anti-narrative (or is that an anti-narrative narrative?).

    Please Say Something

    Please Say Something

  21. The Little Cow (Igor Lazin, Hungary, 2001). A cow sits in a tree singing about being a cow sitting in a tree. A wonderfully simple and silly ode to life and embracing the moment.
  22. Solar Walk (Réka Bucsi, Hungary, 2018). A mystical, languid and visually scrumptious journey through the solar system that touches upon the notion of embracing the inherent beauty of chaos.
  23. The Red Book (Janie Geiser, U.S., 1994). A dreamy cut-out film noir that explores memory and language from the perspective of a woman with amnesia.
  24. Feeling My Way (Jonathan Hodgson, U.K., 1997). On the surface, it’s just about a guy walking to a friend’s house, but in Hodgson’s deft mind, it becomes a portrait of our congested conscious and unconscious mind as a jam of thoughts, feelings, observations, distractions, judgment and worries, all dance together for a split second of acknowledgement.

    Solar Walk

    Solar Walk

  25. The Wrong Trousers (Nick Park, U.K., 1993). Classic comedy characters, inventive scenarios, and impeccable timing. Has there been a better villain than Feathers McGraw in cinema history?

    The Wrong Trousers

    The Wrong Trousers

  26. Crossroads (Raimund Krumme, Germany, 1991). Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton all rolled into seven minutes of playful, minimalist goodness.
  27. Nighthawk (Špela Čadež, Slovenia, 2016). A blunt, tragic-comic depiction of a boozy badger on a blurry drive through darkened streets.
  28. Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor” (Koji Yamamura, Japan, 2007). A burned-out and cynical doctor has lost faith in the world and in himself. Existence has overwhelmed him. No longer busy being born, the old doctor is too busy dying. Breathtaking visuals and animation.
  29. Carnival of Animals (Michaela Pavlátová, Czech Republic, 2006). One of Pavlátová’s most accomplished and joyous films. An all-out celebration of sex and desire in all its bizarre, ugly, awkward, frivolous and violent forms. Pavlátová transports us to places real, imagined and dreamed of; a world that could only be revealed through animation.
  30. Andrei Svislotsky (Igor Kovalyov, Russia, 1991). Set in Kovalyov’s childhood summer home of Bucha, the film is an ode to the sights and sounds of childhood and a mysterious adult world. Kovalyov presents the story through a series of fragmented and faded polaroids of human activity.
  31. (Tie) We Can’t Live without Cosmos (2014) and At the Ends of the Earth (1999) (Konstantin Bronzit, Russia). I just can’t decide between these two Bronzit pieces. At the Ends of the Earth is an impeccably timed comedy about an old Russian couple living with their cat, dog and cow in a small house that just happens to be located on the tip of a big mountain. Meanwhile, Cosmos is a simple, understated and finely-tuned work of beauty that seamlessly blends comedy and tragedy.

    We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

    We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

  32. Unity (Tobias Stretch, U.S., 2014). After a transient man appears to die outside an abandoned shack on a beautiful fall day, a trio of otherworldly figures appear and initiate a sort of ritualized dance of reclamation and regeneration. An extraordinary piece of magic. A marvel of technique, sound and concept that’s equally mystifying and inspiring.
  33. Impossible Figures and Other Stories II (Marta Pajek, Poland, 2015). A mesmerizing work about a woman who has been sleepwalking through existence. This is a painful, awkward, but ultimately hopeful work about self-awareness and self-control. Pajek’s economic, often bleached-like drawings (not to forget the deliciously haunting Michelle Gurevich song, “I’ll Be Your Woman”) capture this fragile battle between consciousness and obliviousness.
  34. The Datum Point (Ryo Orikasa, Japan, 2015). This calm, Zen-inspired clay animation beauty captures the serenity of the sea, the soothing rush of the waves and the Heraclitian reminder that all is in motion, never the same. This is a work of art that you feel, not analyze. It’s like having a meditation session in the cinema.
  35. Lipsett Diaries (Theodore Ushev, Canada, 2010). This is a completely unbiased choice. Really. OK, maybe not. [Editor’s note: Chris wrote this powerful short about the tortured life of a Canadian experimental filmmaker who died of suicide in 1986.]
  36. And come on, this is so unfair … so here’s a few other films that I love but can’t fit:
    Broken Down Film (Osamu Tezuka, Japan, 1985)
    Hilary (Anthony Hodgson, U.K., 1995)
    The Flying Sailor (Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby, 2022)
    The Jaywalker (Robert Cannon, U.S., 1956)
    The Emperor (Lizzy Hobbs, U.K., 2001)

*By the time you’ve reached this part, I’ve likely already changed my mind about the choices. To be fair, it’s like trying to pick Canada’s Olympic team for hockey. We have so many great players that they could create three competitive teams.

Chris Robinson is the artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Among his many books are Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy, Unsung Heroes of Animation, Canadian Animation: Looking for a Place to Happen and Mad-Eyed Misfits: Writing on Indie Animation. Robinson also wrote the award-winning animated short, Lipsett Diaries (2010). He is currently working with German artist Andreas Hykade on My Balls Are Killing Me, a graphic novel about his experience with cancer.

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