The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed its shortlists for the 94th Academy Awards on December 21, expanding the lineup of Animated Short Film contenders from 10 to 15 titles. The Short Film and Feature Animation Branch selected these semifinalists from 82 qualifying films, which will now vie for five Oscar nomination slots. It’s never an easy task to keep track of all the incredible auteur toons that hit the festival circuit each year, so here is a quick guide to 2021’s fab 15 (in alphabetical order):
Affairs of the Art
U.K. / Canada
Directed by: Joanna Quinn
Produced by: Les Mills, Michael Fukushima (Beryl Productions / NFB)
Synopsis: Beryl’s back in Affairs of the Art, which showcases one family’s eccentric yet endearing obsessions with everything from drawing to screw threads and pet taxidermy.
Awards: Aspen Shortsfest Best Comedy, Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival Special Distinction for Direction, Clermont-Ferrand Best Animation, Kaboom Animation Festival Best Short Film, London Int’l Animation Festival Best British Film, Animasyros Grand Prize
Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice
Directed by: Zacharias Kunuk
Produced by: Jonathan Frantz, Neil Christopher, Nadia Mike, Zacharias Kunuk (Kingulliit Prod. / Taqqut Prod.)
Synopsis: A young shaman must face her first test-a trip underground to visit Kannaaluk, The One Below, who holds the answers to why a community member has become ill.
Awards: Toronto Int’l Film Festival IMDbPRO Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film, Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival FIPRESCI Award, Ottawa Int’l Animation Festival Best Canadian Film
Directed by: Clalude Cloutier
Produced by: Galilé Marion-Gauvin, Julie Roy (NFB)
Synopsis: Bad Seeds takes us to a bizarre world populated by carnivorous plants that can change shapes the way a chameleon changes colors. Cloutier (Carface) deftly connects growth with rivalry and evolution with competition, crafting an increasingly shocking duel that’s peppered with allusions to the western, the Cold War, board games and much more.
Awards: Los Angeles Animation Festival Best of the Fest / Comedy Short Award, Calgary Int’l Film Festival Animated Short Grand Jury Prize, New York City Short Film Festival Best Animation Short Award
Directed by: Hugo Covarrubias
Produced by: Tevo Diaz (Trébol 3)
Synopsis: Inspired by real events, Bestia enters the life of a secret police agent in the military dictatorship in Chile. The relationship with her dog, her body, her fears and frustrations, reveal a macabre fracture in her mind and a country.
Awards: Chilemonos Best Latin American Short, Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival Prix Festivals Connexion, FICG Best Animated Short Film, Anima Cordoba Grand Jury Prize / Best Latin American Animation, BIAF Grand Prize Short Film, PÖFF Shorts Best Short Film
Directed by: Anton Dyakov
Produced by: Aleksandr Boyarskiy, Sergey Selyanov (CTB / Melnitsa Animation Studio)
Synopsis: A delicate ballerina named Olya meets the rough, surly boxer Evgeny. The contrast between their worlds and their philosophies is so sharp that even the possibility of these two characters crossing paths seems incredible. Can they overcome all external influences and allow their fragile, loving souls to step out into the open?
Awards: In the Palace Best Animation Film, SPARK Animation Regular Shorts Award, National Russian Animation Awards for Short Film / Sound Editing / Character / Animator
Directed by: Sandra Desmazières
Produced by: Dora Benousilio, Julie Roy (Les Films de l’Arlequin / NFB)
Synopsis: The story of two sisters separated by the Vietnam War. Thao (15) flees by boat to a refugee camp on the island of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia. Sao Maï (17) stays in Vietnam with her parents. Their separation lasts nearly 20 years, and the letters they exchange are the only way to connect — they write of their everyday lives, their memories, the war and its ghosts.
Awards: LA Shorts Fest Best Animation, Newport Beach Film Festival Jury Award for Best Animated Short, New Chitose Airport Animation Festival Minister for Foreign Affairs Award
Mum Is Pouring Rain
Directed by: Hugo de Faucompret
Produced by: Antoine Liétout, Emmanuèle Petry, Jean-Baptiste Wery, Ivan Zuber (Laïdak Films / Dandelooo)
Synopsis: Jane is looking forward to spending Christmas with her mom, but she is sent unknowingly to her grandma’s instead. The holidays turn out to be quite an adventure as Jane meets new friends: Cloclo, the gigantic hobo who lives in the forest, and Sonia and Leon, two local kids. As she learns to open herself to others, Jane will inspire her mother the necessary strength to get back on her feet.
Awards: FLICKERS Best Short Animation, Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival Best TV Special, ANIMA Cordoba Best Commissioned Animation, Animasyros KIDS Jury Prize, Shanghai Int’l TV Festival Best Animation
Directed by: Reza Riahi
Produced by: Eleanor Coleman (Estrella Prod.)
Synopsis: At the time of the attack of the Mongols, a young musician and the love of his life are separated from each other. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to perform at the castle of the Mongols where his beloved is being held.
Awards: Tribeca Film Festival Best Animated Short, Nashville Film Festival Best Animated Short, Palm Springs ShortFest Best Animated Short Special Jury Award
Directed by: Erick Oh
Produced by: Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee (Baobab Studios)
Synopsis: Namoo (Korean for “Tree”) is a narrative poem inspired by the life of Oh’s grandfather. Following the key moments of one man’s life, the tree starts as a seed and eventually grows into a fully mature tree, collecting meaningful objects that represent positive and painful memories in its branches.
Official Selection: SIGGRAPH VR Theater, SXSW Film Festival, Sundance, Tribeca Festival, HollyShorts
Only A Child
Directed by: Simone Giampaolo
Produced by: Gabriella de Gara, Walter Bortolotti, Silvana Bezzola (Amka Films Prod. / Radio-Televisione Svizzera)
Synopsis: This visual poem created by over 20 animation directors under the artistic supervision of Giampaolo gives shape and color to the original words spoken by Severn Suzuki at the UN Summit in Rio in 1992: a child’s desperate call to action for the future of our planet. An omnibus film celebrating the environmental youth movement 30 years in the making.
Awards: SPARK Animation Best in Show, Los Angeles Animation Festival Best Mixed Media, REGARD Best Children’s Film, ITFS Stuttgart Special Mention
Directed by: Daniel Ojari & Mikey Please
Produced by: Sarah Cox (Aardman Animations / Netflix Animation)
Synopsis: When her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse — but ends up discovering who she really is.
Awards: HCA Film Award Best Short Film nomination
Directed by: Bastien Dubois
Produced by: Bastien Dubois, Simon Pénochet, Amiel Tenenbaum (Blast Prod. / Pictanovo / ARTE France)
Synopsis: Dubois reflects on the years he spent urging his grandfather to share his memories of Algeria’s war for independence — and the uncertainty he begins to feel about exposing the past. Jorge Gonzales designed the film, which was animated by 3.0 Studio (Angoulême) and Train Train (Lille).
Awards: Annie Award for Best Short Subject, ANIMATOR Golden Pegasus, Sundance Film Festival Jury Award for Animation, Clermont-Ferrand Best Animation (National), Seattle Int’l Film Festival Documentary Short Film Award
Step into the River
China / France
Directed by: Weijia Ma
Produced by: Damien Megherbi, Justin Pechberty (Les Valseurs / Vilarejo Filmes)
Synopsis: Lu and Wei live in a village in rural China. They often go to the nearby river to play with their fathers. The river has a special meaning for them, because China’s one-child policy has led to some parents drowning their newborns there.
Awards: Palm Springs ShortFest Best Animated Short, Chicago Int’l Film Festival Silver Hugo, Dreamachine Int’l Film Festival Best Animated Short
Directed by: Zach Parrish
Produced by: Brad Simonsen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Synopsis: Set in a vibrant city pulsating with rhythm and movement, an older man and his young-at-heart wife rekindle their youthful passion for life and each other on one magical night. The years fade away as the joy of dancing propels them across the exciting cityscape of their youth and revives fond memories.
Awards: HCA Film Award Best Short Film nomination
The Windshield Wiper
U.S. / Spain
Directed by: Alberto Mielgo
Produced by: Pinkman.tv / Leo Sanchez Studio
Synopsis: Inside a cafe while smoking a whole pack of cigarettes, a man poses an ambitious question: “What is love?” A collection of vignettes and situations will lead the man to the desired conclusion.
Official Selection: Cannes Directors Fortnight, Valladolid In’tl Film Festival
Nominations voting begins on Thursday, January 27, 2022 and concludes on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
The 94th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood and will be televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide.