This year’s shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film is an esoteric bunch, as always. The spread is international, including work from Japan, France, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom, alongside domestic productions. A number of the directors are relative newcomers, some of them selected for their graduation films. On the other end of the spectrum, a few of these animators have worked on Oscar-nominated films in the past and are veterans of the industry. There’s the usual mix of hand-drawn, CG and stop motion styles, and at least one film that tries blending two of these forms together. If not fully representative of everything going on in the world of animation, the Academy definitely highlights some of the more exciting projects.
Here they are!
Adam and Dog, directed by Minkyu Lee
Minkyu Lee is one of the rising stars on this list, and Adam and Dog has the look of something quite special. The trailer hints at a lush visual style, bringing the Garden of Eden to life for a quiet and playful story.
Combustible, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Otomo is probably the most accomplished filmmaker in the group. Best known in the US for 1988’s anime landmark, Akira, he now spends his time making smaller films and picking up lifetime achievement awards. Unfortunately, a trailer has not been released for Combustible. The story is one of impossible love in 18th century Tokyo, a tale that begins in heartbreak and ends in arson.
Dripped, by Léo Verrier
Dripped is the first of the European contingent in this year’s list, though it is set in 1950s New York City. In this clip we can see Léo Verrier’s use of Gotham’s museums and their inventory as a source of inspiration, bending the rules and adding some magically fluid animation. If nominated, incidentally, this would be the second French animated film about an art thief in as many years to make it (the other being last year’s feature, A Cat in Paris).
The Eagleman Stag, by Mikey Please
This might be the best short of the year. Obviously that’s a ridiculous statement, given the sheer number of shorts and the impossibility of seeing them all, but Mikey Please’s thesis film at the Royal College of Art is extraordinary. It’s akin to an animated Tree of Life with a much less exasperating sense of self, and you can watch it online right now!
The Fall of the House of Usher, by Raul Garcia
Raul Garcia’s name has been attached to an impressive number of strong animated features over the last couple of decades (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius come to mind). His first Edgar Allen Poe adaptation was 2005’s award-winning The Tell Tale Heart, a daring move given the timeless 1953 version. It went well, so let’s see what he can do with this equally famous horror story.
Fresh Guacamole, by PES
PES is the source of some of the best stop motion animation to hit the web, and Fresh Guacamole is one of his best. The use of simple objects to represent food is brilliant, reminiscent of Švankmajer and full of simple fun. Don’t just watch this, head over to the PES YouTube channel and watch the whole lot. Western Spaghetti is just as cool.
Head over Heels, by Timothy Reckart
The idea is an unexpected and creative metaphor, and perfect for stop motion. An aging couple is drifting apart: she lives on the ceiling and he lives on the floor. Timothy Reckart’s execution appears to be top notch, impressive for yet another graduation film.
Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare,’ by David Silverman
David Silverman has been a lead animator on The Simpsons since the very beginning on The Tracey Ullman Show, so it makes sense that he would be asked to helm this short. It played ahead of Ice Age: Continental Drift this summer. One would think it has an advantage simply because it’s a studio short, widely seen because of the attachment to a feature, but that didn’t work for Warner Bros.’s I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat last year. We’ll see what happens.
Paperman, by John Kahrs
Paperman is currently regarded by many as the front-runner to win at this point, though that’s probably because very few critics have seen any of the other shortlisted films. Regardless, it looks pretty intriguing. John Kahrs and his animators used a new method of CG for the short, one which allows the hand-drawn line of the artist to be preserved and given new life over the 3D images.
Tram, by Michaela Pavlátová
Michaela Pavlátová has been here before, nominated for Words, Words, Words back in 1991. Her work is clever and surreal, though grounded well in the imagination of her characters. Tram, “an erotic animation” about the fantasies of a lady bus driver, appears to have a wonderful sense of style. Pavlátová is the only woman director on the shortlist.