My concentration on the Oscars each year is focused in one section primarily, the animated shorts. While I tend to only concern myself with the five nominated features I have in the past also made an effort to check out the short listed films as well, sometimes the best film isn’t exactly the ones that got nominated. That is not the case this year, but all of the short listed films that did receive a nomination this year deserve notice and recognition.
This category has been a part of the Academy since the fifth incarnation of the awards ceremony, but for many of those years the field was dominated by Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM. In the 60’s a change began as foreign works began to be nominated as well smaller productions. In 1974 when the award officially became Short Films (Animated Films), known before as Short Subjects (Cartoons) it also took a special change as that year Will Vinton won with the very psychedelic Closed Mondays that he animated with Bob Gardiner. It was not the first time an unusual or abstract toon had won the award, in 1965, a very simplistic The Dot and The Line took home the award and two years prior the similar in animation style The Critic and even going back to 1959’s Moonbird, an abstraction of style based on a radio recording. The win of Will Vinton though would usher in a whole new field to award, which would embrace all kinds of animation. Pixar’s second film Luxo Jr. was also its first nominated and its fourth Tin Toy was its first win in 1988, its 5th and 6th shorts would also win in 1997 and 2000. Amazingly they have not won the award since, but have had a short up for nomination in every year they produced one theatrically since, except for 2009 when Partly Cloudy got nodded out. That push outprobably came from the nomination of the most recent at the time Wallace & Gromit short b y Nick Park, 3 time winner of this award with 2 other nominations.
Throughout 2000-2010 there has been everything in the nominations from CGI to traditional animation. Claymation, conceptual, new technology, it has run the gamut and from every conceivable country. Before breaking into this year’s nominees for the 84th Ceremony I’ll be quickly listing some of my personal favorites, with some information and links to a trailer, official website or the ability to see the cartoon yourself (in some cases all). These have been either winners or nominees and nothing unlisted is meant as a snub. These are just my personal aesthetics.
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello: Presented to be the first chapter to a long reaching four episode arc that would also include a feature film, the project has seemed to stop at this short. A combination of hi definition vehicles & backgrounds and shadow style minimalist animation with stark design & flourish combined with amazing story telling made it quite a joy. There is a DVD version available with many extras, but fortunately there is also a lower quality edition available for viewing on Youtube.
OKTAPODI: A production out of Gobelins L’Ecole de L’Image, this a simple love story about two octopus or possibly squids done in CGI that was one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever seen and to know it was was developed by people who at the time were still “students” amazes me.
Strange Invaders: Cordell Barker is easily one of the funniest animators to ever create. A two time academy award winner, first in 1988 with The Cat Came Back and again with this, there is something quite infectious about his work. It is a very gruff art style indeed, but undeniable in its quality.
Granny Ogrimm’s Sleeping Beauty: Based on the comedy of Irish stand-up Kathleen O’Rourke who voiced the titular character, this maniacally hilarious short is simple and sweet… well not sweet exactly and comb. It combined CGI with a storybook like flat animation for an amazing look.
Logorama: One of the most intriguing pieces to not only be nominated but win this award, the incorporation of quality music and story is what makes what could be what a design student made as a thesis into high quality art created by a masterful studio.
The Lost Thing: Last year’s winner shows what can truly be achieved with the short film animation format, narrated by comedy musician Tim Minchin it tells a fairly “large” story adapting a children’s book that is not so simple.
Short Listed for 2011/84 Academy Awards
Cul de Bouteille: This magical adventure uses traditional animation with a very sketch-like style to tell a fantastic little tale. It is a darling French toon and worth seeing if you find it.
Paths of Hate: Looking almost like a Motion Comic and/or Animatic this very charged action short shows how violent and atrocious war can truly be.
Magic Piano: This short was developed by the team behind award winning Peter & The Wolf as a commission to Chopin’s birthday and was used for the The Flying Machine, a feature film which the team worked on as well, staring Heather Graham. As the film is more a collection of shorts combined into a feature to display famed pianist Ling Ling performing Chopin I don’t think it’ll make it to America outside of arthouses and maybe a DVD, but one can hope. Although as the short didn’t make final nominees possibly not.
Lumaris: This is a very different kind of animation. I didn’t get to see the entire thing , but it is very intriguing in its style, although I feel it belongs more in Live Action even if it is a type of animation, using real photographs of humans for stop motion is an original way to create.
I Tawt I Taw Puddy Tat: A new high quality CGI animation over Mel Blac’s 1950 recording of the hilarious composition. One is planned for Daffy’s Rhapsody as well, although who knows with not getting an Oscar nod here. I have to assume shortlisting is enough merit to continue a project for a major studio.
Nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Short Films (Animated)
Daminche/Sunday: Simply animated with nothing but grunts this feels like a vaudevillian silent film. A very small story about an average Sunday that turns out to be nothing but ordinary for one young man. Animator Patrick Doyon previously worked on the program Station X and has a background in illustration.
Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore: The first work from acclaimed storyteller and academy award winner William Joyce’s new production company Moonbot Studios is an amazing piece of animation, and equally as a film itself. Mesmerizing in tone, scope and concept, it is easily my personal favorite of the category that I have been able to see in full. The entire making of is really worth seeing as well.
A Morning Stroll: I haven’t been able to see this one, just a very short trailer and some screen shots, but it looks impressive and a combines all the talents of director Grant Orchard with minimalism, illustration and CGI.
Wild Life: This painted style animation tells the story of a young British early 1900’s America Canada. It was directed and animated by Amanda Forbus & Wendy Tilby who have previously been nominated for the award.
Pixar’s La Luna: The one that most won’t see till it officially premieres with BRAVE, but did show at some theatre in 2011 to be submitted for nomination. I am excited for this one as it was designed and directed by Enrico Casarosa, whom I became a fan of through his comics work published in FLIGHT. I’d only hope for La Luna to win so that folks like Enrico can make more shorts and possibly Scott Morse will be able to do an original short of his own conception as well.
Interesting side note: Two of the nominated shorts feature a Pork pie hat and in one the hat is an important player like in old silent films (mostly because the lead character is based on Buster Keaton).
In 1996 all four of the nominated films were of extremely different conceptual styles and innovations in animation in abstract, claymation and CGI.
They were as follows:
Quest: A very abstract puppetry, written and produced by Thomas Stelbach and directed by Tyron Montgomery. Stelback now works in commercial films throughout Germany and Montgomery works in visual effects.
CanHead: Stop motion animation by Tim Hittle which at the time used innovative new techniques in filiming and developing. He is currently an animator at Pixar.
La Salla: A computer generated animation by Richard Condie, it was the long time traditional abstract comedian’s first CGI toon.
Wat’s Pig: Claymation by Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman, home to Nick Park’s works. There is a high quality built for full screen viewing available on iTunes.