An Animated Dissection: The 5 nominees for Best Animated Short Subject
When it comes to The Academy Awards, one of the categories that would often pass by in a flash but intrigue me at times, was the one featuring animated shorts. Sometimes they’d show a few seconds worth of clips, leaving me wondering what some of the images meant, but pretty sure there was little chance I’d know just what I had witnessed…but that was back in the 1990’s, in the state of Iowa.
Nowadays, one can find almost all of the past nominated shorts online, and some have definitely stuck with me for what they could tell in such a short amount of time. This year, I attended a screening with a friend, in which the latest round of nominated shorts, was screened at a local theater. I thought I’d say a few things about them in my weekly blog post.
Me and My Moulton
The middle child in a family whose parents are architects, shares her thoughts about growing up, and the shared dream she and her sisters had, of one day having a bicycle of their own.
A Norwegian/Canadian co-production, the simplicity of the art style definitely makes it intriguing. The narrator and her sisters are designated by numbers on their dresses, with us soon knowing that our narrator is the middle (‘2’) sister.
The story also deals with the narrator feeling sad that her family is not like one near them, that seems relatively normal. As well, her father is the only man in town…with a mustache!
The short serves as a simple remembrance, both in its style, and the narrative. The narrator does make the story funny in places with her characterization of family members, including one strange reason her Grandmother gives, regarding why one should fold their clothes neatly. It’s a slice-of-life story, that has a few things that most people can relate to.
The Short chronicles a puppy who is taken in by a kindly owner, and his life as seen through the numerous meals he is fed.
This is probably the only nominated short the majority of Americans have seen, as it played before Big Hero 6 this past winter. Using their computing power to make the story seem as simple as possible, Feast’s visual stylings are reminiscent of those in their award-wining short Paperman, from a few years ago.
The star of the short is the little dog named Winston, who continues a grand tradition of Disney giving us some of the most adorable, and animated canine stars there is. One of my favorite expressions is when Winston samples bacon for the first time…and the animators get this split-second expression of ‘bliss’ to register on his little face. Keeping much of the focus on Winston, helps make an intimate story, while giving us hints at a bigger picture of what Winston is a part of.
The Bigger Picture
The less-successful of two brothers, attempts to look after his elderly mother, while it seems his more successful brother is seen as the better of the two.
Of all the shorts, this is the one that is the most serious, but also looks to have been the most time-consuming. Characters seem flat against the walls of the rooms they are in, but their arms extend out into three-dimensional space. One would assume this was all done in a computer, or in a miniature, but there are pictures online showing them making this picture…such as this image, showing the full-size set!
Bigger Picture is definitely the more grown-up of the pieces included here. There’s not a lot of joy in the piece, but it definitely got me where it counted.
A Single Life
Clocking in at just under 2 minutes, the short finds a woman receiving a record, titled “A Single Life.” Putting it on her turntable, she is surprised to find, that it has the ability to shift her through time!
Once the action ramps up, much of the camera stays static, with the small movements within the frame drawing our attention to the young woman’s time predicaments.
Definitely one of the tightest of the short-subjects. This could probably have been milked out to double its length, but comedy can often come from the most simple things (take the Fantasia 2000 segment revolving around The Carnival of the Animals, that also clocks in under 2 minutes!). As well, the quickness of the time-jumps, also reminded me of the Scrat-based short from Blue Sky Studios, titled No Time For Nuts.
One of the funniest little gags, is the author of the book the single woman has on her fireplace. I think my own love of time-travel, helped me really get into this one.
The Dam Keeper
A bullied pig-child, is in charge of running a local windmill, that overlooks a town populated by animals. His days at school are filled with tauntings and teasings by his classmates, until a fox-child comes to the school.
Watching the short, I was surprised how much emotion and heart it had in it. The short looks just like a children’s book come to life, but full of the ups and downs of emotion that I strive to find in anything I watch. As well, the use of color is almost pastel in nature, which I have often loved (pity chalk pastels are so messy, or I’d use them).
The first time one watches it, the opening narration can seem a little jarring, but I think the more you see it, the narration becomes more natural, and understanding.
At 18 minutes long, Dam Keeper is the longest of the nominees.
Who do I think should win?
All of the shorts have their moments that definitely hit emotional nerves within me. Though I didn’t have architects for parents, the wanting to be “normal” I could relate to in Moulton. The emotional expression of the dog Winston in Feast shows the Disney Studios’ continued excellence in giving us proper “animated puppy love.” The Bigger Picture deals with that often-ignored issue of hitting your mid-years, and wondering about that stretch of life that leads on to the end of the road. A Single Life is a time-based romp that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The Dam Keeper, starts out vague, but slowly opens your eyes to its story, and a journey that you aren’t quite prepared for.
And my choice for who should win is:
The Dam Keeper
The short’s directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, are former employees of PIXAR Animation Studios, which I feel definitely helped in making the emotions flow into this piece. I had heard about Dice working on a personal project a little while ago, and here it is!
Kondo and Tsutsumi have channeled a story that I think many can relate to, and also, gives light to how oftentimes, creativity can help bridge barriers. As well, it shows that a little kindness can often help in the darkest of times.
This 3-month experiment that culminated in their collaboration, could potentially lead to other things, and I do hope their relationship can bring about more short subjects that are as creative, and heartfelt, as The Dam Keeper.
Even at 18 minutes, it felt like the story only took up half of that time. As Roger Ebert once said: “No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.”