Editor’s note: This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Bubbawheat of Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights
From those of you who know me by my website, you know I enjoy me some superhero movies, but what you may not know is that I have just as strong a love for animation. And while I have little interest in the Oscars as a whole, there are two categories I am interested in: Best Animated Feature, and Best Animated Short Film. This year’s batch is interesting for a couple different reasons. One is the wide variety of different animation mediums, and second is that out of all five short films, there is not a single line of dialog. There is also a mix between big studio productions, and smaller independent works. And as of my writing this, they are all available to watch online, though some are only available for a limited time, and one is available through an unofficial source which I won’t be posting here.
First up is Fresh Guacamole by stop motion animator and director who goes by PES. He shot this short film for Showtime as part of their Short Stories series after they enjoyed his first film he did for them called The Deep. This is the shortest out of all of this year’s short films, and it has the least amount of story to it. What it is, however, is a technically excellent exercise in stop motion animation. The “story” behind this short is simply a man making some fresh guacamole, but instead of using regular ingredients, PES substitutes household and other foreign objects that resemble the ingredients, such as using a grenade as an avocado and when he slices it open, there is a small billiard ball in the center substituting for the pit. I do praise this short on the technical level more than anything, because if you compare it to, say the classic music video Sledgehammer it’s amazing how smoothly the animation is on his real life hands. Unfortunately, the lack of any real sort of story hurts this short’s chances at actually winning the award.
Adam and Dog
Next up is Adam and Dog by director Minkyu Lee made completely independently over the course of about 3 years with himself and many of his friends. This is the story of Adam, from the story of creation, and the first dog. It’s done using traditional 2D animation and it is absolutely stunning in many places. The focus is often on the gorgeous backgrounds as there are few close ups, Lee prefers to stick with wide shots to show the smallness of the dog compared to his surroundings. There is a real beauty to the colorful designs and realistic animation of the exotic animals, and I also enjoyed the overall concept showing how a dog is a true friend no matter what happens. This is evident when Adam forgoes the dog in favor of the beautiful Eve. But even after they are cast out of paradise, there is one trusty friend who stays with them. The pacing of this short is very relaxed, and it’s also the longest short at 15 minutes, but the beautiful animation is worth watching, as is the appreciation for keeping traditional animation alive.
Head Over Heels
This is an entry from the National Film and Television School from student director Timothy Reckart. This is the second stop motion animation short and it’s based on the premise of an elderly couple that have grown so far apart that they can’t agree on which way is up, literally. She lives on the ceiling, and he lives on the floor, or vice versa depending on which way you want to look at it. It’s a deceptively simple story with a hint of sci-fi when it’s revealed that the house is flying through some type of space. The idea is very fresh way to look at the rekindling of an old relationship with a resolution that’s very fulfilling. There are also a lot of behind the scenes touches that are both impressive as well as invisible, using digital finishing touches to combine various miniature sets into one complete and seamless set. I think this one is a strong contender both for the technical acheivements, the touching story, as well as the fact that it comes from a student animator.
The Longest Daycare
This is the first entry from a large studio, in this case Fox and the creators of the Simpsons. Specifically director David Silverman along with several other noted writers of the Simpsons. As such, it feels very much like a C story in a regular episode of the Simpsons, similar to the Great Escape daycare sidestory in the episode A Streetcar Named marge, even taking place in the same daycare. This is another more traditional animation, although it was originally presented in 3D when shown before Ice Age 4. I only saw the 2D version though I could tell which segments were intended to show off the 3D. In the story, Maggie tries to protect a caterpillar on its way to becoming a butterfly from being squashed by her archnemesis Gerald, the one eyebrowed baby. It’s filled to the brim with typical visual gags like a group of Raggedy Ayn Rand dolls. The pacing is pretty breakneck as it tears through the story in a short four minutes. The gags were all great, and the surprise ending was a nice touch. I’m a huge fan of the Simpsons and I loved seeing this short, but I think the light comedy of this piece hurts its overall chances at victory.
You can find an unofficial copy of The Longest Daycare on Metatube.
This short is from the computer animation division of Walt Disney Studios that isn’t Pixar from first time director John Kahrs who also worked on Tangled. He created a unique blend of CG animation with a hand drawn style composited over the top of it to give it a sort of 3D sketch look. Not only that, but the entire short is in black and white with a touch of red. It tells the story of two people who have a chance meeting at a train station and the man happens to see her again in a high rise across the street and tries to get her attention with a paper airplane, or specifically dozens of them. The style and simplistic romance is beautifully displayed with this black and white style. The moments of humor work out great, especially the gruff boss, and the resolution is worth it. This probably has the strongest chance at winning in part due to the fact that it’s probably the most widely seen out of the nominees, being attached to the also nominated Wreck-It Ralph, and also because it has a great love story to it.
You can watch Paperman on Disney’s official YouTube channel.
This year has an amazing batch of animated short films, I enjoyed each and every one of them and hope to be able to catch them all in the theaters, I think it will be a worthwhile experience. As for my predictions, I think Paperman has the best chance of winning, though I also think that Head Over Heels is a strong contender as well. Regardless of who wins, they are all worthy of their nominations and worth the time to check out.