For the past 10 years, ShortsHD has made all the short films nominated for the Academy Awards available for viewing across the country just before, and sometimes after, the Oscar broadcast via local small theaters for the general public to watch and enjoy. I myself only discovered the joys of watching their releases a few years back, and I’ve tried to catch them every year since. ShortsHD is also making them available to watch on various online and on-demand platforms such as Vimeo OnDemand, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video as well. If you can find a local theater that’s screening them, I highly recommend you try to watch them at least once to see what you’re missing!
This year’s 5 nominated animated shorts that ShortsHD is screening are:
Me and My Moulton, is the story about a Norwegian girl’s quest to get her parents to buy her and her 2 sisters a bicycle, as told from her perspective. The story is cute and funny, and the animation is simplistic yet colorful and geometric. It’s hard not to laugh at some of the comments she makes about her eclectic parents who don’t quite fit in with the norm. It’s weird and frustrating at times, but she finds out that sometimes, that’s okay.
Feast, from Walt Disney Feature Animation, is probably the most well known of the shorts since it was released along with Big Hero 6. It’s the story of a dog who meets and bonds with his human through their mutual love of junk food until the day his human meets a charming waitress at a restaurant and their relationship changes. It’s adorable and a touching piece that uses no dialogue to convey the story.
The Bigger Picture, is a life-size combination of 2D hand painted characters set against a 3D background and animated using stop-motion. I had no idea at the time that the film was made and animated life-size until afterward. I think I would have been a lot more impressed if I had known this while I had watched it, since the effects are pretty ingenious if you know everything is life-sized. It’s the story of two brothers trying to deal with the care of their elderly mother near the end of her life. Although there are some surreal only-in-cartoon moments, the film is quite realistic and serious in dealing with the subject matter, and the muted dull colors reflect this.
A Single Life, is the story about a woman who finds a mysterious magical vinyl record that allows her to instantly go back and forth to various moments in her life just with the skip of the needle along the record. It’s a computer animated film made to look like clay animation. Despite being the shortest feature in the group, it makes good use of its time.
The Dam Keeper, on the other hand, is the longest entry of the shorts. It’s the story about an orphaned piglet whose life bounces between the very adult task of keeping the entire town safe from a decimating cloud of smog and that of a normal child who’s being bullied at school for having a dirty appearance due to his adult duties at the dam. Even the adults don’t have much respect for the little piglet as well despite what he’s doing for the entire town. The piglet finally makes a friend, but is she really his friend or not? His school life and adult duties collide when he finds out. There is only a bit of narration in the beginning, but it’s mostly a wordless film. The whimsical soundtrack matches the chalky animation perfectly. The story is a bit long, but it’s very emotional, especially if you’ve ever been bullied and have felt neglected.
Besides the 5 nominated animated shorts, ShortsHD also presents 4 Academy honorable mentions.
Sweet Cocoon, is a 3D computer animated short about a plump caterpillar trying to get into its cocoon who gets help from 2 other bugs. It’s fun, colorful, and squishy!
Footprints, from Bill Plympton Studio, is the story about a man who follows a trail of footprints from his broken house window. He travels far and wide, continuing to follow the footprints to find the culprit who broke his window, all the while imagining what the terrible culprit or creature would eventually look like. The film is animated in Plympton’s usual surrealistic style.
Duet, is a 2D pure sketch short directed and animated entirely by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane. Produced in conjunction with Google and Motorola’s Spotlight Series, the short was intended to be viewed interactively on mobile devices, but it can definitely be viewed and enjoyed in its non-interactive form. It’s the story about a girl and a boy growing up from babies to adulthood and seeing how their lives inevitably intertwine and finally merge together. The animation is just Keane’s white line rough sketches against a blue backdrop which is more than enough for the flowing and fluid feature. It’s simple yet very elegant.
Bus Story, is a story about a woman who wants to become a bus driver in the rural countryside. She dreams of driving her bus through the countryside with her young charges inside, but she soon finds out that reality isn’t the same. Her new boss is named Killer, and he isn’t exactly the friendliest guy in the world. The bus itself and the kids aren’t ideal either. The animation is cartoon-y sketchy and fits with the funny story line, but the film does run a bit long.
The animated shorts are quite a delightful treat to watch every year and feature some of the best animation and storytelling there is. I hope some of you decide to make them a yearly vigil to watch every year as well.