This year, I got a chance to review some animated shorts before my annual trip to the theater to watch the Oscar nominated shorts. I don’t know if any of these will get an Oscar nomination, but they do certainly merit watching nonetheless.
“Weekends” is the story of a boy who commutes between his recently divorced parents, summarizing life for the family over the course of several months interspersed with the boy’s dreams. While the boy looks content on the outside, his surreal dreams show how he actually feels about the new arrangement on both sides. We get to see the hardships and fears living in a broken family as well as how that family slowly learns and adapts to the new reality. The boy’s dreams are strange and scary but understandable given his situation.
“Age of Sail” is a short from Google Spotlight Stories about an old sailboat captain who sets himself adrift in the ocean hoping to end his days at sea. However, his are plans derailed when a teenage girl suddenly falls off a passing steamer, forcing him to change his plans after he reluctantly rescues her. The gruff, brash captain is brilliantly voiced by Ian McShane of Lovejoy and Deadwood fame, rattling off sailing jargon with ease. The animation is an odd combination of 2D and 3D CGI where features are drawn on 3D CGI figures mapped onto a 2D plane except for the ocean surrounding the characters. Despite the dark premise of the captain trying to die in the beginning, the story is quite inspirational as the captain tries to muster some of his passion from the old days.
“Late Afternoon” is a short by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of the Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner). It is about an elderly woman named Emily who seems constantly lost in her thoughts about her past. Her mind keeps drifting between the past and the present with nothing seeming to anchor her anywhere. Every time Emily “dives” into the past, the linear makeup of herself disconnects into short lines and shapes until she reaches her past destination. Emily also has no neck to further symbolize her floating disconnected head. It’s a beautifully animated short that’s a bit heartwrenching if you’ve ever have had an elderly loved one in a situation like Emily’s.
“Back to the Moon” is probably a short you’ve seen via Google Doodles. It can also be viewed interactively in 360 degrees via VR if you have the technology to do so. It was created to celebrate the artistry of French illusionist and film director George Méliès whose famous black-and-white movie “A Trip to the Moon” ends with the Moon getting a black eye from a rocketship. The short is a bit difficult to watch on a normal screen because it’s meant to be viewed in 360 degrees. The story follows an illusionist through scenery mixing familiar magic props with film magic as he meets the queen of hearts and an evil alien. The mix of effects is ingenious to watch.