Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on February 17, 2013
The Oscars are around the corner and, as an exhibitor, I’m especially excited about the Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts because this is one of the most popular programs we put on at the film series I program. The contact for the distributor, Neal Block, has also assured all participating distributors that this year the “Animated program is fully family-friendly (and, additionally), I think it’s the best Animated program we’ve had in a long time.” Well… alright! Let the fun begin.
Only five shorts are on the list, so let’s roll them out, as seems appropriate for a shorts-fest, by order of length, shortest first:
Fresh Guacamole (Directed by Adam Pesapane – aka: PES – , USA/English, 2 minutes, put out by PES Productions.)
Synopsis: An unseen cook uses a series of unusual ingredients to prepare a bowl of guacamole.
Filmmaker bio: Other shorts include Roof Sex (2002), KaBoom! (2004), Game Over (2006), and Western Spaghetti (2010).
Upshot: Any fan of Jan Svankmajer’s surrealistic stop-motion animation should definitely check out the artist known as PES. Most of his work is colorful, snappy, and short. Roof Sex is almost bawdy enough to be considered not-safe-for-work, even though its horny characters are not people but rather two pieces of frisky furniture that really know how to put the “love” back into the love-seat. His work (including his Oscar nominated short above) is easily accessible thanks to his dedicated YouTube Channel:
The Longest Daycare (Directed by David Silverman, USA/English, 5 minutes, distributed by 20th Century Fox.)
Synopsis: Maggie Simpson spends a day at the Ayn Rand Daycare Center where she is diagnosed at an average intelligence level. Longing to be grouped with the gifted children, Maggie finds her destiny by rescuing a lonely cocoon from Baby Gerald, who is busy smooshing butterflies.
Filmmaker bio: David Silverman is the director behind The Simpsons Movie (2007) – which grossed over $527 million worldwide – and has worked on numerous Simpsons TV episodes.
Upshot: Silverman’s seamless and ongoing collaboration with writer producers James L. Brooks and Matt Groening is reliably fun and smart. The Longest Daycare manages to squeeze a lot into very little time, including an uplifting moral message packaged with a sideswap at the destructive urges of Ayn Rand worshipers. The longest-running American sitcom (and animated program) is still sharp, but doesn’t provide anything here to differentiate itself from any of the prolific material provided by its prolific and influential quarter-of-a-century-long legacy.
The Longest Daycare was shown in front of last summer’s release of Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), and a super-short trailer can be seen here:
Paperman (Directed by John Kars, USA/English, 7 minutes, distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.)
Synopsis: A young paper-pusher attracted to a girl who works in the building across the street tries desperately to get her attention with paper airplanes.
Filmmaker bio: John Kars’ feature-length credits include animation work on A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), Bolt (2008), and Tangled (2010).
Upshot: This is a sweet love story that accompanied the theatrical release of Wreck-It Ralph (2012). The black-and-white cinematography highlights the one color element, which is the red lipsticked kiss left by accident on one of the papers held by the title character. There is no dialogue, although three people get voice credits for emotional intonations (including the director for his protagonist). Paperman took home the award for Best Short at the Annie Awards. The minute-and-a-half-long trailer is below. This trailer is almost a fourth of the size of the full short. A trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, if it followed the same formula, would be almost 45 minutes long.
Head Over Heels (Directed by Timothy Reckart, UK/English, 11 minutes, put out by National Film and Television School.)
Synopsis: After many years of marriage, Walter and Madge have grown apart: he lives on the floor and she lives on the ceiling. When Walter tries to reignite their old romance, their equilibrium comes crashing down, and the couple that can’t agree which way is up must find a way put their marriage back together.
Filmmaker bio: Reckart’s two previous shorts, which he also wrote, are Leftovers (2006) and Token Hunchback (2009). A trailer for Head over Heels can be seen here:
Upshot: Wallace and Gromit (think of them in The Wrong Trousers) had a bit of an influence on the detailed and charming landscape surrounding the two miniature puppets in this graduate film, the only student film among this year’s Oscar nominees. The following paragraph by the director (excerpted from an interview with Dan Sarto from AnimationWorld), gives nice background to the inspiration behind the story:
Adam and Dog (Directed by Minkyu Lee, USA/non-dialogue, 16 minutes, self-financed.)
Synopsis: This story about the world’s first dog (named Dog) and his relationship with Adam in the Garden of Eden, explains why dogs are so special to humankind.
Filmmaker bio: 27-year-old producer-director Minkyu Lee paid $25,000 of his own money (earned via his day job as a character designer at Disney) and used all volunteers to help with the project.
Upshot: It’d be kind of awesome if this young Disney employee upstaged his employers at the Oscars. If he does, hopefully Disney won’t punish him and, instead, will give him a raise and a promotion. Paperman is very sweet, well-crafted, and tugs at the heart-strings, but its foundation is beyond predictable. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy finds girl. That trope now feels like a Jungian archetype that we might find on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in southern France. Adam and Dog, even though set at ground-zero of guy-meets-girl stories, takes us someplace new.
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