The Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts

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

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:

http://www.youtube.com/user/PESfilm

simpsons

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHZ7NnFYIvc

Paperman

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM6cLnscmO8

Head Over Heels

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id-LypdWLOE

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:

So, it started with the idea of a husband and wife who are separated by gravity.  That encapsulated a lot of ideas that I had been thinking about, things that I thought would be great to address with the film.  One of those was the kind of hostile tone that political disagreement has taken on in the US over the past few years.  So it appealed to me, because it’s a story about two people who see the world differently, but they still have to find a way to live together.  This is an idea that could apply to political, religious, really any sort of ideological disagreement.  It was a great metaphor for that.  Of course, it’s also directly about marriage.  It highlights what I’ve seen with marriages.  Personally, I’m not married but the married people in my life have provided great examples of the fact that marriage doesn’t just “happen.”  You have to work at it, to “try.”  This film is an opportunity to talk about the sacrifice that fuels marriage.  The other thing was at the time, I was studying in England and my girlfriend was in New York.  So during the animation process, that divide also provided a lot of emotional fuel for all the acting and performances of the puppets. (Timothy Reckart, AnimationWorld, Feb. 8)

Adam and Dog

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.

6 Responses
Posted By swac44 : February 18, 2013 12:56 pm

Here in Halifax we’re rooting for Paperman, since director John Kars is a graduate of the local Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Fresh Guacamole is more to my personal taste, love the work of Swankmayer and the Brothers Quay, but we don’t get many home team players at the Oscars in these parts, aside from Ellen Page.

Posted By swac44 : February 18, 2013 12:56 pm

Here in Halifax we’re rooting for Paperman, since director John Kars is a graduate of the local Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Fresh Guacamole is more to my personal taste, love the work of Swankmayer and the Brothers Quay, but we don’t get many home team players at the Oscars in these parts, aside from Ellen Page.

Posted By keelsetter : February 18, 2013 1:31 pm

I know what you mean about cheering for home team players. My weekly poker buddy is the director for CHASING ICE, and although his doc made the short-list it got bumped in the race for best doc. As consolation prize, however, his film is still in the running for Best Song (“Before My Time,” sung by Scarlett Johansson).

Posted By keelsetter : February 18, 2013 1:31 pm

I know what you mean about cheering for home team players. My weekly poker buddy is the director for CHASING ICE, and although his doc made the short-list it got bumped in the race for best doc. As consolation prize, however, his film is still in the running for Best Song (“Before My Time,” sung by Scarlett Johansson).

Posted By swac44 : February 18, 2013 3:54 pm

Actually, there’s another hometown nod for us Haligonians (that’s what they call people from Halifax, don’t ask me why), Best Short nominee Buzkashi Boys was co-directed by a fellow University of Kings College grad.

Posted By swac44 : February 18, 2013 3:54 pm

Actually, there’s another hometown nod for us Haligonians (that’s what they call people from Halifax, don’t ask me why), Best Short nominee Buzkashi Boys was co-directed by a fellow University of Kings College grad.

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