It’s that time of year again, and Animator Island is back with the annual review of this year’s Academy Award nominated Animated Shorts! Which one will take the coveted golden statue in 2013? Read on to find out!
The five nominations for 2013 are as follows:
Nominated Film #1: Maggie Simpsons in The Longest Daycare
As a Simpsons fan from “back in the day” I thoroughly enjoyed The Longest Daycare. It has the humor PLUS heart of the old Simpsons episodes before things dragged out more than two decades and started to get a little stale at times. The story revolves around Maggie being in daycare for the day. There she meets her long-time rival Gerald (the baby with the uni-brow) who is killing butterflies and calling it “art.” Maggie befriends a tiny caterpillar, and rescues him from certain doom at the hand of Gerald. In a compressed life-cycle the caterpillar goes through the stages towards becoming a butterfly while Maggie frantically flees from the swinging hammer of Gerald. I won’t give away the ending, but it is sweet and wonderfully done.
One thing that nearly destroyed the entire short for me (though I admit this is a rather picky thing to be uptight about) is that early in the cartoon there is an absolutely terrible, cliche “LOOK 3D!” moment where a swarm of lice fly at the screen (and in 3D, at the audience) for no reason other than the cliche 3D effect. I am not a huge 3D fan in general, personally, but I really feel it is this kind of “gotcha!” 3D effect that stops the movie style from ever getting a firm foothold in the industry. Audiences don’t NEED to have things thrown at their faces, this isn’t the 1980s. That small moment really pulled me out of an otherwise enjoyable experience.
As good as I felt The Longest Daycare was, in a year like 2013 with some incredible entries, I doubt it will win the Oscar.
Nomination #2: Adam and Dog
Adam and Dog is a lovely 2D animation featuring the “Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden” story from a fresh perspective. It follows the path of “Dog” (a dog) who is roaming Earth before the biblical fall of mankind. He comes across Adam, and the two become friends. Shortly after, Eve shows up and Adam leaves Dog behind for his new mate. Dog finds Adam and Eve again after (off screen) the fateful fruit-eating that gets them exiled from the Garden. He stays true to his friend and follows them out into the barren land they are now forced to live in.
Biblical stories are always tricky to tell in any film format, as it can escalate to “preachy” very quickly. In fact I read a few comments from people who said this film WAS too preachy (which frankly I find mind-boggling, but they are entitled to their opinions). Adam and Dog is a lovely romp into a beautiful 2D world and, despite what a few furiously anti-religious folks may claim, tells a tale we all know in a fresh and beautiful way. Much like the actual story of Adam and Eve, Adam and Dog is not so much about the How of the fall, but the Why of relationships and humanity. (And in this case, dog-dom.)
My one gripe, as an animator, is that there are a few scenes SO BEAUTIFUL in this film that they overshadow several others to the point where the film seems unfinished. One shot in particular of Adam feeding a bird from the palm of his hand can stand up with the huge list of “all time greatest animated scenes” in my opinion, so later when shots appear to be done on 3’s (or less) it created a chopped up feeling that really pulled me out of the world that had been created. It was extremely disappointing that more care wasn’t taken to keep it consistent, but hey, much like Adam and Eve we’re all only human.
Also one more thing to note: If you can see this in a theater, do it. The small screen of YouTube (no matter how big your monitor is) does NOT do it justice.
Nomination #3: Fresh Guacamole
Fresh Guacamole by PES was by far the most enjoyable 2 minutes of the night for me. I often hide the fact that stop-motion is not my preferred method of animation to watch (fun to do, just not my cup of tea in viewing normally) however this film totally makes me ignore my normal personal taste and presents a brilliant little short that does what I think all animation should: Brings a huge smile to your face.
The “story” (if you can call it that) is of someone preparing fresh guacamole, but instead of traditional ingredients everyday objects are used as if they WERE the vegetables and ingredients in normal everyday life. Poker chips become potato chips, red dice become chopped tomato, and a wealth of other supremely clever substitutions that each time made me shake my head and think “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Fresh Guacamole proves without a shadow of a doubt several huge animation-related truths:
1) You do not need long length to make a compelling animation.
2) You do not need some epic tale to make compelling animation.
3) Simplicity can bring great joy.
I’m sad to say I can’t see a circumstance where Fresh Guacamole wins the Oscar this year, however it is right up at the top of my list if I had a vote. It was my “Biggest Surprise” of the bunch, and I adored it.
Nomination #4: Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels was another stop-motion film (and much more what one might think of when they hear “stop-motion” regarding the style). In this story a man and his wife live separately in the same house. The wife lives on the ceiling (as if her gravity source was up), and the man rooted to the floor. It’s a great take on the emotional distance some long-time married couples can feel, and was a lot of fun to watch. Their house ends up crashing on a foreign planet where the wife is the one “on the ground” and the husband is trapped inside the house because he will float off into space if he should leave.
Head Over Heels was clever and fun. It was emotional, but had lighter humorous moments as well. A wonderful blend, in the end. It is a good example of how animation can show us “everyday life” in a way that regular film simply cannot.
Nomination #5: Paperman
I had already seen Paperman once (which you can read the full review of here) however I must say that I enjoyed it more the second time. Having already experienced the rather “surprise” ending, I was able to focus firmly on the art, animation, and cinematography of the short, and I have to say good GRACIOUS is it gorgeous. The levels of appeal that they’ve captured is astounding. I could watch the film, story aside, for hour after hour on the big screen and pour over every frame.
Since the full review of Paperman already exists on Animator Island, there’s not much for me to say, other than that yes, this is indeed my prediction for which film will become the Oscar Winner of 2013.
Highly Commended Additional Films
Abiogenesis can be best described, in my opinion, as “Graphics Card Tech Demo.” The film was not unpleasant in any way, however the whole time I felt like I was being sold the latest card from Nvidia or something. It was extremely tech-heavy and effect-filled. To some people this is a very good thing (just look at how many gamers flock to only the shiniest and flashiest graphics) but for my money the complexity of Abiogenesis was almost the anti-thesis of how the simplicity of Fresh Guacamole is what made Fresh Guacamole so amazing. Abiogenesis was a bit too complicated for its own good, to me. (I’m very grateful, however, that it was much better than last year’s painful-to-sit-through Hybrid Union film.)
It’s very interesting that Dripped clocks in at 9 minutes, one of the longer films of the bunch, however it felt so rushed upon watching. The film is about an art thief who eats the paintings he steals to gain super-powers based on whatever art style he consumes. It’s an interesting concept, and just falls a bit short because it seems to have a very long set-up time and then flies through the “punchline” of sorts too quickly. A bit different pacing could really help this piece shine, I think. Still, it was fun to watch and well crafted. The concept alone is extremely creative!
The Gruffalo’s Child
I need to precursor this review with two statements: First, I am not the target audience of The Gruffalo’s Child. It is clearly meant for very young children. Second, I’m not sure I agree that 27 minutes is an “animated SHORT.” True it is not a feature film, however 27 minutes is not short by any means.
As such, it is the length of The Gruffalo’s Child that totally killed the piece for me. It dragged ON and ON and ON… The art and animation was lovely, with some great character designs and wonderful prose. The entire thing could have been about 8 minutes tops if edited down, though. It was a shame in a way to end the evening with this short, because instead of feeling invigorated as an animator and ready to jump into producing some compelling work, I was tired and wanted to fall asleep on the couch when I got home.
Again, this is not the fault of The Gruffalo’s Child per say. It is merely a case of not even a tiny bit being the target audience for the film. (Though that said, I have been known to sit through several episodes of Blue’s Clues and many PBS kid’s shows and have a very good time despite being well outside my childhood years.)
So Who Wins the Oscar This Year?
It will be a surprise to me if Paperman doesn’t win, however I myself am 0 for 1 on Oscar predictions as last year I was FIRMLY convinced that La Luna would (and deserved) to take home the golden prize. So we shall see, in just a week’s time!
As a quick sidebar from last year, my FAVORITE film from 2012, Skylight, is now on iTunes for sale right here. I have no stake in the creators or film, other than I loved it and want to support it. So go buy a copy if you love funny animated shorts!
One final note, the evening of animation was broken up by an interview with last year’s Oscar winners for the short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The two men talked about the experience and animation in general, and I have to say it was an absolute joy to watch and listen to them. Here were two people who clearly love what they do for a living, and it was nice for them to get a chance to continue to talk past the 30 seconds the Oscars provide them for thanking people the night of the show. I hope this trend continues next year!
Who do you think will take home the Oscar? Any of the films you really loved (or really hated)? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it!