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Oscar-Nominated ANIMATED Shorts (2012)

February 13, 2012

Each year we stare blankly at the Shorts that show up on the Academy Award nominations list, and wonder what they’re about, who made them and (more importantly) how to view them. After all, how else to make an informative decision in your Oscar Pool? Well, this time of year, Shorts International releases a one-week run of the Live Action, Animated and Documentary Shorts in limited theaters across the U.S. If you’re lucky enough to catch them, you’ll find yourself more prepared come Oscar night.

Just like last year, Keeping It Reel is out there, seeing as many of these Shorts as possible and sharing with you some short reviews of these. Without further ado, here are the 2012 Oscar nominees for the Animated Shorts. Enjoy….


directed by: Patrick Doyon /  9 min. / Canada

From the National Film Board of Canada, comes Patrick Doyon’s two-dimensional tale that takes place on a typical Sunday in a small town that has a gigantic train run through it, rattling everything and everyone. Here we find a little boy who likes to leave a coin on the train rail for the behemoth locomotive to flatten. He attends church with his parents, where we find his father sawing logs while dreaming of new power tools. The boy is followed by a trio of cackling eyeless black crows that resemble some of the adults he finds around him. Black and white with grey tones populated by flat and exaggerated characters who mumble and ramble rather than speak anything discernible, “Dimanche/Sunday” is nice to look at with a delightful score, but doesn’t really leave us with anything else.


Dimanche / Sunday (trailer) from doiion on Vimeo.




directed by: Grant Orchard / 7 min. / UK

Another short that is content communicating using zero dialogue is, “A Morning Stroll”, creatively crafted by Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe and produced by the British animation company Studio AKA. Based on a short story by Casper G. Clausen called The Chicken, that was published in the New York Literary Review back in 1986, the short is spliced into three comical parts. In each segment we see the same activity taking place in New York City – a man walking down a street is surprised by a chicken that turns the corner, walks past him, and works its way into a residential building – told in different eras, using different animation styles. 1959 is told with simple black and white line drawings, 2009 in colorfully vibrant 2-D animation (with a fun bit involving a headphones and a zombie video game, and 2059 sees the city in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Cute, funny, and slightly disturbing, “A Morning Stroll” showcases how the same story can be told using a variety of animation styles. Considering all that we see here, it’s pretty amazing that it was all condensed to a mere 7 minutes.



directed by: Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby / 14 min. / Canada

The entry from the Great White North is also supported by the National Film Board of Canada and employs a similar unique cartoon approach. “Wild Life” is a quirky hand-painted western story, featuring some fine brushwork that feels like a documentary at times in that it covers material that actually took place in real life. At the turn of the 20th century, many young Brits travelled to Canadian frontier seeking adventure and a new life for themselves. Such is the story here, as we see the story of an Englishman, who considers himself a cowboy now, who receives personal packages from England that include comforts from home. As the story unfolds, we see title cards that pop up, defining what a comet is, which is somewhat of a letdown connection to the character in the end. Still, the animation style is wonderful and refreshing.



directed by: William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg / 17 min. / USA

Of all the nominees, methinks this export from Moonbot Studios of Shreveport, Louisiana, has a strong chance of winning the Oscar. It’s another short without dialogue, delivering a delightful computer-animated story centered on a protagonist resembling Buster Keaton in a fantasy tale where books come to life in a sweet and endearing way. A fierce hurricane whisks away our hero off a hotel balcony up into the sky, dropping him in a land books have wings and expressively emote with the turn of each page. With its use of a variety of animation techniques, this short is certainly the most crowd-pleasing of the bunch, and might just make you second guess reading from a tablet. If there’s has your interest, then look no further – the entire short can be viewed here….

RATING: ***1/2 


directed by: Enrico Casarosa / 7 min. Disney/ USA

Pixar chimes in with its admission of a short that should appear in theaters before their next feature “Brave” this summer. On display is the enjoyably rich 3D animation style we’ve come to expect from the studio. The story is a coming-of-age tale about a young boy who tags along with his Papa and Grandpa for the first time as they go to work. They embark out to sea in an old wooden boat and at a certain point, the boy’s father unfolds a ladder that reaches to the sky, high enough to lean against an illuminating moon. The boy is surprised to learn the nature of their line of work. Writer/director Enrico Casarosa has worked as a storyboard artist on other Pixar films such as “Ratatouille” and “Up” and provides some fun character design to the characters here. Even though I liked the way it looked and enjoyed what is obviously a personal story, it just struck me as something fun and cute that you’d see before a feature-length animated film.

RATING: **1/2

Find out who the winners will be on Sunday, February 26th!

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