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2013 Oscar-Nominated ANIMATED Shorts

February 24, 2013


The Animation Shorts is a wonderful category at the Oscars. It can provide exposure to unique and exciting stories told by talented animators from all over the world. Unfortunately, that’s only partly the case this year. They is certainly talent in the five shorts selected, but all of this year’s nominees are from the USA. That’s disappointing, as I usually count on the Shorts category (Documentary, Live-Action and Animated) to be diversified, providing us with an international look at what filmmakers from different parts of the world are creating.

It’s also kind of surprising that this year, two of these shorts were already seen in front of animated features by major studios last year. Obviously, these two were shorts with bigger budgets. Nevertheless, there is a clear winner here. But here’s my rundown and I would recommend seeking all of them out on your own….


MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE” (USA) – directed by David Silverman

Eh, why not just call it “The Longest Daycare”?  We would’ve found out on our own that we were watching The Simpsons – the real question: Why haven’t there been more of these shorts from the longest-running animated sitcom? There could’ve been plenty of opportunities to run Simpsons shorts before animated features, as was this one in front of last year’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift”.  Regardless, this was a fun short. About as fun and well-made as any Simpsons material with the fluid storytelling and intact wit we’ve come to expect, but that’s about it. Storywise, there’s not much going on here and that’s okay (for a short).  Marge drops Maggie off at a local daycare (for some reason) and hilarity ensues and the toddler embarks on an adventure in an unsupervised kid zone.  The best part is that it’s silent except for Hans Zimmer’s fun score. Maybe I had more fondness for it when I first saw it in theaters in all its 3D glory (which was great) and maybe I’m just used to excellence coming from the folks behind The Simpsons. I just don’t know if it’s Oscar-worthy, yet at the same time, it’s cool that a Simpsons toon was nominated.  (4:30 min.)



HEAD OVER HEELS (USA) – directed by Timothy Reckart

Director Timothy Reckart is an animator out of New York, specializing in stop motion animation, which is what we see in “Head Over Heels”, an intricately made short that tells the silent tale of an old couple living extremely separate lives, who are forced to reconnect. It may seem too similar to Pixar’s “Up” since the couple live in a floating house (sans balloons) and they’re elderly, but the message is one of a communication breakdown and steps (literally) made to resolve that problem in a relationship. I enjoyed the creativity of having one spouse live upside down from the other and all the detail that went into creating a the tiny items in their house, but after a while it just wore off on me. It could be because there really wasn’t that much personality in these characters to pull my interest. Still, I’ll be curious what Reckart is up to in the future, hopefully with a bit more humanity.

RATING: **1/2




I’m utterly perplexed as to why this short was nominated. It feels more like a demo or a student study than it does an Oscar candidate. Writer/director PES uses stop-motion animation to turn food into game icons (well, okay after a grenade resembles an avocado), for some reason. This short feels more like an exercise in stop-motion animation rather than anything substantial.  Writer-director PES turns food into game icons like a pool ball, red dice and little Monopoly houses, and they become….guacamole? Why? Who knows? It’s frustrating that here is a nominated short that could’ve been replaced with one from another country. It’s clever and funny and that’s it.



ADAM AND DOG (USA) – directed by Minkyu Lee

About a minute into this richly animated short you’ll understand that the title is a play on Adam and Eve, as the story is set in a dense ‘Garden’…I bet you can guess which one.  So, writer/director Minkyu Lee (accompanied by animators from several major studios) is offering a retelling of the Adam and Eve story, from the perspective of a dog searching for companionship. We are first introduced to the this curious dog as well as gorgeously rendered environment. The soundtrack is predominately silent except for the sound of leaves rustling, twigs snapping and insects buzzing. After wandering through lush forests and encountering other creatures, the dog meets Adam in a golden meadow. He’s cautious at first, but then taken in by this figure’s friendliness. They are soon seen playing together, playing fetch and communicating in the only manner Adam knows. It’s the birth of Man’s Best Friend….but then things get complicated. The 2D animation is beautiful here, with characters that feel as if they’ve come alive straight from the drawing table and backgrounds that feel like watercolor paintings. On an emotional level, “Adam and Dog” has a certain melancholy and loneliness here that I admired. Overall, there’s a lot going on in this short and I found myself impressed on many levels.

RATING: ****


PAPERMAN (USA) – directed by John Kahrs

Sometimes the best stories are the kind that develop from a moment in time or that “what if?” question that nags at the heart. That’s right, I said heart, not the mind, because in the black and white world of “Paperman” we find the story about a Man who isn’t using his head. He’s not clouded by doubt or insecurity, he’s leading with his heart. In a bustling metropolis, the Man spots a cute Woman on an elevated train, she boards and the train takes off. He goes back to his office and slumps at his desk, thinking he’ll never see her again – or maybe not. Looking out his office window, he spots her again, in the building next door on another level – it’s her! Desperate to reach her, yet chained to his office work, he throws paper airplanes her way to get her attention. The rest is more charming sweetness and comedy. This will win the Oscar. Just you watch. You’ll find no disparaging comments from me about that. It’s worthy and it deserves it.  It meets and excels at all of the requirements (at least the ones that I have) for an animated short (or live action, for that matter). “Paperman” was originally released in front of “Wreck-It Ralph” in wonderful 3D, but the story is so well-told that it surely works in 2D as well. Even though “Adam and Dog” is still my favorite of the bunch, I’d be quite content to see this one win.

RATING: ****

Find out which short will win tonight when the 85th Academy Awards are televised on ABC!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 26, 2013 6:28 am

    Wow, you really know your stuff 😀 I need to check out the shorts as I haven’t seen any of them yet!!

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