With five stylistically different shorts, the best animated short film category has something for everyone. The films contain humor and sentiment and, most importantly, originality. Some of them are simply drawn, while others are carefully painted, colored, and rendered.
Dimanche/Sunday is from the National Board of Canada, a regular nominee in this category, and is the first film of Patrick Doyon. It is a charming look at life as seen through a child's perspective of the traditions that occur in and outside of a house in an isolated part of town where a train comes through on a regular basis. Crows squawk as they observe from a power line above the grandparents' home, where conversation resembles the birds' sounds to the child. A large factory has closed, which looms over the tiny houses and cars as they go about their daily routines and contend with the boredom and fragility of their lives.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is perhaps the most whimsical entry here. The images are beautiful, and the film is the first animation project from a Louisiana-based company, Moonbot Studios. Directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, it references Hurricane Katrina, The Wizard of Oz, and Buster Keaton. The story begins in New Orleans as the title character is seen writing a book on the balcony of a hotel. Almost immediately a vicious storm takes Mr. Lessmore, a biker, homes, and everything else into its windy transport, dropping him in a land filled with flickering novels. It seems to be an ideal place for Mr. Lessmore to continue his writing. A sentimental ending is both touching and hopeful and celebrates the joys of reading. The film has won many festival awards.
A Pixar film, La Luna is a simple but gorgeous setting of a young boy's adventure on a boat with his father and grandfather. Using a kind of magical realism, the boy's journey eventually results in something unexpected, i.e., a maintenance activity to "sweep the moon." Its visuals are evocative and is one of Pixar's best short films. The director is Enrico Casarosa, and the tale takes its inspiration from a story by Italo Calvino. A beautiful mood is created by La Luna, and the visuals are some of the best ever by Pixar.
A Morning Stroll had me chuckling the most of all five entries. Recapping a scene on the same street corner over two centuries (1959 to 2059), a chicken is seen walking along a street and bumping into individuals before knocking on a door and entering a building. The three years that are depicted show how humans have become -- and are becoming -- more and more detached over the years. I particularly liked the different animation styles used to show the three different eras. Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe are the directors.
A Wild Life has its own type of beauty in that it is set in the early 1900s and is awash in painted images by directors Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. The story tells of an Englishman who immigrates to Alberta, Canada, and struggles with the rough prairie and wintry environment of a foreign land. The mood it creates by the end of the film was striking and ultimately moving. Forbis has said that the film is a "comment on cultural superiority," i.e., while England may have been superior economically, that superiority turns into vulnerability in the narrative of a naive immigrant.
Will Win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Could Win: La Luna
Rationale: All of these films are potential winners; however, the beauty and whimsy of Morris
Lessmore and La Luna seem most memorable. But I adore the comic takes on life in
both Morning Stroll and Dimanche, and the images in Wild Life can't be
underestimated for their ultimate impact and the emotion they create.
Warner Brothers' 3D I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat is one of 10 animated features shortlisted from the 45 features originally qualifying for this year's Oscar for best animated short film. (It is currently being shown with Happy Feet Two.) It is joined by a Pixar short, La Luna, which will be shown next summer with Pixar's next animated feature, Brave.
Members of AMPAS's short films and feature animation branches will select
three to five nominees from the 10 finalists. Oscar nominations in all categories will be revealed January 24, 2012.
See all animated short finalists here.