As we do every year, it’s time to take a look at the five Animated Shorts in this year’s Oscar race. Picking this obscure category is a key to winning your pool. Anyone can pick the best Movie or Actor (although this year Oscar may finally have reached parity in the Best Picture race as it’s almost anyone’s guess what will win.) But it’s those pesky, unknown short subject films that really separate the knowledgeable from the guessers.
We should say ONCE obscure category. In the years we’ve been covering this, the Best Animated Short Subject nominees have been getting more and more attention each year. In fact there’s even a whole corporate-sponsored website devoted to all three short categories—they’re all available on iTunes for download. A few are even free.
The ability to watch the nominees has removed a lot of the guesswork from picking the shorts categories, but in case you don’t have time, here’s your cheat sheet.
A MORNING STROLL
UK, Directed by Grant Orchard
When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll, we are left to wonder which one is the real city slicker.
Inspired by a Paul Auster novel, some slick CGI and engaging animation helped this to win the BAFTA for Best Animated short.
Canada; directed by Patrick Doyon
Every Sunday, it’s the same old routine! The train clatters through the village and almost shakes the pictures off the wall. In the church, Dad dreams about his toolbox. And of course later Grandma will get a visit and the animals will meet their fate.
A traditional, winsome animated style, with the typical “a journey somewhere lets me animate a train” storyline. Animators sure love trains!
USA, directed by Enrico Casarosa
“La Luna” is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions?
THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE
USA Directed by William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg
Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) co-directors William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg present a hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and MGM Technicolor musicals. Morris Lessmore is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.
Joyce is an acclaimed children’s book writer and illustrator with over 50 books to his credit. Brandon Oldenburg is his frequent collaborator and an accomplished illustrator as well. You can watch this cartoon for free on iTunes right now or on YouTube above, and please do. It’s amazing.
Canada, directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
Calgary, 1909. An Englishman moves to the Canadian frontier, but is singularly unsuited to it. His letters home are much sunnier than the reality. Intertitles compare his fate to that of a comet.
This film doesn’t have any embeddable clips online (FOR SHAME) but you can watch a bit here—which unfortunately doesn’t seem to work. From the stills, this seems to be a folk-art inspired fish out of water story. Hard to say much more. It’s 2012, people.
OUR PICK: You had us at “Katrina.” THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE looks great and has a strong message—just what Oscar® voters love. You can pick this with complete confidence on your ballot. Don’t be fooled by A MORNING STROLL’s BAFTA win, that’s by the Brits for the Brits.
There’s much more information on all the nominees online. Cartoon Brew has been spotlighting them all week, even as they argue to abolish the Best Animated Feature category.
A Morning Stroll
The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Thanks to Tireless Torsten Adair who did the major research for this post. His pick? Morris Lessmore. See you on the Red Carpet!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.