jones oscar
One of Chuck Jones’ three Oscars, displayed at his animation desk.

So, once again, Hollywood confabulates and celebrates the best of motion picture arts and sciences tonight, at the 85th Academy Awards.  Among the many awards will be two showcasing the best in animation: Animated Feature Film and Short Film Animated.  Many people have seen the feature films (or had a chance to…dunno how many actually saw “The Pirates! Band of Misfits“), but few get a chance to watch the animated shorts, as they are usually screened only at film festivals.

So, we offer the following analysis, for those who take the Oscars as seriously as others follow the Super Bowl or Final Four.

(If you would like to watch them, Magnolia Films and ShortsHD have once again created anthology screenings of the nominees as well as notable also-rans.  Check Fandango or your local indie movie theater.  Here in NYC, IFC is showing the film through the 28th.)

Here are the rules, with special notice for animated shorts (19.II.A):

Animated Short Film
An animated film is created by using a frame-by-frame technique, and usually falls into one of the two general fields of animation: character or abstract.  Some of the techniques of animating films include cel animation, computer animation, stop-motion, clay animation, pixilation, cutouts, pins, camera multiple pass imagery, kaleidoscopic effects, and drawing on the film frame itself.  Documentary short subjects that are animated may be submitted in either the Animated Short Film category or the Documentary Short Subject category, but not both.

(Yeah, I’d love to see an animated documentary!)  What’s especially cool is that a student can qualify by winning a gold medal in the Student Academy Awards!  (Click here for winners and samples from 2012!)

The nominees:

Adam and Dog

Minkyu Lee
(Buy at iTunes!)

A nice short about the special friendship between the first man and the first dog.  Not exceptional in my eyes, but a nice escape.

Fresh Guacamole

More Information

Now this you don’t see very much… an abstract, stop-motion animated short involving human actors!  The plot?  How to make guacamole.  Why stop motion animation?  The ingredients are plastic!  (Starting with a hand grenade, a “pineapple” acting as an avocado!)

I quite enjoyed this, but it’s a long shot.

Head over Heels

Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
More Information

This is a heartwarming story, showcasing a couple who live on opposite ends of a house.  Except…the opposite ends happen to be the floor and ceiling!  A misunderstanding ensues, causing a cataclysmic crash and separation, and a clever solution.

Stop motion animation, serving a heart-warming story.  Definitely worth watching again!

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”

David Silverman
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Screened with “Ice Age: Continental Drift”, this short is a sequel (of sorts) to the Simpsons episode, “A Streetcar Named Marge”.  (This was the second episode of the fourth season, which featured Marge appearing in the musical “Oh, Streetcar!”)  Once again, Maggie is placed in “The Ayn Rand School for Tots”, and must protect a butterfly from Baby Gerald, her unibrowed nemesis.

It is a film with no dialogue, focusing on Maggie.  The gags are fun and witty, the premise is presented with gags and wit, and the 3-D effects were not noticeable or distracting in 2-D (which is how I saw it).

What chance does this have?  It could be considered a dark horse candidate, because it would be cool to give an Oscar to the Simpsons.  However, as the award is presented to the director, Matt Groening would not accept the award.


John Kahrs
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(Buy at YouTube !)  (Also available with the Wreck It Ralph DVD)

This is the front-runner, the favorite, the sure-thing.

This short screened with “Wreck It Ralph”, a Disney Animation Studios release.  Like the feature film (itself nominated for Best Animated Feature), it looks and feels more like a Pixar short.  (Compare to “La Luna”, Pixar’s nominee from last year, which appeared with “Brave” last summer.)

What makes this different than a Pixar short is the 2-D flatness of the cartoon.  Like most Pixar shorts, this short trains animators to develop and perfect techniques as a laboratory.  In this case, John Kars and crew use Disney’s new Meander system, which allows 2D and 3D styles to meld together, as seen in the previews above.

As with a Pixar short, there is a great story in front of all that technology.  A young office worker meets an attractive woman while waiting for an elevated train.  Hours later, at his office, he spies her in an office building across the street, sitting for an interview.  Using the paperwork in his in-box, he attempts to get her attention via paper airplanes…

So, which is your favorite?  Who do you think will win?  Were there other shorts you’ve seen which you thought should have been included?  What’s your favorite Oscar-winning cartoon of all time?


  1. I’m torn between Paperman and Adam and Dog.

    Something interesting to note is that this year you could find all of the nominated shorts to view in the internet in a legal way. I guess the directors/studios have decided that their chances to win increase with more peolple being able to see their shorts.

  2. Yes. But then Magnolia had them pulled because it conflicted with their theatrical release.
    The Academy also sent out screeners of the short subjects, including documentary, for the first time.

    The winners and nominees are obscure, no matter the year. Warners and Pixar have issued DVDs, but from UPA onward, the films trend to be independent and film festival based.

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