Taken as a whole, the five entries for this year's Academy Awards for animated shorts and an additional three "highly recommended" films tell a story that is much different than what blockbusters like Frozen would have you believe about the state of animation. No, instead, these films—a collection that's enchanting, yet dreamy and at times gloomy—tell a story about quality animators from around the world who are tinkering with classic animation and using its less than literal representation to interpret complex emotions. While certainly enjoyable, and even at times spellbinding, interestingly, the bulk of the animated shorts this year lack some of the wry humor possessed over the past few years.
Produced by Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton is like the Tom Brady of the animated shorts. This is her third animated short to be nominated for an Oscar. Though she currently lives in Canada, she grew up in Norway and her films draw heavily from those experiences, including her first short film My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts (2000), which was actually inspired by the story of her own grandmother who ironed the shirts of Norway's King for years. Her film, The Danish Poet, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2007. Her work as an animator for children's books shines clearly through, both with the pacing of the storytelling and the distinct picture book quality of the frames. This story is an autobiography about her life as a seven-year-old, and her quirky, modernistic architect parents.
Likewise, two of the other strong entries focus on the same themes of family and aging. A Single Life is a breezy two minutes and 19 seconds that manages to capture an entire lifespan—joy, sadness, music and pizza. And, while this year's entry from Disney, Feast is a fairly typical animated piece, The Bigger Picture cleverly stretches the aesthetic quality about what a "cartoon" can be. A story about two sons and their aging mom, it is told with muted colors that easily morphs from realistic to surreal—and is simultaneously beautiful and grim.
Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts