During the build-up to the Oscars back in February I posted a look back at the Best Animated Short category’s very first appearance at the Academy Awards on Spout. It was a lot of fun and you should read it (though it seems Disney has yanked two of the videos). So here’s the project: every Thursday I’ll round up the animated nominees that are available to watch online and re-evaluate the race. Watch along, and we’ll see the Academy’s taste change drastically from an obsession with Disney cartoons to the inevitable fascination with Pixar and Aardman.
To kick things off, here are the nominees from the 6th Academy Awards. As was the case the year before, two out of the three films so honored came right out of Disney Studios. Clearly head over heels, the Academy gave Walt this particular award every year from an entire decade. The lone non-Disney film up for the 1933 award was Universal’s The Merry Old Soul, facing off against the one-two punch of a Silly Symphony and a Mickey cartoon. On paper, it seems absurd: 8 years of a single studio dominating the award is a bit much. Yet just as Flowers and Trees really was far and away the best film in 1932, the second batch of animated nominees is further proof that Walt Disney not only pioneered American animation but produced some of the best cartoons ever to grace the silver screen. Continue reading
As I noted yesterday in my round-up of the animated short Oscar shortlist, Warner Bros. is pushing hard for a nomination for their new Sylvester and Tweety short. I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, which is playing in front of Happy Feet Two, would be the first Looney Tunes to go to the Academy Awards since 1963’s Now Hear This. Sylvester and Tweety themselves were nominated four times in the ’40s and ’50s, winning twice. I haven’t yet seen the new short, so I have no idea if it lives up to the extraordinary legacy of Warner Bros. cartoons at the Oscars, but I’m eager to find out.
In the meantime, let’s take a look back at the last time these two rambunctious pets made it to the podium. 1957’s Birds Anonymous would mark the fourth Oscar victory for the Looney Tunes series, and the second for a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon. It’s a wonderfully light-hearted spoof of the dark and often heavy-handed melodramas of the time, influenced by the growth and success of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s also one of the most successful films Friz Freleng directed before Warner Bros. closed their animation studio in 1963, causing him to then start his own production company (DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which would create The Pink Panther). Continue reading
Today the Academy announced the 10 animated shorts that have made it onto the shortlist for the Oscar, to be given out in February. Only three to five of these films will be nominated, but even getting this far is an incredibly exciting accomplishment. Therefore, instead of just copying out the list and moving on, let’s talk about them a bit.
Of course, at this point some of the films are easier to learn about than others. The Sylvester and Tweety short even has a For Your Consideration page, while others have almost no online presence. The ten look to be a nice blend of techniques, with representation from stop-motion, traditional and computer generated animation. There’s also a bit of an international presence, with films from Argentina, the UK, France and Poland. The always-present National Film Board of Canada also appears twice on the list. There are veterans of the industry (including former Oscar nominees) alongside very new filmmakers.
Only one of these shorts is available on the web and I haven’t caught any of them at festivals this year, so this’ll be a somewhat basic preview. However, as things become more available I’ll try reviewing them individually. Once I’ve seen them, anyway. For now, here’s a round-up with some trailers. Continue reading
I love stop motion animation. For whatever reason, despite having seen countless shorts and features using the technique, it blows me away almost on principle. Everything, from the Brothers Quay and Terry Gilliam to Wallace and Gromit and that episode of Community, sends me into awe as I think about the process. These little movements, each artfully choreographed down to the slightest detail, are suddenly stacked together for kinetic experiences that often feel much more alive than regular live-action filmmaking. It takes you back to the very basics of cinema.
And of course new technology has only sent creativity through the roof. People can now make shorts with their phones, like that Aardman video set on the beach that was released this summer. Shorts are being made everywhere, inspired by our new world of technology in unexpected and delightful ways. Address Is Approximate is a shining example of this exciting trend. Put on the web just a few days ago by The Theory films, this delightful distraction uses Google Maps to show just how small the world can be these days. Continue reading
The External World picked up yet another award this week, Best Short Film at Anim’est in Romania. I don’t pretend to entirely understand what’s going on in this vibrant and eccentric short, but I like it nonetheless. Somehow managing to find the balance between hyperactive editing and slowly developing themes, director David O’Reilly effortlessly shocks, charms and bewilders. It’s a bit like Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected, in both its schizophrenia and penchant for the violent and scatological.
Yet The External World requires a little bit more work on the part of its audience, and not just because it’s eight minutes longer. There are so many elements, crowding the film’s first half in a succession that would approach tedium if O’Reilly’s structure weren’t so creative. A surprising number of television-reminiscent linking devices guide the short through an almost impossible number of vignettes, with characters behaving more than a little horribly to one another along the way. The initial kid and his abusive piano teacher are almost forgotten by the time they make their second appearance, the first hint of any structural clarity. Continue reading