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A Look at the 2015 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

February 13, 2015 | By

This year’s Oscar nominees for best animated short film form a moving, stylistically diverse collection of entertaining confections built on mature themes that wryly dissect the perils of childhood, friendship, romance, family dynamics and aging. Still, with the form’s roots in comedy, humor mostly prevails, some of it darkly flipping the narrative on its head in the final frames.

Me and My Moulton

Me and My Moulton

Me and My Moulton

Canadian director Torill Kove, who won an Oscar in 2007 for her animated short The Danish Poet, reflects on her unconventional childhood growing up in Norway in the colorful, sweetly comic Me and My Moulton. With colors as bright and punchy as the Marimekko fabric her mother uses to sew handmade dresses for her three daughters, the film effortlessly blends architectural line drawings, the carefree stick figures of childhood sketches and modernist designs favored by her loving, eccentric parents – architects who unwittingly spoil the young narrator’s every attempt to fit in with her neighbors and peers. The title contains the elegant Trojan Horse that delivers the film’s warm and welcome message of acceptance and the unexpected pleasures of nonconformity.

Feast

Feast

Feast

First-time director Patrick Osborne internalizes the best of Pixar’s and Disney’s emotionally loaded montages, from the dog-romance sequence in Lady and the Tramp to the wordless love story segment in Up, resulting in Disney’s sublimely endearing tale of a dog and his owner in Feast. The little Boston Terrier’s buoyant, headlong appetite mirrors the audience’s as Osborne piles on the sights, sounds and layers of every dog’s dream diet. Universally appealing in his unselfconscious abandon, the dog nearly undoes his owner’s own blossoming love story until he finds a way to prove his loyalty. A delicious, accelerated coda rewards the dog’s brave final act. Osborne is also the co-head of animation for the studio’s Big Hero 6, nominated this year for Best Animated Feature and the film that screened with Feast in theaters.

The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

British director Daisy Jacobs uses an entirely different medium to unfold the complicated, wickedly funny story of two brothers caring for and confronting the eventual death of their elderly mother in The Bigger Picture. Shot in stop-motion on standard-size sets, the short’s human characters are all rendered as giant, 2D wall paintings that are animated both in paint and with three-dimensional arms and legs that move in and about the 3D set and props. Watching the many practical ways Jacobs animates water, in particular, is worth the price of admission. But her narrative through the murky, familial waters of bitterness and forgiveness elevates her visual tricks – and the pun in her title – to another level entirely. Jacobs won a BAFTA award for her animated short on Feb. 8.

A Single Life

A Single Life

A Single Life

A Single Life from the Dutch filmmakers known as Job, Joris & Marieke (Job Roggeveen, Joris Oprins and Marieke Blaauw), bursts onto the screen with marzipan-candy colored 3D animation and a jazzy, syncopated pace that keeps on building until the darkly hilarious conclusion two minutes later. Driven by the skips, rewinds and fast-forwards of a magical vinyl record as it spins on a turntable, the story offers a refreshing take on this life flashing before our eyes.

The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper

At 18 minutes long and in a nostalgic, painterly 2D style, the final nominee The Dam Keeper offers a unique look into the creative minds of former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi. The nearly wordless film sets a somber mood with its lilting piano score, charcoal-and-watercolor backgrounds and occasional voiceover narration from a mournful Dane (Lars Mikkelson). Despite its doom-and-gloom overtones, this is really a story about childhood and the power of creativity. In world threatened by a menacing “dark” environmental danger and told from the perspective of an orphaned pig with the sole responsibility of keeping the townsfolk safe, the film’s animal characters act out familiar coming-of-age themes of bullying and friendship. The new kid in town, a bright-orange fox, helps the poor pig put everything in perspective, starting – as all these films must have started – with a few swift swirls of chalk.

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