Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2019
The difference in production value is quite evident in the animated shorts category, as not all filmmakers are backed by the resources of Pixar or Disney. What really stands out here is the strength of the stories and how they play on our real life emotions and memories. Below you will find these listed in order of my preference. Just a reminder, these are not Oscar predictions, just personal opinion.
WEEKENDS (USA) 16 minutes
Familiarity, in fact, all-too-familiar, may be the difference for this story from Trevor Jimenez. A young son gets bounced back and forth between the homes of his divorced parents. Initially the mother keeps things simple, with an emphasis on love. In contrast, trips to dad’s place include scary movies, video games, fast food and plenty of hands-on play time (with weapons and costumes!).
Fittingly, dad’s car radio is on an endless stream of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”, while the other times are covered by the familiar and recognizable chords of Satie. The boy is caught between the two adults trying to put their own lives back together, and some amazing animation takes us through the boy’s imaginative dream and nightmare sequences.
While at Pixar, Mr. Jimenez worked on FINDING DORY and COCO, and this one seems to carry personal memories for him.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR (Canada) 14 minutes
The husband and wife animation team of David Fine and Alison Snowden (two very real, not animated creators) won an Oscar in this category in 1995 for their short BOB’S BIRTHDAY, which was then turned into a TV series “Bob and Margaret”. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the animators have hopes for the same path for their latest.
We enter a group therapy session for an unusual collection of critters, including: a praying mantis, a leech, a bird, and a pig. The session is led by a dog, and is soon crashed by a newcomer – a boisterous gorilla. The gag here – beyond the obvious – is that each of these critters is dealing with normal traits for their species, though they sound particularly bothersome when stated aloud. Kids are not the target market here given all the talk about sex (stay away from the praying mantis) and orifices. Creativity is on display here, and don’t be surprised if some mutation of this ends up on TV.
ONE SMALL STEP (USA, China) 8 minutes
Former Disney animators Andrew Chesworth (animator on MOANA and FROZEN) and Bobby Pontillas co-direct a script co-written with Taiko Studios founder Shaofu Zhang. It’s a story of a single father and his Chinese-American daughter Luna, and takes us through her early childhood dreams of walking on the moon to her college years taking astrophysics classes.
The devoted father is there to encourage his young daughter’s dreams, and later to quietly support her with meals and shoe repair. It’s yet another reminder of how the efforts of parents sometimes go unappreciated, but the commitment never fades. The ending here is predictable, yet no less powerful and emotional.
BAO – Pixar (USA) 8 minutes
It should come as no surprise that Pixar has a nomination in this category. The premier animation studio employees some immensely talented folks, including Domee Shi (previously a storyboard artist on INCREDIBLES 2), who becomes the first woman to direct a Pixar short film.
As with many Pixar projects, this one will likely resonate with parents as much, if not more, than with kids. Of course there are some exceptional visuals; however, it’s more poignantly a look at the stages of life … especially the trials and tribulations of parenthood (especially the overprotective type). This one is far and away the most viewed entry since it ran before theatrical showings of INCREDIBLES 2, which itself is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Some may struggle a bit with the idea of a homemade dumpling coming to life and being raised as a growing kid, but the ending will likely hit home with most every parent.
LATE AFTERNOON (Ireland) 10 minutes
Louise Bagnall previously worked as an animator on the Oscar nominated SONG OF THE SEA, but this one is all hers. These days there is no shortage of projects putting dementia front and center, and we quickly realize the elderly Emily (voiced by the great Fionnula Flanagan) suffers from this dreaded affliction.
The fantastical dreamlike sequences carry us away in Emily’s memories of life. These snippets of her childhood and adult life tell us much about the woman who now finds happiness in a biscuit with her tea. The past and present are often a jumbled mess for Emily, and although her caretaker’s identity is no real mystery, it is still a wonderful moment when it clicks for Emily … even if we know it’s only for a short while.