Let’s just dive right in. Here are reviews for all 5 nominees for Best Animated Short.
This hand drawn short has very little to offer and is rather monotonous, even at only 9-min. It’s about a boy and his Sunday routine. There’s not a plot beyond that description. There’s the train that rattles through the small town, trips to church, and family gatherings. The boy is fond of having coins flattened on train tracks and being bored with the world grown-ups inhabit. I’m not exaggerating, that is all this film is.
It seems like it wants to say something about how a child sees the world or maybe something about childhood malaise, but it shouldn’t bore me while trying to make its point. It’s nice to see someone still drawing their own films, but the design and bland use of color leave much to be desired. If you’re going to spend so much time and effort on something, try to make it actually about something.
At 17-min. this is the longest short of the bunch, and it feels like it too. It’s a CG piece with some other formats subtly used as well. The story begins when a bookworm and his New Orleans-like town are blown away by a massive storm. In the aftermath, everything has turned to B&W and it seems all is lost. Right about here is where the film lost me. Morris comes across some flying books, then their sanctuary, and then he becomes their caretakers/librarian all while writing his own story.
It’s supposed to feel magical and be a bit old-fashioned, but it’s all rather unexciting and stretched way too thin. The animation/style is the best thing about Flying but it’s not enough. By the end you’re meant to appreciate the power of art and books and realize how life affirming creativity can be but it comes across like a stale platitude.
This short CG film from PIXAR is pretty much my new favorite thing. A grandpa, a father, and a son row a tiny boat out to the middle of nowhere. There they wait, and we soon learn that the son is getting his first taste of the family profession. I don’t want to spoil what they do and how they do it, but it is fantastical, awe-inspiring, and some of the most magical animation I’ve ever seen.
There is some clever business regarding whether the son should be more like his Dad or Grandpa, but the film is not a laugh riot like a lot of PIXAR shorts tend to be. It’s an inspired little fairy tale that will remind you of a time when everything still held some kind of wonder. Perfect.
This is certainly the most random of the group. Stroll shows 3 different versions of the same thing happening in 3 different time periods in 3 different styles of animation. The event is a man witnessing the strange sight of a chicken walking down the sidewalk, then up some steps, and finally tapping on a door to be let inside. We see this happen in the past using crude animation in a silent film style. We then see it happen in modern times in a rudimentary computer animation style. And finally we see it in the future, after the zombie apocalypse and in full-blown CG.
At first, it seems to be commenting on cultural priorities and what have you. The modern passerby is far too distracted by his smart phone for example. But after the third action heavy and violent “future” section, it feels more like the animators just wanted to have a bit of fun, and chose this odd but true incident to graft some of their other ideas over. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but this short lacks any cohesion to be anything more.
Wild Life is about a young Englishman sent forth by his father to Calgary in 1909. He is to make something of himself and harbors dreams of being a cowboy. Of course the reality of life in the untamed west, the land, the locals, and his own lack of ambition, eventually overwhelms him.
The film looks almost like it was painted. The brushstrokes and ragged style are quite striking. Some parts seem like they were rotoscoped but this is still the most avant-garde and dramatic of the group. It’s rough around the edges. However, the story is nicely layered and paints an alternative, and sad picture of frontier life.