Idea Blog

The Reviews Are In: Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

Denise McArthur 02.20.2015

Animated art has its place in business, in education, and in its own realm.

In the business context, we at IdeaRocket create animations to get our clients’ messages across. Whether for commercial, cultural, or educational purposes, we channel your organization’s message—but it’s never a straight-to-the-point pitch. We believe ensconcing that message in an engaging narrative makes it that much more effective. We use artistry, humor, drama, and larger-than-life characters to elevate a simple concept into an enthralling experience.

As artists ourselves—many of us pursuing animation for sheer passion—we can’t help but indulge in art for art’s sake. In simpler terms, our team loves animations that seek to entertain, inspire, and explore the human condition.

Nothing showcases the limitless possibilities of our imaginative art form on a bigger stage than the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. We had the chance to catch this year’s nominated shorts in theaters; here are our reviews.

Me and My Moulton – 8.2/10

Created by Norwegian-born animator Torill Kove, this charming short tells the story of a seven-year old girl, her two sisters, and their oddball, well-meaning parents. We’re taken for a ride through the protagonist’s fantasies of a normal family—a father that chops wood, a mother who buys her pretty dresses—and delight in her offbeat reality—the only dad in town with a mustache, a mom who stitches dresses resembling modern art masterpieces.

With simple shapes, vivid colors, and a childish, storybook art direction, the film feels nostalgic, heartfelt, and quirky, without being cloying or mawkish. The animation explores human subtleties far more complex than the simplistic art suggests.

Feast – 7.9/10

Aww-inducing puppies might not be the most profound subject, but when the big-eyed pooch scrambles onto the screen in the opening seconds of Feast, it still elicits an immediate, visceral reaction. That’s effective art any way you slice it. A product of Walt Disney Animation Studios and director Patrick Osborne, this short already reached a wide audience, appearing before Big Hero 6. 

As the pup parades through meal after meal, we see him grow up before our eyes. Meanwhile, a slightly darker drama slowly unfolds in the background. His owners fight, drift, and soon the dog wakes up in a dimly lit studio apartment, apparently alone with his newly single master. The story is solid, if a bit superficial, but the refined, fun visual style is what really sets this piece apart.

The Bigger Picture – 8.8/10

Compared to the levity of the first two films, this one hits like bricks. A story of two brothers dealing with the declining health of their aging mother, this animation featured both the darkest narrative and the most innovative art design. This mixed-media stop-action film, created by Daisy Jacobs, has already won the BAFTA for Best Short Animation—and it’s easy to see why.

The inventive animation alone deserves distinction: the characters are painted onto flat walls, with the occasional appendage breaking into the third dimension (e.g., when one brother sits, his head and torso are plastered to the wall, while his legs and seat, modeled in clay, extend towards the camera). It’s a style that’s disconcerting, fascinating, and intimate all at the same time, much like the story it tells.

A Single Life – 7.1/10

The shortest short of all the nominees, this two-minute animation by Job Roggeveen, Joris Oprins, and Marieke Blaauw, is cute, poppy, and just a little mischievous. After the emotional blow of the preceding film, it’s a welcome bit of fun. The alien-like character happens upon a magic record that allows her to skip between stages of her life; slapstick hilarity ensures.

Still, the film feels rather shallow compared to the other contenders here. The character design leaves much to be desired, though the quick narrative pace and wicked conclusion make up for those shortcomings.

The Dam Keeper – 9.3 / 10 

While this film is the longest of the batch, clocking in at twenty minutes, not a millisecond is wasted. Created by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, this animation follows a pig entrusted to wind up the windmill that keeps the mysterious darkness at bay, protecting the town. Our sympathetic pig is bullied and tormented at school, an outcast among popular kids—until a new student comes to class with a sketchpad.

The art is gorgeous and unimpeachable, employing a painterly style that seems at once cartoonish, impressionistic, and true-to-life—the play of light and shadow on the pig’s face as he looks out the window is jaw-dropping. With a story fraught with vulnerability, betrayal, and high drama—without taking itself too seriously—and the art to bring it all to life, The Dam Keeper is our favorite to take home the Oscar.

No matter which short wins the Academy Award, they’re all inspirations that show the full range of animation, from hard-hitting facts of life, to sentimental vignettes, to good old fashioned fun and spellbinding storytelling.

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