The 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts in the Animation category explore similar themes of family and time, evoking certain emotions over and over again.
Many of the shorts, including Bao and Weekends, were autobiographical. Bao, Disney Pixar’s short released with Incredibles 2 and applauded for its cultural representation, tells the story of a lonely Chinese mother and one of her dumplings when it comes to life as a little dumpling boy. This narrative with animations characteristic of Pixar plays with the idea of parental possessiveness and the need for familial love and attention, taking a harrowing turn at the end that leaves one to wonder the costs of overprotection. Also featuring an Asian-American family is One Small Step, the cleanly-drawn animation about big dreams and realistic achievements. Through the passage of time, Luna must grapple with her dreams of being an astronaut and the obstacles in her way, supported by her single father the entire time. The crisp 3D animation was certainly appealing, turning this “dream-chasing-believe-in-yourself” storyline into something fresh and emotional.
Another short that deals with family is Weekends, a hand-drawn melancholic tale of childhood after a recent divorce. The absence of dialogue brings all the focus onto the universal mood of this film, as a child bounces between homes and lives and relationships evolve as a result, offering a compelling story of a fractured family with purely the art of animation. Late Afternoon looks at the painful issue of memory loss, as Emily, an elderly woman, goes through old memories in order to make sense of the present. Through the use of color, Emily was able to weave through all the different memories, and the flow through time between the present, the subconscious, and the memories. The emotions associated with memory loss was heightened with the use of water throughout the film, washing over her as she searches for clarity.
The last nominee shown, Animal Behaviour, features anthropomorphized animals in a group therapy session. As the most comedic short in the featured films, it is filled with crude animal jokes based on their natural traits until an ape gets going and sets off the dog therapist. The lineup also included two additional selected shorts, Wishing Box and Tweet Tweet. Wishing Box introduced us to a greedy pirate and his hungry monkey companion who come across a box that will give you anything you wish for, while Tweet Tweet gives us the courage to balance on a tightrope as a girl befriends a sparrow who guides her throughout her life.
All the short films used a variety of animation styles, opening my eyes to how diverse animated films can be. From the scratchy and homey feel of the hand-animated Weekends to the colorful, flowy vibe of Late Afternoon to the crisp 2D-on-3D animation of One Small Step, the animation nominees were all both visually appealing and emotionally resonant.