REVIEW: Oscar – Nominated Animated Shorts

These animated films featured a mixed bag in terms of origin, tone, genre, and visual quality.

One film was in a post-industrial style, using currently- common animation style (similar to Pixar, at least to my eye), and depicted robots as humane beings and animals. This film was about the everlasting friendship between a robotman and a robotdog, and the loyalty binding them. Another was more pencil-sketched, all in black and white, and quite dark in tone, about a feral child who, after being taken and sent to school by a hunter, escapes a civilized life through a mystical, transcendental dissolution of his material body. As the feral boy dissolves, he morphs through several configurations as various wild animals, finally becoming rain for the forest and creatures.

One film is about a squirrel searching for a scarf, encountering a handful of forest creatures during his search, and aiding them through philosophical conversations, offering his counsel. Finally the squirrel realizes the world will end eventually and that his scarf doesn’t matter, and is soon killed in a freak accident. This film expresses a combination of darkness and playfulness uncommon in popular animation. I loved the wisdom of the moral, that one may spend their lives philosophizing, but in the end, life is precious and fragile. Another film is a meditation on Japanese folklore. In Japan, a caption says, unused or misused objects carry trapped spirits. During the film, a man is stranded in a hut in the jungle and cannot escape until he puts a handful of neglected materials to use. These objects are personified throughout the film, and mutual gratitude is expressed at the end. Finally, in a British film, a witch and her cat travel around, showing compassion toward various forest creatures, and inviting them to ride on the witch’s broom, although there is not ample space. A dragon tries to eat the witch and the forest creatures band together to scare off the dragon and save the witch.

These synopses depict a clear theme in this year’s animated shorts : a celebration of the individual nature, and a prioritization of one’s material and spiritual freedom and present-mindedness. As I had anticipated, the general tone was brighter than non-animated shorts, but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the depth and dynamic of moral and emotional material. A few of these films are unapologetically inspired by classic folklore (the British and the Japanese especially), and most involved mystical elements. These animated films used technology and gorgeous artwork  to bring sequences of images into the mind’s eye, otherwise impossible for the viewer to experience. These images enabled emotional and moral experiences, equally unique and rare.

2014 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts