This year’s nominees for animated short film encompass a wide spectrum of techniques, from traditional hand-drawn figures to state-of-the-art computer animation. It’s one of the most diverse slates in recent years, offering Academy voters clear choices about look, tone and medium.
As she did in the Oscar-winning “The Danish Poet” (Canada, 2006), Torill Kove uses simple, drawn figures and a bright palette to present a charming faux-memoir in “Me and My Moulton” (Canada). Three young sisters growing up in a pleasant Norwegian town ask their eccentric parents for a bicycle, like the ordinary ones their friends have. The girls are surprised and slightly dismayed when their parents buy an odd bike they would want instead. Like “The Danish Poet,” “Me and My Moulton” feels so genuine, it’s a little disappointing to discover it’s fiction.
In Joris Oprins’ “A Single Life” (Netherlands), a simply rendered girl named Pia acquires a mysterious 45 rpm vinyl record that enables her to move back and forth through her life, from infancy to old age. Even at what is clearly an early point in his career, Oprins understands that this premise can sustain the viewer’s interest only for a brief time, and brings the film to an end quickly and skillfully, giving the humor its maximum punch.
In the visually striking “The Bigger Picture” (U.K.), Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees mix techniques and media in imaginative ways. The conflicts that arise between two dissimilar brothers as their aged mother declines in health and requires additional care prove less interesting than the ways the directors depict them. In some scenes, the figures are two meters high and occupy full-size sets; in others, a three-dimensional stop-motion arm moves in perfect synchronization with a drawn body.
The most widely seen of the nominees is Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed’s “Feast” (U.S.), which screens with Disney’s CG hit “Big Hero Six.” Winston, a gray-and-white pup adopted off the street by a kindhearted man, grows up sharing romances and junk food with his new best friend. When forced to choose between love and calories, Winston’s shrewd choice enables him to enjoy both. The year’s lone nom from a major studio, “Feast” offers richly detailed visuals that complement its upbeat tone.
Although widely respected for their work as art directors on the hit Pixar features “Toy Story 3” and “Monsters University,” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi had never written or directed a film prior to making “The Dam Keeper” (U.S.).
The directors and their crew painted the individual frames (more than 8,000 of them) in Photoshop to create the film’s moody, light-filled world. It’s an appropriate setting for the story of an introverted, bullied Pig, who maintains the huge windmill that keeps toxic fumes away from his village. When mischievous Fox with a talent for caricature arrives at his school, Pig discovers the joys of friendship.