Guide to The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Animation

After watching the 2011 Oscar nominees for animated short films, I can conclude that the category is intended more for showing off artistic talent than delivering all-around cohesive movies. That’s not to say the animated short films nominated this year aren’t good – they are – they’re just not that good.

Below are the five Oscar-nominated animated short films, ranked in order from worst to best. This is my first year reviewing such films, so don’t bet too much money based on my rankings. Also see our guide to the Oscar-nominated live-action short films.

Oh, and Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures are releasing the animated and live action shorts this Friday, February 11, 2011. They’ll also be available on VOD and iTunes starting February 22, 2011.

5. Day & Night (Animation – USA – 2010)

When Day, a sunny fellow, encounters Night, a stranger of distinctly darker moods, spark fly!

The one short film most people have seen by now – it was, after all, produced by Pixar and attached to Toy Story 3 – has received rave reviews, but I’m not sold. Of all the Pixar shorts, this one interested me the least, even though it’s an ingenious idea. Director Teddy Newton executes the concept perfectly, but I don’t like the concept.

4. The Lost Thing (Animation – Australia – 2010)

A boy discovers a bizarre looking creature while collecting bottle tops at the beach. Realizing it is lost, he tries to find out who owns it or where it belongs.

A lighthearted short set in a bleak world of industry and emptiness, The Lost Thing is one of the more ambitious nominees. On the art and animation front, The Lost Thing is astounding. Unfortunately, the actual execution is a little too passive to hold attention.

3. The Gruffalo (Animation – UK/Germany – 2010)

The magical tale of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods in search of a nut. Encountering three predators who all wish to eat him a fox, an owl and a snake the plucky mouse has to use his wits to survive, creating an imaginary monster who then turns out to be only too real.

The most standard of the five nominated animated shorts, The Gruffalo is an amusing tale that captures the attention and imagination. The animation is top notch. Unfortunately, the use of big-name actors (Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, etc.) bothered me for whatever reason. It’s a very good movie, but there’s nothing original here.

2. Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Animation – France – 2010)

The film is a journey diary that redraws the trip of a European traveler confronted with Famadihana customs. As pages of a diary turn, colorful pencil sketches come to life, revealing the majestic rolling landscapes of Madagascar, and acquainting the audience to the people of the Malagasy culture.

Easily the most unique and artistically creative animated short nominated this year, Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage is hard to describe- you have to see it to believe it. The animation is simply superb. Unfortunately, as culturally rich as the movie is, it didn’t strike me on an emotional level.

As a showcase for artistic talent, Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage is the best, but its lack of a gripping story holds it back from being the #1 film.

1. Let’s Pollute (Animation – USA – 2010)

In the spirit of 50’s & 60’s educational films, Let’s Pollute is a modern satire on how pollution is our heritage and keeps our economy growing strong, while instructing us how to be better polluters for a better blighted tomorrow.

Its political and environment activism aside, Let’s Pollute is an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek look at how we’re destroying our world. Featuring great animation and a funny screenplay by director Geefwee Boedoe, Let’s Pollute is the best animated short film of 2010. Oh, and the political and environmental message is good, too.

Read more about the Oscar-nominated short films.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Awards & Oscars, Movie Reviews