If you’ve bared with me through the sometimes wearing nostalgia of the 1960′s, 70′s, and 80′s, you’re in for a treat. The 1990′s welcomes the start of Pixar, accompanied by a freight of extremely entertaining short animated films. I fulfill my promise of a welcome antidote to the class of live-action poetry, but then again with Pixar, who says you can’t have both? The 2000′s brings on the full force of computer generated animation, as well as turns from other studios. As we’ll examine tomorrow, short films allows an extra medium for cinema, animation even more so- The Old Man and the Sea and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmoreeven more so.
Director: Nick Aardman
Creature Comforts is classic Aardman Animation, the company that brought you Wallace and Gromit. The short film is composed of interviews from zoo animals, a clever commentary on animal confinement from the voice of a human mentality. It’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes except that the apes are evolved. The question is, do they wish rebel out of captivity? According to Aardman, no. They’re much too civilized for that.
The Old Man and the Sea
Director: Aleksandr Petrov
The Old Man and the Sea is the Titanic of animated short films. Twenty minutes is long for a short film, but the Sea doesn’t feel bloated. It’s a fantastic, gorgeously animated epic that’s composed of a poetry uncommonly seen in animation. Based on the classic Ernest Hemingway novel, the film caters to adults with its humanist themes, our struggles paralleled to the animal kingdom. It is awash with vibrant, almost startling tones, Petrov a wizard in animated artistry. While most short films are held on to tightly by their countries, this is a collaboration between Canada, Russia, and Japan, and went on to accept the Oscar. Truly one of the greatest animated short films I have ever seen, Sea stands on its own as an argument for the continuation of short films.
Father and Daughter
Director: Michael Dudok De Wit
I feel bad about giving you two sad short films in a row, but I just could not pass up the opportunity to share with you Michael Dudok De Wit’s Father and Daughter, a beautiful short film made in minimalist style, its colors and details limited- an artistic choice, no doubt, that amplifies the emotional weight the film holds. Sophisticated in its prose, Father is a rare work of emotional ingenuity that tells a tale without once uttering a word.
For the Birds
Director: Ralph Eggleston
Now we’re getting somewhere! I was excited to get to the 2000’s, because it is indeed the Pixar Age. And behind every brilliant Pixar film is a brilliant Pixar short, For the Birds no exception. Silly, whimsical fun that brings out the child in all of us, For the Birds’ only fault is its severe lack of green pigs.
One Man Band
Director: Andrew Jimenez
I love One Man Band. As Pixar matures, so does its shorts. One Man Band is a great example, the characters and plots more elaborate, Pixar starting to develop a subtle but undeniable witty sense of satire. The characters are colorful and the animation is as sharp as ever, the film’s final twist funny and satisfying. Here, we see Pixar is quickly getting better at the art of short films- the plot is clear as any, and its only afterwards that you realize not a single word was said.
Director: Doug Sweetland
A short surely recycled from an old film idea, Presto is the story of a magician’s rabbit who refuses to be pulled out of the hat until he’s properly fed. It premiered before the year’s WALL-E and is a visual dazzler, the rabbit’s fur especially palpable as Pixar masters the art of moving hair with animated bodies (did you see Merida’s from Brave?) and here it looks fantastic, the resolution obvious but satiating all the same.
Director: Nikolas Shemerkin
A mesmerizing visual allegory of the increasing envelopment of consumerism into the modern age, Logorama presents the world made up of product trademarks and logos, between the MSN butterflies flying by or the North Face mountain.
I’m sure that’s what marketing fed to Academy members the year the film won, because really, this is pretty much just the product of two guys who wanted to see Ronald McDonald fighting the Marshmallow Men with shotguns, shooting down the IBM building and tumbling down a shoe-themed mountain. Either way, it’s a treat.
Sorry, Logorama isn’t available online in English. Here is a short teaser of it instead:
Director: Peter Sohn
An adorable and inventive short film about a world where storks exists- but where does the stork get the baby? According to Pixar, giant cloud people in the sky make babies of all species and send them off to be delivered. Have you ever had a “Why do I always get the bad ones” when it comes to a work associate or job? Well, try being the stork that gets stuck with the cloud that makes things like baby alligators and porcupines. Typically, hilarity ensues.
Day and Night
Director: Ted Newton
The creative and ambitious chronicle of the battle between the embodiments of Day and Night, who fight over which is better, scenery shown through their transparent bodies against a plain black backdrop the showcase for such.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Director: William Joyce
This year’s Oscar winner in the category, Books is the whirlwind story that does what no other film can claim to have accomplished- fully capture the beauty and adventure of literature. Sure, film makers embrace the chance to dedicate a love-letter to their own craft, and that’s fine, but using the medium of film, this short delves into the adventures that lie in books, completely devoid of the evanescence found in any other art form. It’s a captivating escapade painted from an entrancing visual palette- indeed, by the end, even those not familiar with the world of books can admit to have witnessed something magical.
Honorable mentions include Pixar’s Hawaiian Vacation, Small Fry, Jack Jack Attack, Your Friend the Rat and La Luna, some of my favorites that aren’t available to watch online.