I adore animation, and it bums me out that most animated features are so formulaic and safe. I understand that they have to be widely-appealing due to the high production costs, but it keeps the animated form mostly constrained to family films. The Oscar-nominated animated shorts allow us to have a peek at an animated world that can break boundaries, and show us the potential of the medium when it doesn’t have to appeal to all ages. Unfortunately, most of these nominees are fairly safe, although it seems like they were all required to avoid dialogue. The majority of the shorts are still entertaining, but there’s a runaway winner in the pack.
Hit the jump for my reviews of the 2012 Oscar-nominated animated short films: Paperman, Fresh Guacamole, Head over Heels, Adam and Dog, and Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”.
I flat-out love this movie. I could watch it every few days, and get lost in it again and again. It’s a simple story of a guy trying to get a girl’s attention by throwing paper airplanes at her from the building across the street, and his attempts are constantly sweet and funny, but the film never feels slight. There’s a wonderful romance to it where it’s not about love at first sight per say, but it’s about taking the chance to at least meet someone, and see where it could go. Director John Kahrs put together a revolutionary blend of hand-drawn animation and 3D, but even in 2D, the short still works beautiful. Paperman probably had more money than any of these other shorts, but it absolutely paid off.
This short feels more like an exercise in stop-motion animation rather than anything substantial. Writer-director PES turns food into game icons like dice and Monopoly houses to create a game-peppered guacamole. There’s nothing beyond that, so while the short a little cute, it’s nothing worthwhile. Fresh Guacamole feels even more insignificant when placed along side its fellow nominees. It’s a movie that would get an art student an “A” on their final exam, but it’s hardly worth of Academy attention.
HEAD OVER HEELS
I don’t know how long director Timothy Reckart worked on Head over Heels, but at some point he must have recognized that his short would immediately be compared to Up. We see a floating house with old people inside of it. It’s a superficial comparison, but it’s distracting nonetheless. But if you can get past those features, Head over Heels is a nice little movie about a couple trying to reconnect even though they no longer seem to have anything in common including gravity. The stop-motion picture comes to a sweet resolution, but it all feels a little obvious once the novelty of the upside-down house wears off.
ADAM AND DOG
This is my second favorite based almost solely on the fact that I’m a dog person. However, the 2D animation is well done, and it’s the story of the fall of man from a perspective that feels both comforting and original. Writer-director Minkyu Lee brings an unflinching melancholy and darkness to the story that’s not aggressive as much as it’s reminiscent of the bleakest scenes in Disney’s pre-1990s animated films. Adam and Dogs isn’t a religious film, but simply another take on a boy-and-his-dog story, and those usually win me over.
MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE”
It’s a fun movie that played before Ice Age: Continental Drift. There’s really nothing more to it, and the short mostly feels like a bit of a retread of the “Great Escape” parody from The Simpsons episode “A Streetcar Named Marge”. That’s the problem with The Simpsons: It’s been on so long that it rips itself off; the current writers are the ones who grew up watching the show. It’s not like South Park, which is nimble enough to be topical. “The Longest Daycare” probably had around as much money as Paperman, but this Simpsons short lacks the heart or innovation of Disney’s movie.
[This short is not available to view online]