2012 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Dimanche (Canada) — A very crudely-drawn look at a boy living in a world that is not his own. He lives with a couple of elderly people, perhaps his grandparents, who don’t pay a whole lot of attention to him and don’t have much to offer in the way of entertainment. About the only pastime he enjoys is placing coins on the nearby tracks and watching them be flattened by passing trains. It’s pretty lacking in both depth of story and quality of animation, and it’s surprising that this would be considered among the top five of all animated short films produced in the year.

A Morning Stroll (UK) — An interesting look at a story set in three times. It opens in 1959 with extremely crude black-and-white line art animation and shows a man slowly walking down the street, paying attention to everything he passes. We then jump ahead to 2009 and see much better quality animation, in color and more detail. A man is again walking down the street, but this time completely engrossed in his cell phone and not paying attention to anything or anyone else. Another 50-year jump brings us to 2059 and yet another walk with even better animation and a new take on the theme. I was unimpressed with its first segment, but then it won me over with the second and third, when it became clear that it was a more complex story than it first appeared.

Wild Life (Canada) — The film opens with footage from an old black-and-white video encouraging people to come to Canada. One young British man must have seen this because he finds himself stepping off a train in a sparsely-populated town in Alberta and acquires 90 acres of land with his wealthy parents’ money. He takes to calling himself rancher, but he spends most of his time doing very non-rancherly things like playing golf and polo, and having tea and scones. The film uses an interesting style of animation that often looks like it’s comprised of oil paintings progressing at just a few frames per second, and while it has a more overt narrative than the previous two, there’s not a lot of depth to that story.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (USA) — In this tale of The Wizard of Oz meets Pleasantville meets Night at the Museum, a man who is sitting on his front porch reading is suddenly whisked up by a great wind and deposited in a black-and-white world inhabited. He happens upon a library and he soon finds himself to be its caretaker. The books are alive, dancing and flying and otherwise serving as his companion, and he soon finds that as people encounter and read the books, they turn from black and white into color. It’s well drawn and packs a lot into a fairly short period of time, but is pretty lacking in originality.

La Luna (USA) — This Pixar short features three people in a rowboat named “La Luna”: a boy and two men who we presume to be his father and grandfather. They’ve rowed out on a dark night but before long, the moon has risen into the sky. The father holds a ladder while the boy climbs up with a rope and steps onto the surface of the moon, anchoring the boat to it. We find the surface littered with lots of little shooting stars that have fallen to the moon, and it becomes clear that the men are there in a janitorial capacity. As expected, the animation is of a very high quality and the story is fairly touching, but I didn’t find it as immediately and intensely compelling as many of their other shorts.