Monday, December 4, 2017

Best Animated Short 2017 - The Shortlist

Yes, I am still alive. I will admit I've kind of fallen behind on the animation scene. When Cartoon Brew reported on the qualifying films this year I didn't feel like writing a post about all 63 of them. And Jerry Beck has been writing excellent articles about the films that qualified for the Academy Awards but were not nominated from 1947-1975, but I haven't written about them. Part of it may be related to the fact my computer has gotten agonizingly slow, but part of it may be because I've had my attention elsewhere, such as baseball. Still, I figured I'll write about the shortlist once it's been revealed. However, Thanksgiving came and went and there was still no sign of a shortlist. I was beginning to think that they wouldn't even announce a shortlist this year and I'll be REALLY out of the loop, but loyal reader Sean Ramsdell reported to me that the shortlist is FINALLY out. So I'll take this opportunity to give my quick thoughts about each of them, just like I have in the past few years.

Cradle is a thesis film by USC student Devon Manney. I've always liked the fact that a student film can qualify for the Oscar by winning a Student Academy Award. It's very rare for these student films to actually get a nomination, but it is a good way for them to get recognition. Anyways, Cradle tells the story about a veteran named Will who comes back from deployment after getting both of his arms amputated, and his struggles with adjusting to his domestic life as well as the horrifying condition known as phantom pains. The entire film has been put online by the director, which is nice. The US has had a lot of veterans, and while we rightfully celebrate them for what they've done, it seems too often once the welcome home celebrations have ended, they still have a lot of issues to deal with, whether it be adjusting to the lifestyle or the trauma that they have endured. Some people have good support system, but sadly not everybody does. Cradle illustrates the struggles fairly well. I don't want to spoil anything, so you might as well watch the film now while you can.

Dear Basketball
Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest stars in NBA history. In a 20 year career that stretched from 1996 to 2016, Bryant ended up third all-time in total points, behind Karl Malone but ahead of Michael Jordan. He teamed up with Phil Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal to win three straight NBA titles 2000-2002, then won two more without Shaq in 2009-2010.* He also headlined the Nintendo 64 classic Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside. Alas, by 2015 Kobe was pushing 40, and he was started to feel his age. On November 29, 2015, Kobe announced his retirement on the Player's Tribune with a poem he wrote describing his love for the game. The article won wide acclaim, and one of the people it touched was legendary animator Glen Keane, who has made several films since striking out on his own including the Oscar shortlisted Duet. He went to Bryant and together they set out to make the poem into a film hand animated by Keane with music done by Oscar winning composer John Williams. The end result with the fluid animation from Keane and the rousing score from Williams and Kobe's heartfelt words was certainly stirring. There are a few videos of the film being shown at the Hollywood Bowl with a live orchestration and a live reading by Kobe, but I won't link to that. I'm sure you can find it yourself.

*And yes,  I will point out the fact that the Lakers won the first game of the 2009 NBA Championships over the Orlando Magic on June 4, 2009, which is incidentally the day that Randy Johnson won his 300th career game.  

Fox and the Whale
Fox and the Whale talks about a little fox living in the big wilderness who is haunted by recurrent dreams of a giant whale swimming in the distance. As wild animals prance around him, he sets off on a journey that will change his life forever. The film is the loving product of essentially a two person team of animators Robin Joseph and Kim Leow. It is a visually stunning film that combines 2D animation with CG-I. The end result is very striking as the two styles mesh together very well. It really captures the breathtaking aspects of nature, even if the character designs are a little bit on the abstract side. I'm not going to say anything about the story other than the little blurb I have written above. The entire film is online so if you really want to know you can watch it for yourself.

Garden Party
Apparently Garden Party was online at one point, but it has been removed in favor of the trailer for the time being, probably while it goes on a few more festival runs. Anyways, apparently it tells the story about a party of frogs and toads who run amuck inside an abandoned mansion, and then through their explorations they slowly come to learn the secrets of the house. Or something like that. Garden Party was made by a group of six young animators in France who did it as part of a graduation film. The animation as seen in the trailer is dazzling, as the frogs look photo-realistic without quite passing the uncanny valley. Whether or not that will impress the audience still remain to be seen, but it got far enough to get on the shortlist, at the very least. Here's hoping that the entire film comes up again soon.

In a Heartbeat
This is a film that many of you readers have probably seen, considering it became somewhat of a viral sensation when it first came out in the end of July (shortly after Adrian Beltre got his 3,000th hit.) It has racked up almost 32 million views during that time. The film made by two students in the Ringling College of Art & Design tells the story of one boy who lusts after his classmate. In his nervous excitement being around the object of his affection, his heartbeat eventually comes to life and starts creepily going after its love. The boy tries to contain it, much to everybody's consternation. I suppose one reason why it was such a big hit was because the film's subject is one that has not been explored much in animated films. Oh, there have been films about lust, but not a lot about lust for somebody the same gender. The film's theme was very personal for the filmmakers, as one is gay and the other is supportive of LGBTQ rights. I'm sure some less progressive folks would be turned off by this, but it's a shame because they'll be missing out on a film that's fairly cute and fairly slapstick. Anyways, the whole film is up, so you can help get it past the 32 million view mark.

Life Smartphone (Di Tou Ren Shen 低头人生)
Here's another film that I've seen floating around the Internet, although evidently it's been around since 2015 so I'm surprised that it still qualifies for an Oscar. Anyways, this film is from the Chinese animator Xie Chenglin (謝承霖) and the Chinese title translates essentially to The Head Down Life. It tells of a society where people are so engrossed in their smartphones that they are completely blind to whatever is going around them, unless of course they see something they want to take a selfie with. It's a pretty obvious critique on the role these devices have in our life, but it does so in a way that's so absurdly funny that you don't feel quite so bad laughing at it. And yes, sadly I too suffer from a smartphone addiction, another reason why you haven't seen as many posts.

Lost Property Office
I don't really know much about this film other than the fact that it was made in Australia, and tells the tale about a man who works in a place called the "Lost Property Office" and ends up feeling lost himself. I don't really know what it is with Australians and things that are lost (considering an Australian film called The Lost Thing won an Oscar in 2010.) Anyways, the film is done in stop motion animation and everything was evidently made out of cardboard. I suppose it's fitting because cardboard is something that people often lose but really don't care that they lost. The character design is somewhat generic, but I said the same thing about More and that was one of the best animated shorts in the history of this category. We'll have to see what the finished product is like if and when it gets posted online.

This is probably another film that a lot of people saw, considering it was made by Pixar and played before Cars 3, which grossed almost $383.5 million of which $152.9 million was in the US. Lou tells the story of an elementary school playground where a magical being named Lou takes any lost items and keeps it safe in the lost and found. However, Lou would eventually meet its match with a mean bully who steals all of the other kids' toys. Lou starts out as a relatively generic slapstick type film that they've made in the past with films like Mike's New Car, One Man Band, Lifted, and Presto. That's not to say it's bad but it's something that have been done many times before. However, the film becomes more than just a slapstick title when it tries to get into the history of the bully and why he acts the way he does. That's one thing that is so complicated about bullying that the bullies often does so as a way to displace their negative feelings. It doesn't make what they do okay, but it also doesn't mean that they deserve to be universally condemned. Anyways, there's a lot more to say on this topic, but this probably isn't the place for it. There are a few bootlegged videos floating around online, but the film is available on the Cars 3 DVD and Blu Ray, so go watch it there.

Negative Space
Here's another film that was once posted online but I missed out on because I wasn't paying attention. Evidently this film is about a man who packs to go on a trip. While he is doing so he thinks back to his childhood as he watches his father pack for a trip, and he thinks back to his relationship with his father. Like Dear Basketball, Negative Space is based on a poem, this time by poet Ron Koertge. The subject matter appealed to the filmmakers, and they worked together to make a stop motion animated film. Like Lost Property Office, the character design was a little bit unappealing, but the original poem was an emotional knockout, so I'm sure the actual film itself would do the original source material justice.

Revolting Rhymes
Roald Dahl is a British writer best known for his children's novels, including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Matilda. In 1982, he wrote a poetry collection retelling classic fairy tales with a macabre twist. He titled the collection Revolting Rhymes. 35 years later, the animators behind Magic Light Pictures, who had earned two Oscar nominations for adaptations of beloved children's books The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom made an adaptation of Revolting Rhymes co-directed by Jakob Schuh (who worked on The Gruffalo) and Jan Lachauer (who worked on Room on the Broom). The films aired on BBC, and they also qualified for the Academy Awards, and made it onto the shortlist. The film combined the many storylines into one interweaving narrative. However, the maximum length of a short film is 40 minutes, while Revolting Rhymes was split into two 30-minute shorts. The question I have is did the Academy consider both films, or did they take only Part One, or only Part Two? I suppose that's a question that won't be answered unless the film gets nominated and we see which part plays during the showings.


Well, here are the ten films. I hadn't taken a close look at all of the qualifying films so I can't say for sure whether or not these are the ten best, but none of them seem to be bad. I did note that the World of Tomorrow sequel The Burden of Other People's Thoughts was on the qualifying list but is clearly not in the shortlist, which is a shame. Olaf's Frozen Journey, the Frozen spin-off film that controversially played before Coco is also missing, but looking back I saw that it didn't qualify anyways. I've been so out of the loop I'm not going to venture a guess as far as who's going to get nominated, although it will probably end up being a bunch of the short films I haven't seen yet. It always seems to work out that way.


  1. Longlist:

  2. hmm i watching your Best Animated Short 2017 really its very amazing so if you want tom and jerry animation video so please go here the cat concerto tom and jerry

  3. Revolting Rhymes
    Negative Space
    Garden Party
    Dear Basketball

    1. Well fuck. I haven't seen Garden Party or Negative Space.