Animated Tidbits 5: Oscar Shorts 2017

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With the Oscars coming soon, I decided to do one last little editorial, talking about a section of the Oscars I honestly haven’t thought about covering, animated shorts. Not that I don’t watch them, because I do. I simply feel like they need a different mindset to tackle. However, I have had the opportunity to see all the nominated shorts in theaters. They were distributed by Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures, and it made making this editorial very easy. I’m going to go through the five nominated shorts, and the three additional shorts that were going to could have been chosen, but didn’t make it. They are going to be quick little paragraph reviews. I will also be going in the order they were presented. Let’s get started.

Dear Basketball

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Narrated/produced by Kobe Bryant, and directed by Glen Keane, this is essentially an animated version of Kobe Bryant’s retirement letter, done in a pencil sketch style similar to the classic Christmas short, The Snowman. I was concerned about this one, since something about it always felt off. The letter itself and how it is narrated by Kobe himself is touching, and the pencil sketch style is really impressive, and it’s a solid short about dreams and passion. However, I find myself feeling cynical about it. It’s touching, but forgettable. I also found it to be a bit too manipulative for the emotional side of things. Not to say it’s a horrible short, because it’s not. Like I said, the speech itself is well-worded, John William’s score is great, as usual, and the animation stands out. I just didn’t like it as much as others. I also feel like the current movements in Hollywood will hold this short back, and might alienate non-fans of basketball. It’s a good short, but I personally won’t be rooting for it.

Negative Space

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Directed by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, Negative Space is about the bond the lead in the short had with his father over the fine art of packing clothes into suitcases. The stop-motion style has its charm with the doll-like character designs. It’s a cute little short about the ins and outs of making sure there is no negative space within the suitcase. It ends a bit abruptly for me, and maybe could have been a bit longer, but the short is well-made, and I understand why it’s being nominated for an Oscar.

LOU

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It wouldn’t be the Oscars if Pixar didn’t have a short to contribute to the competition. Directed by Dave Mullins and produced by Dana Murray, LOU is about a Lost and Found Box that loves giving everyone the possessions they lost. When I went to the theater to see the shorts, this was one of the two that got the biggest reactions from the audience, in terms of enjoyment. Lou himself is a very creative character. Being made of all the apparel and items resulted in some very creative visuals. Seeing Lou shapeshift through different forms made by all the toys and clothes was the highlight of the short. The only problem I have with the film is that, while it is probably one of my favorites among the five nominated, it’s fairly Pixar. It has a lot of the typical story beats that you would see in most Pixar films. It’s not a super terrible thing, but you know what’s going to happen. Still, LOU is a fantastic short, and should have been in front of Coco instead of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.

Revolting Rhymes

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This first part of a two-part special based on the Roald Dahl book of fairy tales was easily the crowd favorite from my viewings, and is the short I am rooting for to win. I want to do a full review of part one and two, but I definitely want to do a small summary here. The first part is creative, the art style made the CGI look like stop-motion. While it might have dumbed down the darker tones of the book, it still has a lot of really dark jokes that made me, my friends, and the audience members in the theater laugh out loud. It’s a charming first part of the special, and I found how they handled the mixing of fairy tales creative.

Garden Party

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Directed by Illogic Collective, a group of six 3D artists, Garden Party is a simple story about a bunch of frogs that explore a deserted house. The best thing about this short is the animation and characterization of the frogs. The almost photo-realistic look of the short is incredibly impressive. Sure, you can kind of tell it’s CGI, but some areas look fairly realistic. I liked that they gave the frogs little quirks, and found it cute as they explore the house and interact with one another. Now, while it is subtly told through environmental storytelling, I didn’t like the ending. I won’t say what it is, but it felt too dark for a short about some frogs exploring a house. It also has the moment when you can tell it’s CGI, since what is in the pool looks more cartoonish than realistic. I know some are saying this is going to win, but I think the ending is going to turn some people off. Even with my complaints, I still love the short.

We now will move on to the three shorts that were “Highly Commended”

Lost Property Office

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Directed and written by Daniel Agdad, Lost Property Office is about an older gentleman who works at what is essentially a lost and found office. The drab color tones, and sly bits of humor is definitely why this one was close to being nominated. The stop-motion work was also well done. I think for me, this was one of the weaker shorts. The entire plot of the short is done with no dialogue, and I’m sure there is a deeper meaning to this short, but I have seen it twice now, and I don’t fully get it. It’s a pretty-looking short, but its story rang hollow. Maybe it’s more of a “not my cup of tea” situation, and the overall story is symbolic of the man and his job, but I didn’t quite get the appeal of this one. It felt more like it was chosen for its artistry than its story.

Weeds

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Directed by Kevin Hudson, this short is about a dandelion flower that yearns for a better life on a lively field of grass. While the CGI is good, the message is what I liked about the film, and how it’s about the many people that go through challenges every day to make and find a better life. The CGI is good, but I didn’t find anything super remarkable about it. However, I felt like the story was more important. It was simple and to the point. I definitely liked this one.

Achoo

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Finally, our last short is Achoo, a French-animated short about a Chinese dragon who wants to win a contest to be cherished by the humans. While this one is definitely the most cartoonish with the humor and designs, the CGI and textures are incredible. I have been vocal about how European CGI films have had issues with their lack of quality-looking CGI, and while this is a short, it looks great. The lighting looks impressive, the textures look marvelous with lots of little details, and the designs are cute. It has a few jokes that I didn’t care for, but for a harmless short, I enjoyed it. If I had to choose which one of the three I liked the most, it would probably be Achoo for visuals and WEEDS for story.

Thanks for reading! What short did you like the most? I’ll see you all next time!