Over the weekend, I attended a screening of this year’s Oscar nominated animated and live action shorts on a program put together by ShortsTV. Here’s what was included:
Sanjay’s Super Team
Pixar’s accompanying short for The Good Dinosaur was this sweet, but not exactly deep confection about a little Indian boy Sanjay who would rather watch his favorite cartoon show than pray next to his father. His father tries to rectify that situation but Sanjay grows bored and imagines the Hindu gods as superheroes. The joy here is the style. While the real world is 3D computer animation, Sanjay’s action fantasies revert back to a colorful style of 2D. While it’s fun to look at, the short doesn’t really reveal a purpose. It’s just entertainment, but we expect more from Pixar than that.
The World of Tomorrow
If you just see the film on its own, then it might be a little frustrating that this bizarre pencil-drawn short is this year’s frontrunner. But if you know the backstory, then it makes more sense. The story involves a five-year old girl named Emily who is visited by one of her ancestors from 227 years in the future who shows her what the world of tomorrow will look like. The story moves from comedy the melancholy at a pace that, admittedly, is tough to keep up with. The backstory is far more endearing: The director Don Hertzfeldt recorded the sounds of his niece Winona Mae playing in her bedroom and built a story around them. It is her natural sounds that provide Emily’s lines.
This is a beautifully crafted short that tells the story of a bear that works as a tinkerer and spends his down standing on a corner telling his tragic story via a clockwork box with a crank on its side. It seems that some time ago, Mr. Bear’s family was taken away to the circus and never returned. While it is lovely to look at, I found it a bit too melancholy for my taste and the ending never really resolves anything.
Of all the films here, this is the only age-appropriate short film in the bunch due to full male nudity and graphic violence – and at only 5 minutes, it’s also the shortest. This film opens with a shot of hundreds of used pencils followed by a stack of paper. Director Richard Williams’ film is visually composed entirely of that stack of drawings, and is really stunning as a recreation of an incident in the Spartan-Athenian wars from 2,000 years ago. It’s also quite bloody.
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
My favorite short out of the bunch is probably the simplest, a wordless, hand-drawn tale of two Russian friends – designated by the numbers 1203 and 1204 – who grow up with the shared dream of becoming cosmonauts. We follow them through their training and spend time with them as they dream of floating out in space together. Then something happens which I won’t reveal but I’ll just say that it leads to an ending that put a tear in my eye.