If you’re an animation aficionado or know of someone who is, the 2018 Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts is a spectacle to behold. Currently showing in limited release, the academy has chosen five short films that will heighten and wildly please any animation fan’s senses.
In my order of preference, they are: Revolting Rhymes, Garden Party, Negative Space, Lou and Dear Basketball.
Revolting Rhymes ( United Kingdom 29 min )
Based on Ronald Dahl’s short stories, Revolting Rhymes is a non-stop cartoon soap opera with the classic Big Bad Wolf re-telling the Three Little Pigs story.
Wolf wants desperately to clarify what actually happened to the pigs while intertwining sequences involving Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and the side-splitting seven dwarves. The story evolves quickly and with constant humorous antics. With a gag in every scene the character designs are cute, amusing and hideous, all in a light-hearted and hilarious vein.
I never tired of the story’s 29 minutes length, and the pacing never lags, which, if there’s been a test audience, I’m sure they all agreed RR should be a standard ninety minute film.
I guarantee it will become a hit with all ages if they choose to extend it. It is that entertaining.
Garden Party (France 7 min ) PG 13
An amazing study in light, shadow and CGI, Garden Party eerily unfolds outside a modern-day abandoned mansion. We follow an unassuming small frog that leads us from the darkened outdoors and somehow finds its way inside the dimly lit and strangely silent house. Feeling a might peckish, he is followed by a giant, rotund toad.
The little guy ignores the goliath-sized slow poke and continues its search through the house. As the camera follows these two unlikely characters across the room, we’re amused by their croaks, hops and slimy walks. But we soon notice that things inside this lavishly decorated mansion are not as they seem.
There are tell tale signs of foul play that has occurred, but we aren’t sure exactly what has transpired as hints of wrong-doing come into view while the critters hop from one room to another.
In a sudden turn of events, the big toad discovers a large glass container of stale muffins and attempts to get inside the unsealed jar as the tiny frog continues its mini quest darting about. The camera quickly cuts back to a hysterical visual showing the clumsy toad stuck inside the jar, rolling across the table in slow motion.
The scene is perfect comedic timing, as the tiny frog looks on unimpressed. Amid all the funny business, we are again reminded there are unsolved reasons for the conditions of the mysterious mansion as we see some furniture and certain items in disarray.
As our tiny frog continues exploring, he lands on the home’s power control panel with multiple off and on switches. As he tries to scurry off, his little legs inadvertently turn on several buttons at once; patio lights come on, the sprinkler system begins bathing the large back yard, the filter system in the pool begins gurgling and the stagnant water circulates as small bubbles pop at the surface.
Out of the bushes other small frogs peek from their shadowy homes, attracted by the lights and the flow of fresh water from the sprinklers. Now its become an amphibian party as dozens of critters creep and croak in delight, hopping into view while enjoying a nice sprinkler shower.
From a bird’s eye view, the innocence of nature is displayed in all its wonder as the camera pans away. In the story’s last thirty seconds we gasp in a bit of shock as a sinister revelation from the bottom of the pool is revealed that will surprise and startle audience members.
Beautiful textures, and photorealistic animation and rendering makes Garden Party my top choice to get the Oscar.
NEGATIVE SPACE ( France 5 min )
Another entry from France, NEGATIVE SPACE features the painstaking work of stop-motion animation, which in my mind should be in its own category. Its a remarkable tedious process to achieve what can be described as seamless motion; and I imagine the editing has to be a long forgotten art as well.
The story is simple, but beautifully depicted. The lead character describes how he was shown to properly pack a suitcase by his business minded and traveling father. The images and sequences are superb, and the art direction doesn’t rely on bright colors or special effects to move the pacing along. The stop-motion subtleties of this film are cunning and witty. The film’s ending is solemn, but is then hits us with a comically packed punch line that the viewer will not forget.
LOU ( USA 7 min )
If you watched Pixar’s Cars 3, then you saw that movie’s opening animated short called LOU. Never a studio to disappoint, Pixar always amazes with creative storytelling put to astounding entertaining visuals.
They are award winning visionaries, designers and illustrators that know their craft so well, others like Blue Sky, Dreamworks and Illumination have followed in their footsteps. LOU will hold you in place as you wonder how its going to end.
Great use of color and perspective and like many other of Pixar’s great animated shorts, LOU is another awesome piece of art and story.
LOST PROPERTY OFFICE ( AUSTRALIA 10 min )
From the Lost Property website: Ed is a thorough and practical custodian of a large city transit’s Lost Property Office. In many ways he is as lost as the items he is tasked to look after. Alone, in the basement office, he is kept company by a tiny toy robot and an old gramophone, both of which he has lovingly restored after finding them lost and broken at train stations.
It also becomes clear that Ed has been made redundant and by no means because of the lack of his fastidious efforts – it just seems nobody visits the Lost Property Office much any more. As the end of the day approaches and the sun begins to set, so too does Ed’s mood. But rather than abandon his beloved Lost Property Office and all the forgotten relics he has cared for, he decides to re-appropriate them. What emerges from the darkened basement is wondrous and whimsical.
DEAR BASKETBALL ( USA 5 min )
From Google: Dear Basketball is a 2017 animated short film written by Kobe Bryant produced by Kobe Bryant and narrated by Kobe Bryant. Directed by Glen Keane, the film is based on a letter Kobe Bryant wrote to The Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015 announcing his retirement from basketball.
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José Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor Previous columns HERE