The Oscar-nominated animation short films of 2013 have styles spanning the entire artistic spectrum of animation: 2D, 3D, black-and white, silent, and even foreign animation! The Academy will have an exceptionally diverse group to choose from this year. The nominees are: “Mr. Hublot”, “Room on the Broom”, “Possessions,” “Feral,” and “Get a Horse!”
“Mr. Hublot” (directed by Laurent Witz) is a about a mechanical man named Mr. Hublot who goes about his monotonous daily routine. Every morning he notices a stray, whimpering robot dog in the street, but he is indifferent to it. One day, however, he spots the garbage-collecting machine grinding up the boxes by the street. Mr. Hublot is suddenly filled with obligation, and he rescues the dog. Over time, his pet increasingly becomes a burden on his life, obstructing the door, blocking his view of the television, and breaking everything in sight. The dog grew from a playful, lap-sized dog into a truck-sized mechanical creature that dwarfs his owner and could barely even fit in the living room! After the dog crushes his master’s most treasured possession, Mr. Hublot must make a difficult decision: to get rid of the dog or get rid of the house.
This animated short shows how helping someone in need, be it a man or a robot, can change your life for the better. I personally noticed the real depth of character in the way Hublot acted. He is undoubtedly an eccentric robot man, since he has an obsession with flicking the light switch on and off when he is nervous, and how he compulsively arranges his wall hangings. Even so, he has the prominent character traits of tolerance, empathy, and neatness. It also shows us that even robots can lose their cool, like the scene where Mr. Hublot goes psycho and menacingly walks toward his dog near the end of the film with a spinning hand drill, after his pet broke his TV.
“Room on the broom” (directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer) is a 30-minute adaptation of a children’s book of the same name. The short is about a klutzy witch and her skeptical cat who fly home on a magic broom after a day of picking mushrooms. However, the clumsy witch keeps dropping her belongings: her bow, her wand, and all her other possessions. Each time she meets a new character while she searches for her stuff. She meets a lost dog in the forest, a colorful bird in the trees, and a clean-freak frog in the marsh. They implore the witch for a ride on her broom, which she quickly obliges. Unfortunately, the witch’s skeptical cat doesn’t want the other animals on, for fear that their broom would snap under pressure. However, unbeknownst to the witch and her friends, a vicious dragon with a hunger for “witch and chips” is hot on their trail, and will stop at nothing to consume the heroine of the story.
The lesson that can be taken from the story is that there can always be room for a new friend; and friendship is about helping the ones you care about. My criticism for this short film is that, it drags on way too long. The film could definitely have been made shorter, especially since its audience consists of young children, and typical kids of that age have a short attention span.
“Possessions” (directed by Shuhei Morita) is about a wandering Japanese craftsman who gets caught in a storm while traveling through the forest in the evening. The man seeks shelter in a dilapidated shrine; but he soon realizes that goblin spirits, who take the form of torn parasols and old silk ribbons, inhabit each of the rooms inside the temple. The traveler decides to repair the parasols and sew the ribbons out of the goodness of his heart, and is rewarded in the end. His actions prove that selfless kindness will always be rewarded in the end.
“Feral” (directed by Daniel Sousa)is about a boy living among wolves in the forest, who is found by a traveling hunter. He is taken to civilization, washed, clothed, and sent to school. However, the wolf inside him longs to roam the wilderness once more. The story of the child shows that those who are truly wild at heart can never be tamed. The true charm of this 2D black and white short film is the stark, bold, black-and-white lines of the animation. One distinctive feature of the character designs is that none of the people had faces, giving them a ghostly, soulless appearance. Another element of character visual design is that the wild boy was the only character with white skin and hair, unlike the dark shadowy people in the city.
Disney’s “Get a Horse!” (directed by Lauren MacMullan) starring Mickey Mouse pays homage to Walt Disney and his inspiring ideas in animation, with a modern CGI twist! In the beginning of the cartoon, a blurry, antique, black-and-white opening sequence and film credits appear on the screen, accompanied by an old-fashioned horn theme. The story begins when Mickey Mouse hops on a hay cart with Minnie Mouse, Horace the horse, and his other friends. Unfortunately, their slow cart blocks off the car of Peg-Leg-Pete, Mickey’s arch nemesis. Angrily, he kidnaps Minnie and sends Mickey and Horace flying through the movie screen into the colorful, modern, CGI world of the movie theater. Mickey and Horace use the modern-day technology and the mechanics of motion picture projection to thwart Pete in this hilarious animated adventure.
“Get a Horse!” is all about slapstick visual humor, and it does a great job of incorporating the funny gags and props such as: cactus pots, telephone wires, pitchforks; as well as taking inspiration from the movement and behavior of characters and objects in the old Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as how Mickey turns his leg into a stepladder, and how his pants and shoes seem to have minds of their own! Overall, I don’t think there really is a moral to this story, but it doesn’t really need one. This short is purely for laughs and lighthearted enjoyment of Disney animation.
This year, I think Disney’s “Get a Horse!” is the frontrunner for the Best Animated Short category Oscars. Its pure comedy and simple charm will likely win over the Academy. In my opinion, “Feral,” or “Possessions” are next in line for the Oscars. “Feral” has a very distinctive, minimalist style and a powerful story, but might be a bit too artsy for the Academy. “Possessions” is at a disadvantage for the award, being a foreign film with a smaller U.S. audience. However, its fantastic 3D visual effects more than make up for the drawback of being a foreign production. “Mr. Hublot” is whimsical and charming, but its foreign production might also hurt its Oscar chance. “Room on the Broom” has less of a chance to win, in my opinion, since it is made to appeal to young kids but few other age groups.
Finally, among the Oscar-nominated animated features, I predict Disney’s “Frozen” to win. The other nominees are DreamWorks’ “The Croods,” Universal Studio’s “Despicable Me 2,” Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises,” and the French film “Ernest & Celestine.”