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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode V - You Satisfy Me

Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes some freewheeling cheer or loathing on the animation community to be mused, countered, or disregarded. It’s your call.

Cheer and Loathing in Animation by Theodore Ushev

A lot of people disliked 2016. I didn’t mind it. Was ok. We’re here. Hell, I got to meet my cultural hero, Robert Pollard (with my son alongside), so that was pretty sweet. Animation short films had a pretty solid year too. So, as we head into the Holiday break, here’s the Cheer and Loathing Top 5 for 2016.

First, the Special Mentions:

Blind Vaysha, Theodore Ushev, Canada

Beautifully designed, scripted and animated modern fable about our struggle with the here and now. Embracing the moment in this age of Plato-like screen caves has never been more pertinent.

Löss, Yi Zhao, Netherlands

Beautiful, painful, and haunting portrait of domestic slavery in China.

The Noise of Licking, Nadja Andrasev, Hungary

It’s like some kinda non-linear super sensual soft porn with cats and plants.

Planemo, Veljko Popovic, Croatia

And oh-so-timely portrait – ironically, it’s made in 3D - of a guy trying to break free from all the technological babble engulfing him. A film of hope when we most need it.

G-Aaah, Elizabeth Hobbs

Imaginative, mesmerizing and spirited short made using a typewriter.

And now…. my picks for the Top 5 Indie Animation Shorts of 2016:


Happy End, Jan Saska, Czech Republic

I moan about the lack of good comedies every year so let me toss this one forward as the sort of comedy I’d like to see more of. It’s smart, innovative, dark and laugh out loud funny – and it’s a student film. The best comedies capture the awkwardness, ugliness and pain of life and wring it out into something we can sit back and laugh at. Happy End is one of those special ones (heck, even the Academy seems to agree with me for once).


Nighthawk Špela Čadež | Slovenia & Croatia 

If Charles Bukowski scripted Bullitt with a badger, the result might look something like Nighthawk, a blistering, squirming tragedy trailing an alcoholic whizzing blurrily through bending roads in the black of night. They should show this at AA meetings.


Datum Point, Ryo Orikasa, Japan

This calm, Zen clay animation beauty captures the serenity of the sea, the soothing rush of the waves, the Heraclitian reminder that all is in motion, never the same. It’s like having a meditation session in the cinema.


Impossible Figures and Other Stories II, Marta Pajek, Poland

This film was the talk of the 2016 Ottawa International Animation Festival. I’ve never encountered a work that was beloved by such a diverse group of people: animators, staff, general public. The only people who didn’t seem to agree were the jury members. How this work hasn’t gone more acclaim is beyond me. An absolutely original, mesmerizing work about a woman who has been sleepwalking through existence. A painful, awkward but ultimately hopeful work about self-awareness and self-control. Pajek’s economic, often bleached-like drawings capture this fragile battle between consciousness and sleep


Before Love, Igor Koyalyov, Russia

There are the good, bad and ugly animators and then there’s Kovalyov. Even after an 11-year absence Kovalyov showed why he’s the Messi, the Lebron James, the Sydney Crosby (hockey reference) of animation. The editing, camera, design and oh lord the soundtrack are all individual works of art. Together, they take this Bressonian-like tale of love, jealousy and loneliness and mold it into a masterwork. 

Now, most of us know this whole "best of" and awards or competition stuff is rather silly. It's totally subjective and of the moment. I guarantee you that my list will change tomorrow.

What we’re your favourite short films of 2016? Let us know below.

In the meantime, a very cheerful holiday to all of you (not you though, the one grimacing on the right) from the entire Cheer and Loathing in Animation clique. Next Friday, we'll take a look at the top animated features from 2016.

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.