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On the Road to the 96th Oscars: The Animated Shorts Nominees

Take a deeper look at ‘Letter to a Pig,’ ‘Ninety-Five Senses,’ ‘Our Uniform,’ ‘Pachyderme,’ and ‘War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko,’ all vying for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar at the 96th Academy Awards coming March 10, 2024.

This year’s selection of five Oscar-contending animated short films – Letter to a Pig, Pachyderme, Our Uniform, Ninety-Five Senses, and War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko – is strong, showcasing state-of-the-art visual styles across 2D and 3DCG as well as an equally compelling and emotion set of narratives which, combined, highlights the true effectiveness of animated storytelling and the audience responses it can invoke, even over the course of just a few minutes. 

In addition to our own coverage of the Oscar-nominated shorts, like Letter to a Pig and War is Over!, the VIEW Conference hosted an insightful online panel last week, where AWN’s own editor-in-chief Dan Sarto moderated a discussion with the creators of the five Oscar-nominated animated short films

The “Pre-View” panel discussion covered the directors’ and producers’ attraction to animation, inspirations for the aesthetics of each film, and why they all feel their films play an important role in enlightening society, despite fears and doubts regarding how each story would be received by skeptical viewers. 

Below, we’ve included key info for each short film taken from that deep dive discussion as well as our own coverage. Enjoy!

Oscar voting wraps at 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday, February 27, with winners announced March 10. You can find the complete list of nominees here.

Letter to a Pig – Tal Kantor

Written and directed by Tal Kantor and produced by Miyu Productions along with The Hive Studio, Letter to a Pig brings to life the memories of a Holocaust survivor as he addresses a classroom full of students. When he begins to read a letter he wrote to the pig who saved his life, a young schoolgirl sinks into a twisted dream as she listens to the survivor’s testimony and finds herself confronting questions of identity, collective trauma, and the extremes of human nature. 

Along with its Oscar nomination, Letter to a Pig won the Chicago International Children's Film Festival’s Liv Ullman Peace Prize, Israeli Film Academy Awards’ Best Short Film, and Animation Is Film Festival’s Best Short Film. The film’s producers include Emmanuel-Alain Raynal, Pierre Baussaron, and Amit Russell Gicelter.

Letter to a Pig is based on my personal experience as a young schoolgirl, encountering an unbelievable story of a Holocaust survivor who came to my class to share his story,” reveals Kantor, who had no idea that the film would become so relevant in 2023 after the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza. “It’s also inspired by the dream I had following this encounter.”

Though the 17-minute movie, narrated in Hebrew, never details the atrocities of World War II, it paints just as chilling a picture through incisive visual metaphors. The animation, which morphs from bare-bones line drawings in black and white to fleshy watercolor pinks to 3D realism, creates a sophisticated, heart-wrenching account of a tragedy. Kantor is known for heavy line work in previous animated projects, but Letter to a Pig’s animation was more focused on the way memories are stored in the subconscious. The scenes never fade entirely, but the details of faces and certain colors become more prominent as emotions intensify. The film is primarily black and white, with live-action characters deeply layered in 2D linework and shading. 

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Ninety-Five Senses – Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess

Directors Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess describe their 13-minute animated short as “an ode to the body’s five senses, delivered by a man with little time left to enjoy them.” Ninety-Five Senses focuses on a Death Row inmate, eating his last meal as he anecdotally reflects on each of his senses, telling tidbits of the life he had (and the life that could have been). “It may be that in the next life, we’ll have ninety-five senses,” the man muses. The film comprises five scenes, with connective vignettes, animated in six distinctive styles by different artists, creating a multi-media anthology of a life. 

The team took dozens of submissions from animators, with the main creative directive of “have as much fun as you want.” Animators that made the cut and got to contribute their styles to the film included Gabriela Badillo, Daniel Bruson, Michael Grover, Dominica Harrison, Dallin Penman, Jared Mathews, and KC Tobey, with their teams consisting of Adriana Arvizu, Tamara Cruz, Melissa Lopez, Cristina Lugo, Ruben Morales, Enrique Sañudo, and Scott McHenry.

“A non-profit in our hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah was trying to pair established directors with up-and-coming animators, and we just jumped on board,” says Jerusha. “This is a huge collaboration, as all animation is, but even more so for us because we just wanted to celebrate each of these animators’ styles and their voice. That was the whole point of it, to support them in their journey.”

She continues, “And then we brought on our screenwriting friends Chris Bowman and Hubbel Palmer, and they’d been studying, for another project, these exit interviews from inmates at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, which has the highest death row count in America.”

Produced by the “MAST” accelerator program of the Salt Lake Film Society, Ninety-Five Senses has won more than a dozen awards at film festivals around the world, including the Grand Jury Award for Best Animation at the Florida Film Festival. The film’s producers are MAST co-founders Miles David Romney, a veteran Broadway investor and co-producer (Moulin Rouge!, Hadestown, Life of Pi, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window) and managing partner of V42 Venture Studio Fund Tori A. Baker, CEO of Salt Lake Film Society and Board VP of The Cinema Foundation. Executive producers include Justin Lacob and Bryn Mooser of XTR/DOCUMENTARY+.

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Our Uniform – Yegane Moghaddam 

Like many groundbreaking short films, Iranian director Yegane Moghaddam’s Our Uniform started out as an experiment, then morphed into something much more personal.

“Honestly, my motivation for making this film was mainly experimenting with animation,” says the director. “And I also wanted to make a film about the education system in Iran. But since our education system is so focused on our uniforms, it turned out to be a film mainly about the uniform itself and the fabrics.”

The 7-minute selection packs a lot into a very tangible reflection on Moghaddam’s school uniform and the ways her culture’s restrictive fashion rules shaped her understanding of her gender and autonomy. In the film, an Iranian girl recalls school-age memories through the wrinkles and fabrics of her old uniform, quite literally. Rather than using paper, canvas, or a digital medium, Moghaddam used colored pencil composited on fabric, with the fabric stop-motion done separately from the drawn animation. The layers were then blended on top of each other for filming. 

Moghaddam’s illustrations move against a backdrop of fabric, with characters running around buttons and along seams of the school uniform. It’s all in the effort to tell the story of a character who dreams of a better future. Moghaddam self-produced the film, which earned its qualification by winning the grand jury prize at Spain’s Animayo festival.

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Pachyderme - Stéphanie Clément

French director Stéphanie Clément’s short film Pachyderme is perhaps one of the most moving and unsettling of the year. The animated film, created in a style inspired by the paintings of Van Gogh, follows a young girl through her summers with her grandparents in the country. Blending traditional and computer animation, the film tells a subtle story about the girl's survival of childhood abuse. The animation creates a visual metaphor for the dissociative nature of the trauma she suffers. It won Best Short Film at the Manchester Animation Festival and Best Animated Short at the Foyle Film Festival. Producers include Thomas Giusiano, Mathieu Rey, and Marc Rius.

“I wanted the film to feel soft and gentle because the subject is really tough and hard to put into a picture,” says Clément. “I have a big struggle with words, but animation and pictures and creating images have helped me to communicate with others about subjects that I need to talk about and explore.”

She continues, “For example, one of the first concept artworks I made for the film was the little girl under the water with all the hands around her. I tried to make it symbolize a repressed memory, something very deep inside us, that’s not fully formed in the mind but is felt completely on the outside.” 

Clément and screenwriter Marc Rius worked to craft a film based on various psychological defense mechanisms, such as dissociation and repression. According to Clément, their story focuses on "an emotionally anesthetized character who struggles with their own memories." They chose the remoteness of the south of France as their setting and wanted the narrative to reflect the "banality" of everyday life there. They also adapted the film's color scheme to capture the landscape of the region.

Pachyderme was produced by Tu Nous ZA Pas Vus (TNZPV) Productions and Folimage. It received support from the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC), Arte France, Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Région Grand Est, Département de la Haute-Savoie, Département de la Drôme, Valence Romans Agglo, and SACEM in association with the Maison du Film. The film blends 2D animation from the Folimage studio with the Blender CGI technology of TNZPV Studio's 3D teams.

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War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko - Dave Mullins

16 years into the highly controversial Vietnam War, The Beatles’ John Lennon and his artist/activist wife Yoko Ono released “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)” as a festive but fervent protest. 52 years later, the famed couple’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, assembled a team of talented storytellers and animators to create an anti-war short film working from his parents’ song, as overseas wars like those in Gaza, Ukraine, and far too many other countries continue to produce unspeakable horrors. 

Winner of this year's Annie Award for Best Short Subject along with its Oscar nomination, War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko is set in an alternate World War I reality, where two soldiers on opposite sides of the conflict play a joyful game of chess, using a heroic carrier pigeon to deliver both war strategies and chess moves over the battlefield as the fighting escalates. As the game and the war build to a climactic final move, one thing is for certain: there are no winners in war. 

The 12-minute short is written and directed by 20-year Pixar alum and Oscar-nominee Mullins and produced by Golden Globe nominee Brad Booker. Booker is the founder, and Mullins co-founder, of Electroleague, a real-time animation studio based in Los Angeles. 

“It's an anti-war message wrapped in this candy wrapper of a holiday song,” says Mullins. “And Sean’s parents, John and Yoko, were really smart about that because even though they were protesting the Vietnam War, they knew if they put the protest inside a holiday song that would play every year, people would hear their message every year. And today, we have so much division in the world, especially politically, and we really connected on this idea that, if we could just get people to bring down their barriers a little bit and connect and talk to one another, they're probably going to find out they have a lot more in common than they think.” 

Sean and Yoko serve as executive producers while Peter Jackson’s Wētā FX produced the animation using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to create a 3DCG film that looks hand-drawn. The score was composed by 15-time Oscar-nominated Thomas Newman.

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Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at