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Remember This Scene: A Tribute To Best Animated Shorts

Jeremy Fuster |
January 29, 2015 | 4:20 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The Best Animated Short category is the only place at the Oscars that honors avant-garde works like the animated documentary 'Ryan' (National Film Board of Canada)
The Best Animated Short category is the only place at the Oscars that honors avant-garde works like the animated documentary 'Ryan' (National Film Board of Canada)
If there is one thing about the Oscars that justifies its existence, it has to be the Best Animated Short category.

Every year, the Academy Awards takes a batch of excellent animated mini-masterpieces and presents them to the general public, and watching them back-to-back is one of the best cinematic experiences you can possibly have. While the feature-length category often rewards whoever's winning the war between Disney and Dreamworks, the animated shorts are where creative, groundbreaking works of art are being showcased, and unlike the rest of the Oscars, there's no such thing as a down year.

READ MORE: Remember This Scene: 'Too Many Cooks' And 'Rejected'

A few months ago, I put a spotlight on Don Hertzfeldt's "REJECTED," a subversive stick-figure piece that got nominated in 2000 and has inspired pretty much everything you see on Adult Swim. Now, I present to you some of my favorite Best Animated Short winners and nominees from the 21st century:

"Logorama" (2010 Winner)

Arguably the greatest satire of corporate imagery since Andy Warhol painted a can of soup, this French work from the animated team H5 tells a story set in a Los Angeles made entire of logos and mascots to show how commercialism is so common in our daily lives that we don't consciously notice it. The ingenious use of the imagery includes—but is not limited to—Michelin Man cops, a villainous Ronald McDonald making his escape on a motorcycle made from the logo for 'Grease 2,' and flying Bentley and Aston Martin logos.

"Fresh Guacamole" (2012 Nominee)

This little thing holds the record for the shortest film ever to receive an Oscar nomination. Clocking in at 101 seconds, this is the second in a collection of three food-art shorts by American stop-motion auteur PES. In it, PES takes a bunch of inedible objects and turns them into fine cuisine. A grenade becomes an avocado. Red dice become diced tomatoes. Poker chips become tortilla chips. It makes you look at household items in ways you've never seen before. PES released the third installment of the series, "Submarine Sandwich," just last month on his YouTube page.

READ MORE: #OscarsSoWhite Is Right, But Needs To Go Further

"Peter And The Wolf" (2007 Winner)

This stop-motion interpretation of Sergei Prokofiev's classic puts Disney's version to shame. Directed by Suzie Templeton and worked on by a team of international artists, this piece removes the kid gloves and tells the story of Peter's famous hunt without any narration or vocal work whatsoever. It still maintains some lighthearted humor through the animals that serve as Peter's companions, but it's surrounded in a setting that feels harsh, unforgiving, and distinctly Russian.

Meanwhile, the two principles of the story are treated with dignity. Peter's detailed facial expressions tell the story all on their own, while the Wolf is freed from having to bear any sort of personality like the other animals. He's not evil, he's just a wolf fulfilling his role as a natural predator; and this  reinterpretation of Prokofiev's antagonist leads to an ending that departs from the original story, but offers a new way of looking at the relationship between hero and villain, hope and despair (Watch it here).

"Adam and Dog" (2012 Nominee)

The domestication of wolves, which gave rise to the hundreds of dog breeds we see today, came about through a symbiotic relationship between canis lupus and homo sapiens.  They gave us protection, and we gave them food.

"Adam and Dog" shows the creationist perspective of how this relationship came to be. Created by Minkyu Lee with an all-star team of animators from Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, it's not only a loving tribute to man's best friend. It's one of the best purely hand-drawn works that has been featured in this category in recent memory, and it's all present with a style that reflects its humble indie origins. The Garden of Eden has never looked so beautiful.

READ MORE: Remember This Scene: 'Birdman'

"Ryan " (2004 Winner)

Have you ever heard of an animated documentary? "Ryan" is an animated documentary, and it's one of the most fascinating experiences you will ever encounter. The film focuses around Ryan Larkin, a Canadian animator who made it big in the 60s before descending into substance abuse and poverty. The film depicts interviews with Larkin and those who knew him, but all the people interviewed are shown through computer animation. Their likenesses were created without motion capture, and their faces are disfigured to show their emotions and personal demons. The psychological becomes physical in a unique and extremely off-putting way, taking the documentary genre and putting an artistic spin on it. In an era where the Oscars are often criticized for playing it safe, the fact that such a bold film was given a gold statue defies that stereotype. Sadly, the fame and renewed career that Larkin received from this film was short-lived, as he died of lung cancer three years after its release (Watch it here).

These films are an array of unique approaches to animation, some borrowing from the works of the past while others forge new ground on their own. While the big studios do come in and occasionally steal the spotlight from indie flicks like the ones on this list, this Oscar category has been the domain of the avant-garde, showing a world that we could never see otherwise. Next week, I'll look at this year's batch of nominees and make my pick.

Find other "Remember This Scene?" posts here

Reach Jeremy Fuster here. Follow him on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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