Saturday, February 1, 2014


There are five terrific Academy Award contenders for this year’s Best Animated Short. Lucky for movie fans, they opened together on screens in major markets this weekend. You can catch these artistic shorts on the big screen now through February 6, or wait until they’re available on VOD February 25. Either way, you owe yourself the pleasures of these little treasures.

If you still think cartoons are just for kids, check out this selection. Some are good for the whole family, sure, but others have more of an adult edge to them like the dramatic FERAL ( And if you think that the Pixar CGI look is the only game in town, you should feast on the vast array of styles used to illustrate this year’s animated shorts.


Mickey and Minnie Mouse are enjoying a hayride with their friends when Peg Leg Pete shows up in his automobile to ruin their day. This Disney gem mixes Walt’s early black and white style with modern CGI in a fast-moving six minutes that breaks the fourth wall and then some. If you saw FROZEN, you’ve already seen this short that preceded it. It’s the favorite to win the Oscar gold due to its pedigree, as well as its remarkable entertainment value.


The arrival of a robot pet turns the world of the isolated Mr. Hublot upside down in this delightful, futuristic yarn that is dialogue-free ( This eccentric piece is funny and rather moving too, and filmmakers Lauren Witz and Alexandre Espigares may win for this eccentric jewel.


Writer/director Daniel Souza is behind this aforementioned cartoon with a mature sensibility. His story concerns a wild boy found by a hunter who tries to introduce him into civilization. The 2-D animation style here is exquisitely rendered with a minimalist style that perfectly suits this moody dissertation on the subject of nature vs. nurture.


Shuhei Morita animates a bold tale about a Japanese man seeking shelter from a storm who happens upon a strange cottage where ghostly spirits inhabit the objects inside. It’s a beautifully rendered fever dream that may be unlike any cartoon fantasy you’ve ever seen.


My personal favorite is this adaptation of the Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler children’s book ( It’s been given a spiffy CGI look by British animators Max Lang and Jan Lachauer. A witch turns out to be too generous of spirit as she invites a lonely dog, bird and frog to join her cat for a ride on her broom. Its characters are voiced by the likes of Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, and Sally Hawkins. And the droll Simon Pegg provides the veddy British narration.

The Oscar is probably Disney’s to lose, but all five of these are so impressive, I won’t be disappointed whichever one is called at the Academy Awards ceremony come March 2. So make a point to see them now in the theater, or in a month on VOD. I think you'll find that your enthusiasm for them is equally as animated.

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