Oscars: A Look at the 10 Animated Short Contenders

2:00 PM 12/28/2016

by THR staff

From 'Borrowed Time' to 'Pearl' and 'Piper,' the contenders represent a broad range of topics and animation styles.

Borrowed Time Still 2 - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Quorum Films
  • Blind Vaysha

    Based on the short story by Georgi Gospodinov, this film follows Vaysha who is born with a left eye that sees only the past and a right eye that sees only the future. As such, she is blinded by what was and tormented by what will be --- the story aims to remind the viewer the importance of living in the present. To make the animated short, director Theodore Ushev recreated a century-old ‘linocuts’ technique with a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet. Following the principles used in linocuts, each color was animated separately on different layers and then superimposed to create a composition similar to that of an engraving, the filmmakers explain.

  • Borrowed Time

    Borrowed Time — made by two Pixar artists as a side project during nights and weekends over the past five years—tells the story of a weathered sheriff who returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget, and the memories come flooding back. “We started with a story about forgiveness, but we changed it to a story about finding closure with something you did in your past that you might regret," said director Andrew Coats. "Finding a way to move on with the life — ultimately it’s about self forgiveness."

    Director Lou Hamou-Lhad said that to reflect the story, they designed the sheriff to look “gaunt, almost like a skeleton, like he was the shell of a man who is haunted by his past.” He added that they also drew inspiration from the looks of actors in the genre, such as Clint Eastwood and Sam Elliott.

  • Happy End

    Happy End is described as a black comedy about death with a happy ending, with a combination of painted backgrounds, hand drawn sequences and a bit of CG, all computer-set up with the aim to achieve a visual look close to classical animation with a subtle feeling of black & white vintage comedies. Said director Jan Saska in a statement: "Happy End represents an in-depth social study with a deconstructive dramatic arc or perhaps a circle or a square. Several storylines, examining human nature in the context of integral coalition of inner and outer determinants in the specific crucial circumstances, gradually develop through a number of plot peripeteias and twists into the universal problem of morality and moral responsibility of the individual. Death and the feelings of guilt are the central motifs of the film, through which the mechanism of inner conflict and the discrepancy between conscience and constitutional making are analyzed."

  • The Head Vanishes

    In his short, Jacqueline wants to take the train to the seaside, as she does every summer. Only this year, she’s being followed by a woman who claims to be her daughter. This story follows an elderly woman living with degenerative dementia, as her confused mind leaves her open to danger. The film’s title, incidentally, is a nod to Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes.

  • Inner Workings

    From first-time director Leo Matsuda (story artist for Big Hero 6, Wreck- It Ralph) this is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios (and played in theaters before Moana), it blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation while exploring the importance of finding balance in daily life.

  • Once Upon a Line

    This is the story of a man who leads a boring life "on a straight line" until he falls in love. His new girlfriend injects a new color and dimension into his world which is appealing at first but after a while becomes overwhelming. This experience though helps the protagonist find his own line and discover that there is much more to life than he had always thought. The filmmaker wants to demonstrate that life can be any shape and color we make it and it is up to each of us to decide what life we live. The short was drawn frame-by-frame on a Cintiq connected to a computer.

  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes

    This story is described as director Robert Valley's turbulent relationship with a self-destructive, yet charismatic friend from childhood, who cries out for help from a military hospital in China and sets Rob on a wild ride to get him home to Vancouver.

  • Pearl

    Patrick Osborne — who won a 2015 Oscar for directing Disney’s animated short Feast —is back with Pearl, which qualified for consideration through a theatrical release though it was actually created for 360-degree video and virtual reality via Google Spotlight Stories. The project is set entirely in a car, with vignettes of a father sharing his love of music with his daughter, as she grows from age 6 into her 20s. “I’m really into folk music and I thought it would be cool to do a folk musical set in a car, with a guy touring around,” said Osborne of the idea he had when Google approached him. “I hope with Pearl, people will think about where their interests or passions come from. You are the sum of your experiences; they make you who you are.”

  • Piper

    Piper tells the story of a hungry sandpiper hatchling who ventures from her nest for the first time to dig for food by the shoreline. The only problem is, she's fearful of the waves. "This is a story about overcoming your fears, as well as the parent aspect of wanting your kids to stay confident," said helmer Alan Barillaro, a Pixar animator who's making his directorial debut. He gave the film a painterly look that was inspired by classical art and is told without dialogue. Its soundscape relies on a score composed by Adrian Belew, working in combination with the sound.

  • Sous Tes Doigts (Under Your Fingers)

    In this hand animated film, a young eurasian girl relives the story of the women in her family--from colonial Indochine to the isoliation in a transit camp--following the death of her grandmother.