Surogat (1961, Dusan Vukotic)
Slightly naughty beach picture about a fat guy who brings inflatable ball, boat, car, food and girl. Real great anything-goes animation. Disney, Friz Freling and Chuck Jones must’ve cancelled each other out, giving the award to the underdog foreigner.
The Crunch Bird (1971, Ted Petok)
“Crunch bird, my ass!” Ugh, punchline shorts. Was there no competition this year? I would’ve awarded Thank You Mask Man over this. From a co-writer of What’s Up Tiger Lily, this beat a comic Canadian short about evolution and an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale (OW wrote fairy tales?).
The Sand Castle (1977, Co Hoedeman)
A desert man with arms and legs but no body creates clay creatures to help him build a giant sand castle. All stop-motion, the short that (probably deservedly) beat Doonesbury at the oscars.
Every Child (1979, Eugene Fedorenko)
More of a foley demonstration than a proper cartoon. The animation is there I guess, though slightly Squiggle-visioney. Wow, someone sings the Umbrellas of Cherbourg theme. So the foley guys are telling the story of an unwanted baby… to a baby. One foley guy went on to voice the French version of Chief Quimby on Inspector Gadget. This beat a short called Dream Doll which I’d like to see, apparently an X-rated spoof of The Red Balloon.
Tango (1981, Zbigniew Rybczynski)
An empty room, simple tango music. A kid (looks like stop-motion cut-out photographs) throws a ball into the room, comes in, throws the ball outside, leaves, repeat. Then another person is added, then another and another, none of them interacting with each other until the very end. How’d they do it? Beat out some stop-motion from the great Will Vinton and a half-hour piece about a snowman.
The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frédéric Back)
Just about the happiest thing ever, so lovely it made my head hurt. Story of a lonely shepherd who singlehandedly reforests an entire region of France. I looked it up, hoping that it’s a true story, and unbelievably it is. Narrated by the familiar voice of Christopher Plummer and animated with lush, colorful sketches. The romantic short from the creators of Bob & Margaret and a big of head-morphing Bill Plympton hilarity never stood a chance against this beauty.
A Greek Tragedy (1985, Nicole Van Goethem)
The characters are man/pillars holding up a stone wall that has fallen into ruins. When it finally collapses, the pillars are free to frolic. The kind of simple cuteness you’d see at a festival with three of four similar pieces, not the kind I’d think would win a major award. Hard times in 1986. Actually this beat Luxo Jr. somehow. I guess computer animation wasn’t in style until ’88. At the same time, it’s nice
Tin Toy (1988, John Lasseter)
A one-man-band toy escapes the wrath of a slimy toddler, then grudgingly returns to cheer it up when it’s crying only to be ignored in favor of an empty box and a paper bag. Clear precedent to Toy Story. 1988 computer technology was not up to the task of accurate baby rendering, but it’s still pretty cool looking. It beat a Tex Avery-style short from the future director of FernGully and Cordell Baker’s great The Cat Came Back.
Manipulation (1991, Daniel Greaves)
A good ol’ artist’s-hands-interacting-with-drawing-table short, somewhere between Duck Amuck and Rejected. Funny how one of the most recent shorts is the one available in the lowest quality. The line-drawing guy turns 3D at the end, which I think was done in claymation. Very inventive and fun. Apparently Greaves’ Flatworld is also a must-see. No U.S. shorts in this year’s competition – this UK film beat out two Canadian pieces (including long-time fave Blackfly).
Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1992, Joan C. Gratz)
Really wonderful little animated film which would probably be the greatest thing ever if I was an art history major. Since I only knew about five of the paintings which were mighty-morphing into each other, I probably attribute more of the film’s beauty to its director than I probably should. Oh wait, it won the oscar so I guess I’m not the only one who was impressed.
Then again, some of it is just silliness.
Quest (1996, Tyron Montgomery)
A man made of sand navigates increasingly more difficult and dangerous worlds of paper, rock, metal and water. The end is the beginning – would work as a looping DVD or art installation. Nice stop-motion, like The Sand Castle but I liked this one better, Thought it was anti-technology for a while, but now I think its just trying to say the world is a dangerous place. Competition included an Aardman, a Canadian piece I’ve seen but don’t remember, and a stop-motion short from a future Pixar animator.