"Pilots on the Way Home" by . Click to enlarge. "Pilots on the Way Home" by . Click to enlarge.
Award Season Focus

‘Pilots On The Way Home’ Selected As Top Animated Short of 2014

With so much attention focused on the Academy’s ten-film shortlist, it’s easy to forget that their ideas about animated shorts reflect the views of a small cross-section of the animation community. Hundreds of other animated shorts were released last year, many of which reached the heights cinematic excellence. So, what were those other films?

To answer that question, Marco de Blois, programmer/curator at the Cinémathèque québécoise and artistic director of Montreal’s Sommets du cinéma d’animation festival, asked 17 international festival programmers and critics to each list their top ten animated shorts of the year. Their responses were published yesterday on the film site 24 Images.

The most well-liked film of the year amongst this group of esteemed programmers and critics was Priit and Olga Pärn’s Pilots on the Way Home, a co-production between Estonia and Canada. Here is the film’s official synopsis, followed by its trailer:

Having suffered the loss of their plane, three pilots inexplicably find themselves stranded in the middle of the desert. While following the perilous and unpredictable course that will ultimately lead them home, they fall prey to visions and must confront the siren call of their own strange fantasies. With Pilots on the Way Home, Priit and Olga Pärn have created a new, satirical meditation on male-female relations. The film tackles masculinity and the male psyche with the same pointed sense of the absurd that has marked Priit Pärn’s previous films. Pilots on the Way Home is also a journey through time and space, and to the universal sources of artistic eroticism. Olga Pärn is a master of the art of animating sand, giving Priit Pärn’s unique line drawings a warm and subtle texture reminiscent of etching. Her work is perfectly matched to the impassioned beats of this tale.

Other films that received four or more votes each were:

  • Fugue for Cello, Trumpet and Landscape by Jerzy Kucia (Poland)

  • Grace Under Water by Anthony Lawrence (Australia)

  • Hipopotamy by Piotr Dumala (Poland)

  • Horse by Shen Jie (China)

  • Nuggets by Andreas Hykade (Germany)

  • The Obvious Child by Stephen Irwin (UK)

  • La Chair de ma chère by Calvin Antoine Blandin (France)

  • Eager by Allison Schulnik (US)

  • Man on the Chair by Dahee Jeong (France/South Korea)

  • Monkey Love Experiments by Ainslie Henderson and Will Anderson (UK)

  • WONDER by Mirai Mizue (France/Japan)

And for the record, the Oscar-shortlisted shorts fared poorly, even moreso than last year’s survey, with no film earning more than 3 mentions, and the majority receiving zero or one vote. Here’s the tally:

3 mentions
The Bigger Picture by Daisy Jacobs
Me and My Moulton by Torill Kove

2 mentions
Coda by Alan Holly

1 mention
The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Duet by Glen Keane
A Single Life by Joris Oprins
Symphony No. 42 by Réka Bucsi

0 mentions
Feast by Patrick Osborne
Footprints by Bill Plympton
The Numberlys by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

(Top image: “Pilots on the Way Home” by Priit and Olga Pärn.)

  • Films like those go under-appreciated by a section of the animation community for not containing the “12 principles of animation”, but it will still have an audience from the rest of the community who put story and individual artistry before all else. It looks great judging by its trailer, I’ll have to check it out.

  • Googamp32

    “Disney’s Feast” didn’t even get a mention. This makes me happy.

    • Anonymous

      Someone wants to incite a row…I suspect a troll?

      • Googamp32

        I don’t want to incite a row. It just isn’t a very good short.

        • anonymous

          Who’d you rather see win then? There are very few shorts here ripe for the picking.

          • Googamp32

            This pilots short is really good.

  • The Academy acceptance rules are strict and antiquated. To be considered a short must be screened in an LA theater or win a prize at an officially sanctioned festival. This harkens back to the beginnings of this category when cartoons were regularly shown with features and every major studio was associated with an animation production house. This didn’t really change until studio director John Hubley was blacklisted and forced to go independent (a subject Amid is very familiar with). This gives an edge to a studio film like Feast, but these are pretty rare since they don’t make any money.

    Many of these films are still on the festival circuit so they may win and be considered next year. Also the Academy list was limited to 10 but Marco de Blois’ list with 3 or more selections amounted to 21 titles (even more if you include every chosen title) which automatically gives this group an edge to include more avant-garde material.

  • Brian

    I can’t say I agree with Pilots being the best. I saw it at Ottawa and just wanted it to end. I’m surprised We Can’t Live Without Cosmos didn’t get more love. But glad Lesley The Pony got some Love. It’s a short I re-watch a lot.

  • HalSolo

    A new Pritt/Olga Parn film is an EVENT

  • Kevin

    I wonder if this survey had been taken before the Academy had announced their short list if it would have a slightly different composition? This seems like a good chance for festival programmers to signal their street cred by avoiding anything the stodgy ol’ Academy might endorse.

    Also hard not to notice that most of those lists show a bias towards obscurity in storytelling, and plenty of shock-value images (if it bleeds, it leads!), and against CG, studio-backed films, or anything with high production values. Hard to take this seriously when The Dam Keeper gets the same number of mentions as Anal Juke (not that we don’t all love a little Anal Juke now and then).

  • marc

    Three mentions for “1000 Plateaus (2004-2014)”

  • MMm weird. Everyone I met at Annecy was totally turned off by Pilots. There is a lot of goodness in that list though.