Monday Morning Inspiration: Three Oscar-Winning Shorts

Here’s a delightful way to begin the week. Cartoon Brew reader Saturnome writes:

Your post last week featuring Bob Godfrey’s Great made me realize how some of the animated film Oscar winners are nowhere to be found on the Internet. I have uploaded some of the rarest ones: “Is It Always Right To Be Right?,” “The Box,” and “Leisure.” It’s all on my YouTube page. From what I know, this make “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature” the only Oscar-winning short I haven’t seen anywhere around.

For convenience, I’ve also embedded the videos below. Thank you, Saturnome!

The Box (1967) directed by Fred Wolf

Is It Always Right To Be Right? (1970) directed by Lee Mishkin with design by Corny Cole and narration by Orson Welles

Leisure (1976) by Bruce Petty


  • http://scuzzbopper.blogspot.com Ken Priebe

    I studied animation under Lee Mishkin, and he had a story about Orson Welles’ narration of his film. Apparently they did the voice track and wanted some minor changes done, but Orson’s comment was something along the lines of “The way I recorded it is the way it should be.”

    Very much in line with his classic pea commercial outtakes…”The right reading for this is the one I’m giving you. I spent 20 times more for you people on any other commercial I’ve ever made. You are such pests!”

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    I’m sure all the artists were working with minimal budgets and unencouraging circumstances, but i could forgive studio execs of the time for seeing these and thinking that animation had reached a dead end.

    I appreciate “The Box” for being visual, but with minor mods it could easily have been a live action sketch on a Sid Caesar or Ernie Kovacs show 10 or 15 years earlier.

    “Right?” and “Leisure” (only saw second half, first half pulled when i tried it) are more montage than animation and so over-narrated that the literal visuals were unnecessary.

    None of these make a case for animation being a strong, important art. It’s hard to imagine any young artist seeing these and deciding to go into animation.

    I looked up the also rans. “What on Earth” (NFBC – 1967) is on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBdrtjDsod0

    It does at least use irony so that the visuals are important. They got robbed!

  • doug holverson

    So how come everything looked like a Sesame Street animation in those days? ;)

    BTW, reminds me of another ball-pointy, magazine cartoon-looking animation that represented the advance of civilization by adding stories to a rickety looking skyscraper and it finally ended with a computer coughing up an atom?

  • Jeeves

    Doug Holverson, you sound like you are describing a vertical pan sequence in Saul Bass’ “Why Man Creates” animated short.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Interesting comment by Holverson on the look on these films. I really don’t have much to say about it myself besides stating the economical way they were created, but the statements put out through these films often can be very profound and still leave an impact than if it had been animated far more detailed and exact.

    It’s true to argue this was during the low-point in animation’s history when the Golden Age had withered away and we were left with the rise in more indie/foreign efforts that may not have had a voice to use before, such as what won the Oscars by this point in time. I found each film unique in the message they have to say about humanity and the way we may treat each other or ourselves.

  • doug holverson

    Thanks for the insight on “Why Man Creates”.

    I’m intuiting that Sesame Street and the grown-up Oscar contenders look the way they do is because it reflects the way commercial and advertising animation looked back then, with magazine and greeting card cartoon influences leaking in.

    (BTW, I just attempted a Kurtz & Friends type illo for a WIP that takes place in ’77….)

  • doug holverson

    I’m wondering just how profound these really are. Plus if that has to do with these shorts not aging that well or if it’s just me not aging that well. If I saw these on PBS back when I was a wide-eyed, early or middle teen, I would have thought that they were pretty cosmic and cool. Now that I’m a grumpy grown-up, I find these more like merely interesting curios of their time. “The Box” seems to be two partial ideas glued together that don’t add up to making a whole point. “Is It always Right to be Right?” seems to belabor an obvious platitude over a Generation Gap that doesn’t exist anymore. “Leisure” just seems to ramble around.