AwardsShorts

Animation Experts Pick The Best Animated Shorts Competing For This Year’s Academy Award (Updated)

We already have a pretty good idea of what animated shorts are competing in the upcoming Academy Award race for Best Animated Short — the list is here — but with 70-plus films to choose from, the big question is which of the shorts stand out from the pack in terms of artistic and creative excellence.

To gain a better sense of this year’s field of competitors, we surveyed leading festival directors and animation critics from around the world who have seen many of this year’s competing films. These are people who view and study animated shorts for their livelihood — people who watch hundreds (or more typically, thousands) of animated shorts per year. Their literal job is to champion quality animation, and if anyone understands where animation is headed as an art form, it’s this group of people.

We asked each of our experts to provide their top pick and an explanation for why they chose it, as well as highlight four more shorts that they feel are worthy of the attention of Academy voters.

One of the competing films was chosen six times by our experts: La chute by Boris Labbé (France). Labbé’s film is the only one that appeared multiple times as the top pick among our experts.

Two of the films were selected five time apiece by our voters: Solar Walk by Réka Bucsi (Denmark) and Bloeistraat 11 by Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands). (Note: The complete version of Solar Walk is online for a limited time and can be seen below.)

Three of our experts each selected the following three films: Weekends by Trevor Jimenez (USA), Sog by Jonatan Schwenk (Germany), and Wildebeest by Nicolas Keppens and Matthias Phlips (Belgium).

Here are all of the responses:

Anna Ida Orosz, co-founder/curator, Primanima World Festival of First Animations (Hungary)

Top pick: Sog — Jonatan Schwenk (Germany)

The universal yet alarmingly timely condition of (in)human existence is portrayed in this horrid, prehistoric/post-apocalyptic tale about the lack of solidarity. The clever combination of digital 3d technique and real-life sets and props makes this 10-minute-long film feel even more disturbing.

More picks:

  • Solar Walk — Réka Bucsi (Denmark)
  • The Blissful Accidental Death — Sergiu Negulici (Romania)
  • The Noise of Licking (A nyalintás nesze) — Nadja Andrasev (Hungary)
  • Untravel (Neputovanja) — Ana Nedeljković, Nikola Majdak Jr. (Serbia, Slovakia)
Chris Robinson, artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (Canada)

Top Pick: Weekends — Trevor Jimenez (USA)

A meditative, gentle, and deceptively simple portrait of the mystery and wonder of the fragmented, shifting life of a child who lives in two homes after his parents divorce. The pacing and execution are beautifully unhurried. Trusting the imagery and editing rather than drowning the work with needless chatter, this is a work that every aspiring and accomplished animator should see and learn from.

More picks:

  • Theory of Sunset — Roman Sokolov (Russia)
  • Bloeistraat 11 — Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands)
  • Solar Walk — Réka Bucsi (Denmark)
  • La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)
Vassilis Kroustallis, editor, Zippy Frames (Greece)

Top pick: Untravel (Neputovanja) — Ana Nedeljković, Nikola Majdak Jr. (Serbia, Slovakia)

Name an overtly political animation short that has been nominated for an Academy Award in recent years, and you’ll start scratching your head in desperation. Yes, it’s the era of walls and security border checks, so the story of a puppet girl dreaming of going to a perfect world called “Abroad” couldn’t be more relevant. Still, Nedeljković and Nikola Majdak Jr. re-create their own problematic world: their puppets are designed and behave in a unique, non-sentimental way; ruined sets are imbued with the latest Facebook updates; and a chilling narration (along with an increasingly unsettling score) lead to a poignant third-act twist. If you ever wanted to have an animation short that carries its message forcefully and persistently, and being artistic all the way down to its color palette choices, you have your pick.

More picks:

  • Icebergs — Eirini Vianelli (USA/Greece)
  • The Blissful Accidental Death — Sergiu Negulici (Romania)
  • Dead Horses (Cavalls morts) — Marc Riba and Anna Solanas (Spain)
  • Sog — Jonatan Schwenk (Germany)
Carolina López Caballero, director, Animac Lleida (Spain)

Top Pick: La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)

It’s a monumental film guided by the spirit of Hieronymus Bosch and Francisco de Goya, among other artists, in a truly original and experimental journey to heaven and hell that triggers many feelings and leaves room for personal interpretation.

More picks:

  • Weekends — Trevor Jimenez (USA)
  • Pépé le morse — Lucrèce Andreae (France)
  • Dead Horses (Cavalls morts) — Marc Riba and Anna Solanas (Spain)
  • Late Afternoon — Louise Bagnall (Ireland)
Alexis Hunot, editor, Zewebanim (France)

Top pick: La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)


Because Boris Labbé is developing since his first film another way of making experimental film; the way that he takes images and aesthetics that remind us of great painters and he makes them his own creation. And in this film the incredible rhythm, the way the film is a complete experience with the sound, reminds us the way animation also begins with this perfect combination between music and images… But the film is not only strong in its form but also in its content — the way we go deeper and deeper into this hell is an incredible sensation.

More picks:

  • Bloeistraat 11 — Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands)
  • 32-Rbit — Víctor Orozco Ramírez (Mexico/Germany)
  • Interstitial — Shunsaku Hayashi (Japan)
  • Raccoon and the Light — Hanna Kim (USA)
Aída Queiroz, Cesar Coelho, Lea Zagury, Marcos Magalhães, festival directors, Anima Mundi (Brazil)

Top pick: Animal Behavior — Alison Snowden, David Fine (Canada)

The genial metaphor created by Alison Snowden and David Fine has an impeccable screenplay and delightful traditional hand-drawn animation. It makes us recognize ourselves through the animals participating in a group therapy session, where their instincts just add to their neuroses and stresses, creating hilarious and absurd situations.

More picks:

  • Wildebeest — Nicolas Keppens, Matthias Phlips (Belgium)
  • Weekends — Trevor Jimenez (USA)
  • Hybrids — Florian Brauch, Kim Tailhades, Matthieu Pujol, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion (France)
  • The Green Bird — Pierre Perveyrie, Maximilien Bougeois, Marine Goalard, Irina Nguyen-Duc, Quentin Dubois (France)
Jeanette Bonds, festival director, GLAS Animation Festival (USA)

Top picks:

  • Solar Walk — Réka Bucsi (Denmark)
  • Pépé le morse — Lucrèce Andreae (France)
  • La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)
  • Glucose —Jeron Braxton (USA)
  • Bloeistraat 11 — Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands)
  • 32-Rbit — Víctor Orozco Ramírez (Mexico/Germany)

There are so many great films on this list, picking five is already a challenge let alone picking a single film as a favorite (so I decided to just make it six instead). From dealing with contemporary issues, creating imaginative worlds, providing fresh new perspectives, and exploring new techniques, these six films have something uniquely special about each of them. All these films are on the more unconventional side, something the Academy doesn’t often recognize but should, especially considering these films win awards (both audience and juried) all over the world. So a win, or even a nomination, for any of these films would be a huge deal to independent animators worldwide.

Annette Schindler, director, Fantoche International Animation Film Festival (Switzerland)

Top pick: Bloeistraat 11 — Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands)

More picks:

  • Coyote — Lorenz Wunderle (Switzerland)
  • Intimity — Elodie Dermange (Switzerland)
  • Solar Walk — Réka Bucsi (Denmark)
  • Wildebeest — Nicolas Keppens, Matthias Phlips (Belgium)
Aneta Ozorek , artistic director, Klik! Amsterdam Animation Festival (The Netherlands)

Top pick: La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)

When I saw this film for the first time I was overwhelmed with the poetic vision of a collapsing world.

More picks:

  • Wildebeest — Nicolas Keppens, Matthias Phlips (Belgium)
  • Sog — Jonatan Schwenk (Germany)
  • Solar Walk — Réka Bucsi (Denmark)
  • Cat Days — Jon Frickey (Germany/Japan)
Daniel Šuljić, artistic director, Animafest Zagreb (Croatia)

Top pick: La Chute — Boris Labbé (France)

Not every short animation is about telling fast paced jokes and entertaining people on a simple level. A huge number of animated films are poetry, art, magic, and alchemy — and yes, many art lovers out there on the globe should notice those films. La chute, by an exceptional artist Boris Labbé, uses a powerful visual universe influenced by Biblical paintings for an epic portrait of humanity, absolutely standing out in this diverse and interesting group of qualified films.

More picks:

  • Animal Behavior — Alison Snowden, David Fine (Canada)
  • Obon — André Hörmann, Anna “Samo” Bergman (Germany)
  • The Noise of Licking (A nyalintás nesze) — Nadja Andrasev (Hungary)
  • Bloeistraat 11 — Nienke Deutz (Belgium/The Netherlands)

Note: This piece was updated after publication with selections by Aneta Ozorek and Daniel Šuljić.

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