The list offers plenty of films that are entertaining and cute, but it’s a weak reflection of the state of contemporary animation short-form filmmaking. Cartoon Brew recently polled ten industry-recognized short film experts (film programmers, critics, journalists, festival artistic directors) about the best films among the Academy’s group of qualified shorts, and there’s a wide gulf between what the short film community views as meritable animation and what Academy voters selected for this shortlist.
None of the top three films selected by our group of experts — La chute by Boris Labbé, Solar Walk by Réka Bucsi, Bloeistraat 11 by Nienke Deutz — appear on the Academy’s shortlist. Among the top six films selected by our experts, just one — Weekends by Trevor Jimenez — made the cut.
Another fascinating stat: six of the ten films on the Academy’s shortlist were not selected even once by any of our 10 experts. Of those six films, five of them — Age of Sail, Bao, Bird Karma, Bilby, One Small Step — were made by California corporations or crews that have strong California industry connections. One cannot discount the role that being a member of the California animation industry plays during the Academy Awards voting process.
And for anyone who wants to claim that our panel of experts is wrong, here’s another stat: Of the four films that were made by California corporations — Age of Sail, Bao, Bilby, Bird Karma — none of them won an award at a qualifying Academy festival, which is the traditional route by which a film is considered for the category. All four of those films qualified through public paid exhibition in L.A. county, bypassing the need for any critical recognition from the global animation community. The other shortlisted films in the category all qualified by winning festival awards.
On the plus side, there are no shortlisted filmmakers in this year’s animation category who have been arrested and charged with rape, so regardless of what anyone thinks of the shortlist, at least the animation category won’t be a complete fiasco like the 2018 Oscars.
Pictured at top: “Bird Karma” by William Salazar.