There has been noticeable grumbling and griping within the animation community over the past few years about the Animated Short category of the Academy Awards. The complaints, many of which come from Academy members themselves, are that the Oscars have fallen hopelessly out of touch with the evolution of animated short filmmaking. As animated shorts have evolved in narrative complexity and visual sophistication, the Academy’s short films branch has been consistently unable (or unwilling) to identify important new works in the medium.
The problem with this type of grievance is that it can easily be dismissed as opinion. After all, art is supposed to be subjective—although there’s hardly any subjectivity when an organization declares something as the Best Animated Short. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to suggest that Oscar nominees and winners like The Longest Daycare, La Luna, and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore are any less worthy of the honor than the other animated shorts released in their respective years.
The idea that the Academy is out of touch with animated short trends can’t be chalked up entirely as a subjective belief. To illustrate this point, it might be helpful to do a comparative analysis between the nominees at the Academy Awards and the winner of the annual Grand Prix at Annecy, which is the second longest-running animated short award after the Oscars. Annecy was chosen for this exercise not because it represents the be all and end all of animation festivals. It clearly does not. However, Annecy has existed since 1960 and is generally considered to be the most prestigious animation festival in the world. The festival’s tendency to be more commercially-oriented than the average animation festival also makes it a good barometer for the Oscars, whose Hollywood-centric biases often veer toward the extreme end of commercial short filmmaking (The ChubbChubbs! anyone?).