The Annie Awards are the most ebullient part of the awards season, always beaming with a real love for animated film. You can tell just by looking at yesterday’s list of nominees, which includes a whopping eight films in its Best Animated Feature category. The Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Association, which runs the show, seems to prioritize quantity and excitement over self-serious rule-making. The whole list feels like an enormous, giddy smile.
The biggest hit yesterday morning was The Boxtrolls, with a grand total of 13 nominations. Almost as much love was given to How to Train Your Dragon 2, which was mentioned ten times. Even Cyndi Lauper made the list, nominated for a direct-to-DVD baseball drama to which she lent her voice. Yet while that film might be a bit hard to find, some of the shorts that made the roster are already online.
Eight films are nominated for Best Animated Short Subject, of which five have also been shortlisted for the Academy Award. What that means, essentially, is that we likely have to wait until the ShortsHD release after the Oscar nominations to see them. That they’ll be released on the big screen makes it worth the wait, of course. In the meantime, one of the eight is already on Vimeo.
Silent, by Moonbot Studios
Moonbot Studios, a rising star in the world of animation, won the Oscar three years ago for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a love letter to books and storytelling set in the context of Hurricane Katrina, a particularly potent metaphor for this studio based in Shreveport, Louisiana. This year they’re represented twice in the Best Animated Short Subject category at the Annies, for The Raven and Silent. The former has yet to be released but the latter is online.
Commissioned by Dolby Laboratories, the film is a kaleidoscopic homage to every conceivable movie genre, from 1920s slapstick to big budget science fiction. It all takes place in an old movie palace, where a street performer gets stuck in an ever-changing silent film and can only by saved by his young assistant and her skill on the theater’s old organ. It rushes past some of its best images, but as a short made to showcase sound (by Oscar-nominated sound designer Steve Boedekker no less) it’s pretty delightful.
Beyond Best Animated Short Subject, there is also the Annie Award for Best Student Film. This is only the third year that this award has been given, so there isn’t a long list of former winners that can be trotted out to prove its predictive potential. A particular highlight is Timothy Reckart’s Head Over Heels, which won the award in its first year and was also nominated for the Oscar. None of this year’s student nominees have been shortlisted by the Academy, unfortunately, but the quality of the work is still pretty impressive.
Two of the films have already been uploaded by their filmmakers to Vimeo. Hurry up before they go password protected.
Tiny Nomad, by Toniko Pantoka
Tiny Nomad, among other things, makes the dramatic and controversial claim that scorpions can be cute. Toniko Pantoka, who made this at CalArts, pulls it off. That said, it doesn’t quite start that way. This is primarily a film about nomadic mice eking out a living in the desert. If the arachnids are uncharacteristically cuddly by the end of this short, the rodents are uniquely gruff warriors. It’s all animated with a real eye for framing and a mercurial style reminiscent of the better moments in the Kung Fu Panda franchise.
My Big Brother, by Jason Rayner
Jason Rayner’s My Big Brother is adorable. Made at the Savannah College of Art and Design, it is the miniature story of a normal boy and his towering older brother. A friendly giant, he carries his normal-sized sibling around on his shoulder, a sweet gesture that almost makes up for how difficult it is to share a pool or a bunk bed. Its style is one of charmingly blocky, CG images that evoke the most charismatic of indie video games, while it shares its freewheeling sense of physical proportion with Ernest & Celestine. And, once more, it’s adorable.