I always enjoy checking out the animated shorts section at a festival, but it’s hard to keep track of what’s worth watching when you are outside that environment. This is why I love the Oscars for having a category for best animated shorts. Without it, I wouldn’t know where to begin!
That’s not to say their taste in selecting these shorts is impeccable, in fact, our reviews (after the jump) indicate it’s not.
Director: Patrick Doyon
Dimanche is a pleasant, surreal short about a boy with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Brought to life with pastel colors and deep, charcoal blacks, the characters are monstrous, comical abstractions of human beings. They all speak in gibberish, leaving the viewer alienated along with the boy. His grandma takes up half the living room and his dad dreams of hardware tools while the pastor speaks at church. The humor is light and familiar, but the unique tone of this short keeps things interesting. If the humans are odd, the animals are bizarre dream creatures that could easily frighten a child. Even with the interesting artistry, the story is kind of dull and the comedy is too safe. Dimanche captures a specific feeling — that feeling of boredom lasting forever on a lazy Sunday as a kid — but it doesn’t do much with it. — Allistair Pinsof
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Directors: William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an adorable short story inspired by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton and the Wizard of Oz, about the euphoric love of books. Mr. Lessmore loses much of his comfortable world in a hurricane – including the text of the book he had been writing. In the process though, he stumbles upon a mysterious old library where books are alive and can fly, and this discovery redefines the way he sees life. The animation for the short combines miniatures, computer animation, and 2D animation, which gives Lessmore a unique feel. While super cute and honorable, Lessmore‘s story stays pretty predictable throughout the short. However this doesn’t really detract too much from it in my opinion, since there is enough quirkiness in the dialogue-less visuals to keep you entertained.  — Liz Rugg
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Despite having the Pixar name on it, La Luna is a humble debut for Enrico Casarosa, a storyboard artist on Up and Ratatouille. Unlike past Pixar shorts, La Luna doesn’t go far laughs and it feels strangely European in its style and sensibility. Three strangers appear on a small boat, drifting off to sea with nothing but the stars behind them. One boy, one man, and one old fisherman. The two adults bicker in gibberish, as the boy looks onward to a planet made of stars. He climbs onto it with a ladder and collects stars. That’s about it. There isn’t much to this concept but the execution is well done, as you’d expect from Pixar. The film has a great orchestrated score that compliments the dreamy, dark-blue haze of this surreal maritime story. Can’t say it did much for me, but it sure did look and sound nice. For such a fantastical story, it feels kind of plain. — Allistair Pinsof
A Morning Stroll
Directors: Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
A Morning Stroll is an awesome little short that takes a really simple idea and narrates it in three totally different, but equally entertaining ways. When a New Yorker walks past a chicken and then sees the chicken go into a nearby door, he’s left to wonder what the heck just happened. A Morning Stroll shows the same story with the chicken on the street in three different time periods, animation styles and storytelling styles. The premise of this short is so simple but it’s executed so well that I found it immensely entertaining. It’s ability to convey difference and continuity is just perfect.  — Liz Rugg
Directors: Amanda Forbis and Windy Wilby
Wild Life is one of the best looking animated shorts I’ve seen in a while. Directors Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby have created a gorgeous hand-painted short, almost impressionistic in places. I was in love from the very first shot of feet trudging across a snowy expanse. The short follows a well-to-do Englishman who has purchased some ranch land in Alberta, Canada at the turn of last century and turns out to be fairly unprepared for the realities of Canada. There’s a solid, dry sense of humor here, with the reactions of the country folk to this polo-playing Englishman who’s clearly bought a ranch in the name of “adventure,” seeing himself as a real cowboy after a few callouses on his hands. There’s a recurring comet metaphor that strikes me as a bit pretentious, as it’s basically spelling out a theme that really needed no spelling out, but apart from that Wild Life is a wonderful, if basically inconsequential animated piece. — Alex Katz