Oscar's 2014 Animation Shorts is an embarrassment of riches


In English, French, and Japanese with English subtitles. Unrated.

There’s an embarrassment of riches in this rare public presentation of five killer toons nominated in the animation category for a Best Short Oscar.

Animism meets animé in the most conventional-looking item, Shuhei Morita’s “Possessions”. Rendered in a CGI–assisted blend of flat manga lines and Hokusai-type Japanese wood-block prints, the 14-minute film singles out a peasant craftsman as he repairs the tattered remnants found in an abandoned shrine, to appease the spirits dwelling within them.

Other objects inhabit Luxembourg’s 11-minute “Mr Hublot”, a steampunk-styled look at a future filled with robotic creations, including a lonely number cruncher with goggles and bad OCD. Presumably inspired by Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot with bits of the Hubble telescope thrown in, our neurotic hero spies a nuts-and-bolts puppy cowering amidst traffic that resembles First World War tanks. The problem with puppies is that they grow.

Daniel Sousa’s wordless, 11-minute “Feral” follows a boy raised by wolves and unable to adjust to the weird rites of human society. The U.S.–based filmmaker, working with a near-monochromatic charcoal-and-pencil palette, has already won numerous prizes for this and his previous “Minotaur”.

The biggest crowd-pleaser is the delightful “Room on the Broom”, a half-hour kid’s-book adaptation made for British TV by veterans Max Land (“The Gruffalo”) and Jan Lachauer. If the colour-rich illustration doesn’t grab, you’ll certainly be captivated by narrator Simon Pegg’s tale of a witch (Gillian Anderson) who picks up animal hitchhikers voiced by Rob Brydon, David Walliams, Martin Clunes, and (most delightfully) Sally Hawkins.

Great stuff, but all topped by Disney’s mind-blowing “Get a Horse”, in which Simpsons veteran Lauren MacMullan grafts startling 3-D colour images onto a B&W, 1930s-style Mickey Mouse cartoon (newly created by Eric Goldberg), voiced by Uncle Walt himself. It’s meta-tooning of the highest order, and despite being paired with current hit Frozen, this six-minute blast of amiably violent anarchy owes as much to the intuitive surrealism of Marv Newland and Paul Driessen as it does to the old-timers of Anaheim.

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