The Long and Short of It
Karen Moltenbrey
January 24, 2014

The Long and Short of It

Short films have been a theater staple for many decades, dating back to the early days of the theater, where audiences were treated to a programming package that included a feature or two, short films, a cartoon, and even a newsreel. More recently, studios ¬– particularly Disney/Pixar – have been releasing an animated short alongside a large animated feature.

For instance, Pixar's "The Blue Umbrella" was shown in theaters this summer with Disney/Pixar's Monsters University. Blue Sky, meanwhile, has created several animated shorts, too. The studio's "No Time for Nuts" premiered on the DD release of Ice Age: The Meltdown, rather than in theaters.

For both Pixar and Blue Sky, as well as many other studios, animated short films are part of a long-standing tradition. Sometimes a short film offers a feature-film team the chance to production-test technology. Sometimes it offers a creative outlet. And, sometimes it offers the chance to continue working with a favorite character.

Animated short films are not just for professionals. Many schools require students to produce an animated short film prior to graduation, and students put those projects on their reels to show prospective employers.

Sometimes animated shorts are a team effort; sometimes they are an individual project. But one thing's for sure, they are a labor of love.

This year, a number of animated short films are vying for an Oscar, including:

"Feral," directed by Daniel Sousa (US). This 13-minute film is about a wild boy who is found in the woods by a solitary hunter and brought back to civilization. Alienated by a strange new environment, the boy tries to adapt by using the same strategies that kept him safe in the forest.

"Get a Horse!," directed by Lauren MacMullan and produced by Dorothy McKim (US). Walt Disney Animation Studios' six-minute innovative new short "Get A Horse!" is a contemporary homage to the first animated shorts featuring Mickey Mouse, with all-new, black-and-white, hand-drawn animation that's paired with full-color, 3D, CG filmmaking-in the same frame. Mickey (voice of Walt Disney), his favorite gal pal Minnie Mouse and their friends Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow delight in a musical haywagon ride-until Peg-Leg Pete shows up and tries to run them off the road. This groundbreaking short takes a sharp turn when Mickey finds himself separated from Minnie and must use every trick up his sleeve to find his way back to her. "Get A Horse!" is in theaters in front of "Frozen."

"Mr. Hublot," directed and produced by Laurent Witz and co-directed by Alexandre Espigares (Luxembourg/France).  In this 11-minute film, Mr. Hublot lives in a world where characters are made partially of mechanical parts, driving huge vehicles, rubbing shoulders with one another. It's a world where the giant scale of machines and the relentless use of salvaged materials reign supreme. Here, the withdrawn, idiosyncratic character with OCD Mr. Hublot is scared of change and the outside world. His solution: He doesn't step foot outside his apartment! The arrival of the dog Robot Pet will turn his life upside down, however. He has to share his home with this very invasive companion.

"Possessions," directed by Shuhei Morita (Japan). Known throughout Japan as "Tsukomo," the animated short film "Possessions" continues to capture the attention of audiences worldwide. "Possessions" is part of Katsuhiro Otomo's Short Peace omnibus project that brings together top creators at the leading edge of animation. The title of the 14-minute short refers to the folk legends that objects will possess souls after 100 years, often playing tricks on their owners as a result. In the film, a wanderer in Japan takes refuse in an abandoned house during the storm, but soon objects in the house come to life.

Room on the Broom, directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, and produced by Michael Rose and Martin Pope (UK). A half-hour animated film (25 minutes) based on the children's picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, "Room on the Broom" is a magical tale about friendship and family from Magic Light Pictures, the producers of "The Gruffalo" and "The Gruffalo's Child." (See "Monster Movie").  The film tells the story about a kind witch who invites a surprising collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat. The gang ultimately saves the witch from a fearsome dragon, and in gratitude she rewards them with a magnificent new broom which has room for everyone.