Cartoons, stop motion, puppetry will take viewers back in time
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, February 1, 2013
This year’s Academy Award nominees in the category of animated short film feel notably old-fashioned, quaint even. One offering (Disney’s “Paperman”) is a black-and-white love story set in what looks like 1940s Manhattan. All of the films are virtually dialogueless, telling their stories like silent films.
Others boast stop-motion animation (“Fresh Guacamole”) and puppetry (“Head Over Heels”).
The story line of “Adam and Dog” is a twist on the biblical “Genesis” story, focusing on the ancient bond between man and his best friend. Even the “Simpsons” entry (“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’ ”) is distinctly lacking in the television series’ trademark snark, probably due to the innocence of its title character. It’s still very clever though.
Of the bunch, “Fresh Guacamole” is my favorite. True to its name, the how-to-make-guacamole tutorial (from animator Adam Pesapane, known as PES) is a visually original treat, featuring the filmmaker’s trademark use of everyday objects and larded with plentiful visual puns. Diced vegetables, for example, turn into actual dice; tortilla chips are poker chips. My only complaint is that, at two minutes, it’s not long enough.
“Head Over Heels” (by Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly) also is a strong contender for the Oscar. The story of a couple who no longer see eye to eye -- because she lives on the ceiling of their house and he on the floor -- uses a powerful sight gag to make a poignant point about romantic reconnection.
“Simpsons” producer David Silverman’s “Daycare” tickles but lacks the satirical bite of the series. At the wan end of the spectrum are John Kahrs’s “Paperman” and Minkyu Lee’s “Adam and Dog.” They’re both pretty to look at, but also pretty dull.
Taken together, these five nominees add up to only about 41 minutes of material. As an added treat, and to round out the showcase to feature length, this Oscar anthology will be supplemented with unannounced films, adding an element of surprise for contemporary animation fans.
"Adam and Dog" contains flashes of non-sexual nudity, but otherwise the Oscar shorts contain nothing offensive.