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  • Brandon MacMurray

Animated Short Shortlist Predictions for the 96th Academy Awards

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Last week we brought you our predictions for the documentary shorts shortlist, this week we take our turn at animated shorts! The exact number of animated shorts in contention is unknown at this point but we believe it to be in the 90-100 range in which we have watched about 80 in contention. There was much less consensus amoung the three of us here at ShortStick for animated shorts than there was with documentary. WIth documentary, 11 shorts made all three of our lists while only 7 animated shorts made all three of ours lists this time around. Keep in mind, although we loved a lot of these animated shorts, this is a list of what we think will get it, not necessarily our favourites. After much deliberation, here are the 15 we think are most likely to be on December 21st shortlist (along with some honourable mentions at the bottom):

1) Rosemary A.D. (After Dad) dir. Ethan Barrett

Similar to documentary, we also had a consensus number 1 pick in our animation lists. Rosemary A.D. (After Dad) has absolutely crushed the festival circuit this year picking up qualifying wins at Austin Film Festival, Cairo Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival and Indy Shorts, as well as many other awards along the way. Drawn-out in crayon and mixed with dark humour, Ethan Barrett tells a story of "Would my daughter be better off without me?" We will be shocked if this one doesn't show up on the shortlist.

2) Ninety-Five Senses, dirs. Jared Jess, Jerusha Hess

Ninety-Five Senses has been one of my favourites since I saw it and continues to grow on me with every view. Directed by Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napolean Dynamite, Nacho Libre) and narrated by Tim Blake Nelson, Ninety- Five Senses tells the story of Coy, a prisoner on death row. It is an incredible work of direction and collaboration, combining a sharp, evocative script by Hubbel Palmer and Chris Bowman, with animators from across the globe (including the UK, Brazil and Mexico) bringing the script to life. Ninety-Five Senses qualified after winning the Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short at the Florida Film Festival. It has also picked up awards at Animation Dingle, Guadalajara FICG and Rhode Island International Film Festival. The script also received the honour of being nominated for a Humanitas Prize, which honours writers whose work explores the human condition in a nuanced and meaningful way.

3) 27, dir. Flóra Anna Buda

Are there any prizes bigger for an animated short film to win than the Cannes Palme d'Or for Best Short Film or Annecy's biggest prize Cristal for a Short Film? 27 has won both, which gives it a very compelling case for it to be included on this list. It is highly regarded as one of the best animated short films of the year across the board. 27 tells the story of Alice, who is turning 27, and her night at a rooftop party and drunken bike accident that ensues.

4) Humo, dir. Rita Basulto

Humo, directed by Rita Basulto, excels in its ability to beautifully blend a unique mix of animation styles including 3D stop-motion, 2D cutout and even some popup book styled animation. The director’s talent in technical aspects such as production design, lighting photography and character design are on full display. Rita worked on Del Toro's Pinocchio and Guillermo Del Toro has even been given his stamp of approval on the short as he has introduced it at screenings. Humo qualified for this years Academy Awards after its win at Hollyshorts Film Festival.

5) Starling, dir. Mitra Shahidi

The winner of Tribeca’s Best Animated Short Film award, Mitra Shahidi’s Starling tells the story of little girl who shoots down from the heavens to spend her birthday with her family. Shahidi worked as a story artist on Pixar’s Luca, and that studio’s brand of anthropomorphized cuteness (the face and movement of the almost-human star are uncanny) and especially the sentimental family emotions that can be seen throughout Starling. Starling delivers a story that is sweet without becoming saccharine and is sure to find a spot on the shortlist.

6) Electra, dir. Daria Kashcheeva

In this short film, our protagonist Electra is rethinking her 10th birthday, mixing memories with imagination and hidden dreams. Electra has to go through the most painful memories to let her suppressed feelings come out until she is ready to reveal what has really happened during her 10th birthday. In Electra, Kashcheeva uses the animation method of Pixilation, a stop motion technique in which live actors are used frame-by-frame, repeatedly posing while one or more frame is taken and changing pose slightly before the next frame. Her previous film, the puppet animation Daughter, was a nominee at the 92nd Oscars. Electra is her graduate film and played in Cannes’ Cinéfondation section which focuses on films made by students at film schools. It was later screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best International Short Film, qualifying it for submission to the Oscars’ Animated Short Film category.

7) The Brave Locomotive, dir. Andrew Chesworth

You may recognize the name of director Andrew Chesworth if you are familiar with animation and the animated shorts category. He co-directed and co-wrote One Small Step which was nominated for Best Animated Short at the 91st Academy Awards. He was also an animator on Disney's Frozen, Zootopia, Moana, Big Hero 6 and Wreck- It Ralph as well as Netflix's Klaus. His latest, The Brave Locomotive is a passion project for him. It tells the story of a locomotive named Linus that works as a passenger train. When suddenly Linus is replaced by a newer and faster train, he is forced to work as a mining train instead. Eventually he is presented with an opportunity to save the day and his old friends. As most of the story is told through song, this cute short acts a nice little tribute to musical shorts like the ones from the Disney 40's package films.

8) Our Uniform, dir. Yegane Moghaddam

In Our Uniform, director Yegane Moghaddam uses fabric as a medium to animate the story of an Iranian woman discussing memories of her childhood at school. It tells the story of what it means to be female in Iran and having to wear a full hujab with her school uniform. With its unique animation style and simple but sharp script, we like its chances to make the shortlist.

9) The Smeds and the Smoos, dirs. Daniel Snaddon, Samantha Cutler

The Smeds and the Smoos aims to teach its young audience a lesson, as Bill (a Smed) and Janet (a Smoo) fall in love while their families are at war. Faced with disapproval, they flee to a distant planet and their families must put aside their differences and work together to bring them back home. The film has already won an International Emmy, and its production team is well known by the Oscars animated short branch, with their previous films Revolting Rhymes, Room on the Broom, and The Gruffalo all receiving nominations (and The Snail and the Whale landing on the shortlist). For voters looking for famous names to check off, The Smeds and the Smoos’ voice cast includes Sally Hawkins, Rob Brydon, and Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh. 

10) Once Upon a Studio, dirs. Dan Abraham, Trent Correy


11) Carl's Date, dir. Bob Peterson

Once Upon a Studio and Carl's Date are really hard ones to place. Only 2/3 of us thought Once Upon a Studio was in and only 2/3 of us thought Carl's Date was in.

Once Upon a Studio on one hand celebrates Disney's 100 years and brings back characters that are sure to evoke nostalgia in some Academy members. On the other hand, it is essentially a commercial for Disney, without any sort of strong narrative, other than showing off as many of their characters as possible.

Carl's Date is similar. It has now been about 14 years since Up was nominated for best picture and its a return of the beloved Carl and his dog Dug.

Neither of these shorts are bad, but to be honest, this is a spot we would rather fill with a more worthy indie contender. We just think the Disney/Pixar nostalgic pull will be too much. We won't be surprised if either/both of these are in but also wouldn't be shocked if either/both of them miss.

Watch on Disney +

12) Armat, dir. Élodie Dermange

The Academy loves including an animated short about the sharing of family history or family trauma (see last years's The Garbage Man or Souvenir Souvenir the year before). We feel Armat fits very nicely in that spot as it tells the story of a young Swiss girl who searches to find her Armenian roots. It examines the unwillingness of men to talk about their feelings or trauma and cleverly uses a wardrobe as a prop to frame the discussion around.

13) Miserable Miracle, dir. Ryo Orikasa

We couldn't have an animated shorts shortlist prediction and not include a short from NFB (National Film Board of Canada). Each year NFB manages to get at least one short, if not multiple on the list. While in past years there have been lots to choose from, it's been a quieter year for NFB with only Miserable Miracle and Harvey on it's slate. Ultimately, we decided to go with Miserable Miracle as our pick due to its unique animation. Orikasa's work overcomes conventional forms of animation and explores in a way that is both creative and breathtaking. The writing on screen that guides the story transforms to take viewers on an intriguing, experimental, and challenging journey. Poetry is not only present in the imagery, but also in the narration and sound effects, which are blended together to provide a strong sensorial story.

14) Teacups, dirs. Alec Green, Finbar Watson

Teacups is an Australian animated short film directed by Alec Green and Finbar Watson. It premiered at Sydney Film Festival 2023 and won the Yoram Gross Award for Best Animation, qualifying it for this years awards. Teacups is a deeply moving portrayal of compassion. It wows with its animation style, complementary colours, and poignant message and thrives in its simplicity, a factor that makes it easy to connect emotionally.

15) The Bridge, dir. Izumi Yoshida

Written and directed with extreme care by Izumi Yoshida, The Bridge is set in 1919, Siberia Russia and tells the story of the outbreak of the October Revolution and Civil War in Russia and the fate of Polish prisoners and settlers living there. The incredibly moving stop motion film uses immaculately constructed sets and puppets to create the most realistically detailed world in any animated short this year. The Bridge won two prizes at Short Shorts, the George Lucas Award (Grand Prix) and the Animation Competition Best Short Award, which qualified the film for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. 

Others Receiving Votes/Honourable Mentions:

Mum's Spaghetti, dir. Lisa Kenney

This was the hardest one for us to omit as Mum's Spaghetti has been one of our very favourites in animation this year ever since we saw it as part of our Student Academy Awards series. The quality in the claymation stop-motion animation is undeniable. But what takes Mum's Spaghetti to the next level is the fine details and rap/grime references. We aren't saying the Academy isn't smart or cool, but we also think that these references may be lost on them. Mum's Spaghetti won the bronze medal at the Student Academy Awards. Another reason for my hesitation to put it in our 15 was I still have personal prediction trauma from when my favourite animation of the year (and last years bronze medalist at the Student Academy Awards) The Seine's Tears missed the shortlist last year.

Pina, dirs. Jérémy Depuydt, Giuseppe Accardo

Pina is a short I still think has a really good chance to make it in. This French-speaking Brussels short won the Yoram Gross Award at Flickerfest and the National Grand Prize at Brussels Short Film Festival to qualify for this year's awards. Pina is a short with a very structured and engaging story that flawlessly blends colourful bright animation together. Set in a 19th century Sicilian countryside village, the titular character Pina holds the power to regenerate the land her family and village live on. The land is constantly being plundered by the mafia, leading to an encounter that could change the country's fate forever. Pina has the feel of a fable or folktale that though unfamiliar feels like a story from your childhood.

Boom, dirs. Gabriel Augerai, Charles Di Cicco, Romain Augier, Laurie Pereira de Figueiredo, Yannick Jacquin

This manic short directed by students from the École des Nouvelles Images in France brings in a whole group of new voices in animation. The 3D animated Boom tells the story of a pair of dumb birds waiting for their four eggs to hatch as the ground shakes and an island's volcano prepares to erupt. The slapstick comedy won the Student Academy Award gold medal winner in an absolutely packed field and is being distributed by the animated short powerhouse Miyu Distribution. 

Eeva, dirs. Lucija Mrzljak, Morten Tšinakov and Way Better, dir. Skirma Jakaite

These two Miyu-dstributed shorts are still definitely serious contenders. The animation is great but the narration is not straight forward. We have noticed that often the themes and story-telling in animated shorts are quite simple, where with these two shorts there are oddities and more of complex narration that needs read into.

Letter to a Pig, dir. Tal Kantor

In writer-director Tal Kantor’s Letter to a Pig, a Holocaust survivor writes a thank-you letter to a pig that saved his life, while a young student dreams a tragic version of his story.  

The intense and emotional film also explores the themes of collective trauma, vengeance, human evil and compassion. Letter to a Pig qualified for the Academy Awards by winning Anima Brussels Animation Film Festival, Best International Short Film and had a successful run at important animation festivals, playing at Annecy, and winning the Grand Prize for Narrative Short Animation at the 2022 Ottawa International Animation Festival 

Scale, dir. Joseph Pierce

Scale would have been a bit higher on our list, but it is one where we think the awards strategy has hindered it a bit. There are probably valid reasons for this unknown to us but it qualified at the 2022 Hollyshorts festival and presumably could have submitted for the Oscars last year. It seemed to have a lot of momentum heading into last years Oscars as it was continuing to win awards including the jury prize for Best Animated Short Film at the Academy of Death Racers Film Festival. However, it held off from submitting and after several quieter months is now competing for the Oscar this year. This is not to say it won't get in, clearly the quality of the short hasn't changed, but it has seemed to lose some steam in the conversation.

Epicenter, dir. Hee-yoon Hahm

Written, animated, directed (and sound designed and mixed!) entirely by Hee-yoon Hahm, the monochromatic Epicenter is an extraordinary vision of the true meeting the imaginary. In a world where, little by little, fine cracks appear on the wall that divide the world of fantasy and reality, someone begins to notice the existence of an invisible world. Unlike any other animated short film this year, the immaculately detailed pencil-drawn film won the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film, which qualified Epicenter for submission to the Academy Awards. 



The short end of the stick: The inferior part, the worse side of an unequal deal

When it comes to cinema and the Oscars it always feels like short films and getting the short end of the stick. Lack of coverage, lack of predictions from experts and an afterthought in the conversation. With this site we hope to change that, highlighting shorts that stick with you, predictions, and news on what is happening in the world of shorts. 

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