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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 02/27/2011

THE 2011 OSCARS: Handicapping the Animated Short nominees

By Michael Cavna

Update: "The Lost Thing" wins the Oscar for Animated Short.

When it comes to Oscars-nominated animation, feature films tend to get the "Lion King's" share of the spotlight. But this year's field of Animated Shorts is particularly rich.

Pixar's billion-dollar-grossing "Toy Story 3" -- although an underdog to become the first animated feature to win Best Picture -- is the heavy favorite to win for Best Animated Feature. Partly because of its shared audience exposure, the six-minute short that ran in theaters with "TS3" -- "Day & Night" -- has to be considered one of the favorites to win for Animated Short.

Teddy Newton's "Day & Night" blends old-school Disney whimsy with modern Pixar technology. (The short features two dueling silhouettes -- one "Day," one "Night" -- that are rendered in old-fashioned outlines but which serve as windows to "inner-world" 3-D effects.) To Academy voters, the greatest obstacle to choosing this short, however, might be if they favor more traditional storytelling.


Based on the children's book by writer-playwright Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang's "The Gruffalo" has numerous Oscar factors in its favor, including (1) such marquee voice actors as Helena Bonham Carter (also nominated for "The King's Speech"), John Hurt and Tom Wilkinson; (2) a big-budget slickness yet an utterly warm stop-motion feel; (3) straight-ahead storytelling; and (4) the longest running time of the nominated bunch at 27 minutes. Has to be considered one of the favorites:


Geefwee Boedoe's "Let's Pollute" is a hilarious satire about the "glories" of global pollution. The tongue-in-cheek tone could readily be embedded into a Michael Moore documentary or partner on a political-comedy site with Mark Fiore's Pulitzer-winning editorial animations. Perhaps too one-note for the Oscar, but oh-so deftly executed:


Out of Australia, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann's "The Lost Thing" (narrated by the brilliant satirical pianist Tim Minchin) is a warm and quirky tale of a boy of his attachment to a half-octopus-like, half-metallic creature looking for a place to belong. Especially poignant is the boy-turned-adult at the story's end, wondering whether he sees fewer such intriguing creatures because fewer exist -- or because he's grown out of his childlike sense of wonder:


Purely on visuals, the handcrafted French short from Bastien Dubois -- "Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)" -- is Comic Riffs' favorite short of the bunch. The smorgasbord of artistic and aesthetic styles is a stunner, as the movie moves effortlessly from watercolor to pastel to pen-and-ink to stop-motion and 3-D effects. In short, as it were, it plays like the world's most dazzling demo reel. And its fluid sense of tale -- as a tourist basks in the coast-of-Africa isle, eventually attending a Famadihana burial party -- is a most seductive travelogue. Who cares if it wins Oscar, except for the fact that millions more might then be drawn to soak up this syncopated brilliance:


By Michael Cavna  | February 27, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Animation  | Tags:  Day & Night, Let's Pollute, Madagascar, Oscars animation, The Gruffalo, The Lost Thing  
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Next: THE 2011 OSCARS: Top 10 Quotes from the nominees for Best Animated Feature

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