The Oscar race for animated short reflects the zeitgeist and the ascendance of streaming. And all five nominees explore the turmoil of a divided country and world, where the need for unity is the best salvation for attaining happiness and closure.
The favorite is Netflix’s first animated short, “If Anything Happens I Love You,” about a grieving mother and father visited by shadows of themselves and their deceased young daughter (who was the victim of a school shooting). The monochromatic, hand-drawn short, directed by Will McCormack (who wrote the original “Toy Story 4” script with Rashida Jones) and Michael Govier (“Conan”), boasts an illustrated style that represents haunting memories, bolstered by an all-female animation team supervised by CalArts graduate Youngran Nho. Laura Dern executive produced the short and Maryann Garger (“The LEGO Ninjago Movie”) produced with Gary Gilbert (“La La Land”), Gerald Chamales (“The Irishman”), and Govier.
This season, Pixar’s the challenger, with “Burrow,” the latest from the studio’s indie-minded SparkShorts program. However, this colorful 2D short buries its social commentary beneath the sweet surface. “Burrow,” from “Coco” storyboard artist Madeline Sharafian, offers a warm tale about a young, energetic rabbit that encounters trouble digging her dream home next to the other neighbors, and eventually discovers the joy of community. It has a lovely Beatrix Potter-like illustrated look, and its intricate, underground society serves as a fitting metaphor for the importance of neighborly relations.
“Opera” (South Korea/U.S.), from former Pixar animator Erick Oh, confronts the continuous loop of racism, terrorism, war, natural disasters, and general chaos that permeates different classes and sections of society. And what better way to depict the structures and rhythms of human history than through a massive CG pyramid?
The French-produced “Genius Loci,” from Adrien Mérigeau, explores a loner who experiences the chaos inside her mind and throughout the city via mystical spirits. It’s a gorgeous 2D short comprised of delicate drawings and fluid animations.
The Icelandic “Yes-People,” from Gísli Darri Halldórsson, concerns an eclectic mix of that can only cope with daily struggles (from the mundane to the more serious) by saying “Yes.” The CG animation is fittingly caricatured and roughly animated to fit the theme.
“If Anything Happens I Love You”