Every year in LA, the Academy Awards announces one of its less exalted awards for the best Animated Short. In 2020, the Czech Republic had its own dog in the fight, when Daria Kashcheeva, a student of the Prague FAMU, was nominated for the golden statue with her film Daughter. Unfortunately, she didn’t bring the Oscar back home with her this time, but the Animated Short Oscar category is one which is actually far more influential than people realise. Animated short film is a special art form that often sets animation trends or showcases new techniques, either technically or stylistically. For decades, new animated films have heavily influenced the world of advertising and motion design and those Oscar-winning films are often among the most significant and keenly anticipated. So let's take a look at some of the key Oscar winners in the category of the best short animated film, which have shaken up the world of animation.
The short animation based on Jean Giono's book tells the true story of a man who planted thousands of trees during his lifetime. In order to create the bond between his hero and nature, director Frédéric Back used a very original technique. He and his assistant drew the entire film on matte acetate using crayons. They often used shading to enable the hero to blend in with the landscape around him. Using multiple exposures, one scene spills over into another and the film does not use editing at all. This interesting approach to processing did not escape the attention of the Film Academy, and this short deservedly won an Oscar.
This adaptation of Hemingway's famous novel was the first animated film made for IMAX. In the hands of Russian animator Alexander Petrov, a masterpiece was created using the technique of painting on glass. The film combines the realistic depiction of characters with impressionist dream sequences, where colours spill over from one side of the screen to the other. According to some, this is one of the best animated films ever made and watching it in an IMAX cinema must be a special experience.
Director Nick Park at Aardman Animations had already won an Oscar in 1990 for the ground-breaking Creature Comforts but that certainly wasn’t the last. In 1994, two of his favourite characters Wallace and Gromit set off on another hair-brained adventure, mixing comedy and high-tension and won another Oscar. Park had perfected his stop-motion technique to push the boundaries of what was perceived as possible with this animation. The film perfectly combines a strong story with visual gags and dynamic action sequences. The two-minute train chase sequence is so iconic that some professionals even study it for their own feature films. David O. Russell admitted that the sequence inspired him for his action scenes in the film Three Kings and Danny Boyle called it the best action movie scene he had ever seen.