I have been watching so many short animated films recently to get inspiration for next years final film and wanted to take a closer look at some of them here. They are all Oscar Academy Award nominated animations.
Blind Vaysha – Theodore Ushev
Based on a story by Georgi Gospodinov, the film tells the story of a girl who sees past out of her left eye and the future from her right—and so is unable to live in the present. Montreal actress Caroline Dhavernas performed the narration for the film, in both its French and English language versions.
The visual aesthetic of the animation makes this film immediately stand out, as it is an unusual style for animation, with a replicated lino-cut art style. Theodore Ushev didn’t use the undo command when animating this on his computer to further replicate the medium, and he estimates that he did 12000-13000 individual drawings for the film, which took around six months. Theodore created each image for the film in Adobe Photoshop and then animated in Adobe After Effects.
“Because with linocut, once your hand carves it, it is gone. You cannot put the black back. This creates a natural feeling of the unpredictable, of mistakes and the holy imperfection of the image—which is the basis of every creation.” [1b]
On how he builds up each frame:
“What’s unique about this technique is that you don’t animate characters — you animate the colors, sometimes three, sometimes four,” he said. “And you animate by separating every color and after that you have to print them digitally, and I found a small algorithm that superimposes the layers so they look like they’re printed by hand. And this algorithm constantly moves the colors and every frame is like a unique print.” [1a]
I really like the look of the animation, with the darker more natural colour palette that the film maker used. Browns, Oranges, reds and greens are predominantly used through the animation. Colour is used for the eyes to highlight them once they are the focus of the story, but the characters are mostly black and stand out from the background that way. The film starts out in an old tv square shape 4:3, with black edges cutting off the screen, but opens up to full screen when we the audience see through the main characters eyes. The story is like a folktale, a story your grandfather would tell to all the children gathered round on a rainy day. It even has a moral about living in the moment and experiencing life for what it is now. It s a truly beautiful film but also a sad one, with the main character being unable to experience the world that is all around her, only seeing the past and the future, which isolates her from the world.
It’s a fairy tale for kids from 9-99 (years old). It won the Kid’s Jury Award [Junior Jury Award for a Short Film] at Annecy. Six kids from 9-11 (years old) judged it. Friends and colleagues were asking me, “Do you really think this is a kid’s film?” The Annecy win was a complete surprise because, actually, it’s not a kid’s film. But listening to the kids explain how they felt about the film made me so happy.
My explanation is very simple. We don’t have to let nostalgia for the past and fear of the future spoil the pleasure of living right now. That’s it. We need to live now. We can analyze the past, we can guess the future, literally, based on mistakes of the past, but we can’t forget the it’s the present that counts for everything.
-Theodore Ushev [1b]
Something that i thought was interesting from the interview, was how Theodore compares this new animation to his other work.
To me, good abstract films are the ultimate pieces of art. But of course, not everyone is prepared to like these types of films. But to make a good abstract film that people understand, even though they never understand it completely, they still feel it, because with the art it’s always a question of feelings and emotions. For me, the narrative form is much easier. Because every storyteller can tell a story.
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Borrowed Time – Lou Hamou-Lhadj & Andrew Coats
This is a simply stunning 3D animated film with a deeply powerful story.
A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on. [2a]
There were skillsets Andrew and I had almost no experience in at the time. By the end of the film, we had to touch a little bit of everything. On the back end of the pipeline — shading work, lighting, effects, rendering — we needed key players to help us out. But I think outside of that, we relied on outside people for objectivity. After three years of toiling on a film late at night, you can quickly lose sight of what you’re making. We’d grab people and say “Can you give us a fresh pair of eyes on this?” We relied on that as much as feet on the ground. [2b]
The film deals with an incredible dark subject matter, the death of a loved one. And in such traumatic and tragic circumstances. The main character doesn’t get a happy ending, he gets a hopeful ending, which i think is more powerful than some kind of happy resolution (like a new loved one replacement, which happens all too much in storytelling because audiences don’t like to think of people being alone and having lost things. Stories don’t feel over unless you have a satisfying resolution, but really this way of ending the story is much more impactful and thought-provoking. There is no right way to deal with grief, and it’s such a tough subject to deal with at all, I think the filmmakers made a film which reflects the difficult nature of death and coming to terms with your own actions in a cruel world. This character faces his demons and in the end he fights to carry on, even with his dark memories, his guilt. But he does not forget all the positive memories that he has as well, – not being taken over and engulfed by the bad. He will always feel somewhat responsible, but really he did everything he could, sometimes things just go horribly wrong. It basically a little adrenaline rush film, which gets your heart pumping and your mind running as things play out before you.
We wanted it to have a hopeful upturn and regardless of the events in the film, they’re not completely downtrodden. Our character doesn’t have to be completely fixed, we can put him on a path. There are many steps ahead to get him where he needs to go.
Placing them on that trajectory is what we tried to keep in mind.
If you wrap it all up at the end, that’s just dishonest and it would come across as cliche. [2c]
The Pixar animators that made this used all their skills, industry knowledge and talented friends to make this film happen over five years in their spare time. The film looks faultless. Visually its a masterpiece. The textures of the skin, the clothes, the environment, everything is just so beautiful. There are so many thoughtful details and it really comes alive on the screen.
For the sound they tried some spaghetti western stuff, but it all felt wrong. That’s when they discovered the soundtrack from the video game The Last of Us and composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
We responded to Gustavo’s tone, the soundscape he can build.There’s a lot of interplay between silence and musical notes. It creates a lot of atmosphere in his work, and that’s exactly the kind of contemplative space that we wanted people to live in while they were watching this. [2b]
This film is for a mature audience, as it deals with adult themes, but i think teenagers could also handle the dark themes and watch this film. The high production value would attract anyone to watch this film, and it lives up to the standard that Pixar work is known for around the world. The mans death is similar to Mufasa’s in the lion king in the sense that you don’t see the actual death blow, there’s no gore or anything. But the theme is dark and difficult.
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Pearl – Patrick Osborne
Use your mouse to look around the animation!
When i first watch this amazing animation i didn’t realise you could look around it! That didn’t matter as it was still a beautiful animation and that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it. But when i realised i could look around it really blew my mind a bit. i’m not new to 3D 360 degree videos, but this is probably my first animated video outside of gaming, that i can move around in. It really changes your relationship with the video, and allows you to focus on different parts as you re-watch it over and over to see new things each re-watch. I think this is something that could be used a lot more in the future as video is shared on the internet and people can take control of the view. Really cool stuff! I wish i had vr (virtual reality) stuff so that i could try it out, as i’m sure that’s where this would really excel.
The father sings the first half and the daughter sings the second, mirroring how the car is passed from one to the other as is youth. It’s a beautiful film, and a lovely song.
The original song, “No Wrong Way Home,” was written by Alexis Harte & JJ Wiesler [3a] and the music was performed by Kelley Stoltz and Nicki Bluhm [3b]
Bit annoying how reckless they are when driving, just playing the guitar when they should be LOOKING WHERE THEY’RE GOING AND HOLDING THE GOSH DANG WHEEL!! I was half expecting this animation to end in a terrible car crash tbh, but i’m glad it went the more soppy happy way instead.
The 3D cartoon no-line block style used through out works really well and looks great. I think this film is accessible to all audiences. The message is fairly timeless, “it’s about where you belong, there’s no wrong way home” – family. Being with the ones you love. The story follows a father and his daughter and ends up making you cry. This single dad basically brings up his daughter his way, travelling a lot, busking and singing. He settles down, for her i think, and raises her right. Then she goes on to take up singing and fulfilling his dreams, and it’s kind of beautiful. I think it’s the sort of film that all audiences would enjoy, especially humans.
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Feast – Patrick Osborne
I love this film, even though it came out in 2014 I don’t think I’ve shared it on this blog before. The story of a dog who loves food who is adopted by a guy who drops a french fry. The guy feeds the dog pizza and junk food until he meets a vegetarian girl, and things are not so great. but then they break up and its junk food again! But something is wrong. The dog sacrifices his food love so that his human can be happy, and in the end he is rewarded! Not just with a loving home, but with more junk food! It’s great!
It has this hand drawn 3D animation style, the characters and environment feature a line-free style with solid blocks of colour.
What’s special is then, when we do unlock the camera, it’s also the first moment when Winston looks up from the food and sees the owner’s face. And we want you to believe that for years they have had this very close relationship but he had never looked in the owner’s face deeply because it was all about the food. And suddenly to look and see what his owner is feeling and to care; we wanted that to feel different. So, we did that by: you see the face, we unlock the camera; the dog makes a choice — for the first time — to walk away from food and to go do something for his owner — we want you to feel that cinematically. It’s a big shift. 
This short film was made by Disney, Kristina Reed talks more about how they achieved the visual look:
Well, we were actually the first short — the first production — to use Hyperion, which was the rendering tool used on Big Hero 6. It was also the first time that Meander, the drawing tool from Paperman, was used in color.
Why a boston terrier? The first reason is because it’s a new dog for Disney, not an easy feat.
Another very pragmatic reason is that it’s a very flat rendering style. You can’t always see the volumes of the dog as he’s turning so we needed a pattern on his face so that you would know as he looked around, you could see what he was doing. 
This is a film accessible to all audiences. I think the target audience would be dog lovers, families, children. it was released with Big Hero six, a kids action adventure film, so it was shown to those audiences at the cinema. It is a cute little story, and would resonate especially with dog owners.
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