Ranking The Short Films Oscar Winners of the 2010s-Best Animated Short Film
Streaming viewership is up in the United State of America and across the world. There’s a larger interest in video content than ever before in history. But the hardest question remains – what to watch? There’s literally dozens of amazing short films, music videos, video essays and more that you could start watching with the simple click of a remote control or the opening up of a phone app.
One of the ways that you can help determine the right short films to watch is through well-curated content. If it’s not a particular site then it’s through a particular list or a ranking. Another way to tell the best from the rest is what films and filmmakers walk away with the major awards this year. With COVID-19 cancelling or sideling many of the major cinema events of 2020, this is harder to do.
So we decided to go back to the biggest short content awards of them all – the Oscars! Starting with animation, we will rank the Academy Award winning shorts of the last ten years. Each of the ten winners from each category display an amazingly diverse and creative array of filmmaking talent.
So here are the winners of Best Animated Short of the 2010s, ranked!
10. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, dir. William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
The lineup of nominees in 2011 was pretty diverse but “Fantastic Flying Books” is certainly the most appealing. This wordless animated short starts out as an homage to The Wizard of Oz following a book-lover as a magical tornado transports him to a new place, in particular a massive library full of books that interact with him.
In hindsight, it’s actually quite interesting that this short won. It seems very much for a niche crowd, as its themes of grief and loss are less about actual humans than the idea of losing books, ideas and words. Offsetting these philosophical themes is an overall pretty simplistic story. “Fantastic Flying Books” is virtually plotless after the tornado, jumping from one silly vignette to the next and seeing the main character get into a series of bookish misadventures. Its narrative is otherwise propelled by dancing books grooving to nursery rhymes. The ending is meant to be touching as the main character grows old with the books, but it instead feels like it doesn’t add up to much.
Unless you’re an avid book lover, this Oscar-winner will be the weakest one on the list.
9. Mr. Hublot, dir. Alexandre Espigares and Laurent Witz
This steampunk-inspired short film beat out a Mickey Mouse cartoon (seriously) and it may have been more a function of the times that got it the golden statue. A hustling and bustling animated cityscape, complete with some excellent POV shots and lifelike environments, still make this look pretty excellent today. The story follows a vaguely “Wallace and Gromit” format, where a man and a dog get into some crazy misadventures.
There’s not a lot that stands out about the story of “Mr. Hublot” but it is impeccably animated and a great harbinger of the technological possibilities behind the medium that were yet to come.
8. The Lost Thing, dir. Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan
This rather understated and unassuming short won out over the higher-profile “Day & Night” (Pixar’s short before Toy Story 3) and “The Gruffalo” based on the famous children’s picture book – and with time it’s now more clear why. While the hazy graphics and oblong character design feels a little dated now, the ruminative concept still resounds. This story of an unlikely friendship between a boy and a strange beached object moves dreamily along, bolstered by a soothing acoustic score and a relaxed sense of pacing.
Like a good poem, “The Lost Thing” comes from a place that’s part imaginative and part of our world. The film suffers from a sagging middle, perhaps being a little too long for its welcome. But in an Oscar-winning crowd usually filled with very distinctive and lively voices, this film by Ruhemann and Tan is a surprising outlier. Sometimes the softest voices are the most powerful.
7. Dear Basketball, dir. Glen Keane
It’s hard not to bring Kobe’s untimely and tragic death into account when talking about the elegiac “Dear Basketball.” When it won the Oscar in 2017, it cemented Kobe not just as a basketball legend but as a legitimate storyteller. Beautifully hand-drawn by Glen Keane (animator of many 1990s Disney classics), it brings to life Kobe’s heartfelt letter to the sport he loved so much. Little did we know that he would be saying goodbye to all of us shortly after.
Despite the bittersweet note which the film leaves us with now, it remains an excellently animated film. While it may be light on story or complex drama, it is undeniably a personal evocation from one of sport’s most popular figures.
6. Piper, dir. Alan Barillaro
“Piper” is classic Pixar greatness and was actually the first short since “For The Birds” to get an Oscar win. Using a shallow focus camera approach, the short feels among the most naturalistic and lifelike of the entire bunch. However, the heartwarming story is pure Disney through and through. The animation is impeccable and should be revisited just to study its use of lighting and texture.
Pixar shorts tend to be simple, but this one out simplifies them all – and it actually works to the film’s benefit! The gorgeous animation takes over and the allegory applies to the growing up struggle of all humanity.
5. Feast, dir. Patrick Osborne
Ever since its 2014 Oscar win (overcoming a fairly eclectic list), Disney’s “Feast” has been largely forgotten – is that a sign of its quality or of something else? We have to say that the larger gambit of the film’s visual style is fairly unique. For six minutes, we follow a dog’s perspective, coming to understand the dog’s owner’s life through where the dog is and what it is eating. This creates humorous results and offers a funny look at the human character’s dating life. However, instead of staying a more contained work, the final third starts to stray its premise too far for the sake of a Disney-fied finish. Overall though, the dog’s eye view is a unique concept that deserves to be revisited by filmmakers and general audiences alike.
4. Bao, dir. Domee Shi
This 2018 Pixar short is notable for so many things, particularly the cultural ground it broke. First, it was the first female director of a Pixar short. It was also the first short to deal with a Canadian-Chinese storyline, including the choice to center the film around an animated dumpling. The story is ultimately heartbreaking and poignant, but it’s also very expertly realized.
“Bao” brings the best of Pixar’s technology as well as its heart to deliver a modern miracle of a short film. Because of the impact and success of this film, we can hope to see much more cultural and social ground be covered in animation.
3. Hair Love, dir. Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith
“Hair Love” is both an important film and a very fun watch. Coming just before the Black Lives Matter protests that would shake the nation, “Hair Love” let a worldwide audience experience an animated film about black lives, particularly the dynamic of a father and daughter, which was sadly not being portrayed enough in this medium.
Another lovely aspect of this film is the throwback nature of its 2D design. In a market that’s mostly dominated by 3D CGI only, “Hair Love” blends the traditional and the modern for a very special aesthetic. The color palette is explosive and rich, also contrasting many of its drab contemporaries.
2. Bear Story, dir. Gabriel Osorio Vargas
Easily the most heavy short on the list of winners, it might also be the most emotionally-accomplished. Despite having a children-friendly look and design, the content is deep and rich. It tells the story of captivity and domination by an oppressive regime. Most impressive though, it tells the story as if it were a music box rendition. This is complex stuff, but it’s also beautiful, particularly in the way that it uses its virtual camera to push in and out of a given tableaux.
As a masterclass in short, emotive storytelling this is not one to miss. Definitely one of the best of the decade!
1. Paperman, dir. John Kahrs
Short animated films don’t get much more pure and beautiful than this 2012 winner. Since its win, “Paperman” has gone on to be one of the most viral animated shorts on the internet, and for good reason. It’s a classic meet-cute story of a boy trying to get the attention of a girl, but the originality of the black and white composition and the sleek, industrial animation transcends the common plot.
Even today, one can’t help but fall in love with the sumptuous images of soaring paper planes hopefully finding their way to the right destination. This short was a standout then and it’s a standout now. Definitely put this one on the top of your list.
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