The Oscar award for Animated Short Film began in 1932 at the 5th Academy Awards show. The winner that year was Flowers and Trees, a film made by Walt Disney Productions. In the beginning, Walt Disney Productions would dominate this award winning it 10 out of the first 12 years of its existence. Starting in 1952, foreign made films could also be nominated for this award.

That year The Romance of Transportation in Canada became the first internationally made nominee. The first international winner was a Yugoslavian made film called Ersatz in 1961.

The nominees for 2009 were The Lady and the Reaper (La dama y la muerte), Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, Logorama, A Matter of Loaf and Death and French Roast.

Caja de Granada 

The Lady and the Reaper
Country: Spain
Runtime: 8 minutes

This cute tale is about a little, old lady who is waiting to die so she can be reunited with her beloved husband. When the Reaper comes to take her away, she is brought back to life by a world famous doctor. The result is a humorous battle between life and death, as the doctor and the Reaper try to outdo each other.

The Lady and the Reaper is the first film written and directed by Javier Recio Gracia. Antonio Banderas is one of the producers for this delightful short film.

The animation and sound are well done. While there is no spoken dialogue, the story is still easy to follow. The struggle between the doctor and the Reaper does give us some chuckles, it also does go on for a little too long.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Brown Bag Films

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
Country: Ireland
Runtime: 6 minutes

Granny O’Grimm is a lovable grandmother taking care of her tiny granddaughter. Don’t be fooled by her looks because Granny has a chip on her shoulder the size of the Grand Canyon and she has the attitude to go with it. One night, Granny reads the classic story Sleeping Beauty to her granddaughter, but she adds a few of her own freighting little twists to the fable that won’t help anyone fall asleep anytime too soon.

Granny O’Grimm is the creation of Irish comedian Kathleen O’Rourke, who also does Granny’s voice and wrote this short film. Upon hearing her show, Director Nicky Phelan suggested to Kathleen that they turn Granny into a cartoon. She has become so popular in Ireland that Granny now has her own website.

Granny O’Grimm is an adorable character with her Bride of Frankenstein hairdo and her venomous tongue. The animation and sound are perfect. Coming from a person with a background in comedy, I thought there would be a few more laughs.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Autour de Minuit Productions

Logorama
Country: France
Runtime: 16 minutes

This clever adventure takes place in present day Los Angeles, but the twist is everything (buildings, vehicles, animals, people) are all made out of corporate logos. There’s a mad criminal, a certain fast-food icon, on the loose driving a truck full of machine guns and biological weapons. While the cops are in hot pursuit, a natural disaster hits and wipes out all of L.A.

Writers/Directors Francois Alaux, Herve de Crecy and Ludovic Houplain used over 2,500 logos in this film. This is why it took so long (6 years, I believe I heard them say in their acceptance speech) to make and probably why it is the first film for this trio. Oscar nominated director David Fincher lends his voice to the Pringles Original character. 

In case you missed it or you weren’t paying attention, Logorama did win the Oscar this year for best animated short film. However, if I had a vote, it would not have received it.

While the animation was brilliant, I was turned off a little by the foul language, graphic violence and displays of sexuality in some scenes. It is funny to see Ronald McDonald firing off a machine gun like Al Pacino in Scarface, but to see Mr. Peanut get his shell, I mean head, blown off is a little disturbing.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Aardman Animations

A Matter of Loaf and Death
Country: UK
Runtime: 30 minutes

A Matter of Loaf and Deathstars two of the UK’s most beloved characters Wallace and his faithful dog, Gromit. In this cliffhanger, Wallace and Gromit open a bakery. The problem is bakers are dropping dead all over town. When Wallace gets lost in love, it is up to Gromit to find out what is going on.

Wallace and Gromit, created by Nick Park, are heavyweights in the animated short film category winning the award 2 times (1993, 1995) and they were nominated a third time in 1989. They also won the Oscar award for Best Animated Feature in 2005 for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Nick Park does another masterful job writing, along with frequent W&G contributor Bob Baker, and animating a truly engrossing film. There are plenty of laughs and the voice of veteran British actor Peter Sallis (Wallace) is superb.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

Pumpkin Factory

French Roast
Country: France
Runtime: 8 minutes

A stuffy businessman is enjoying his tea at a cafe in Paris. When the bill comes, he discovers he forgot his wallet at home. Panicked, he keeps ordering more tea until he can figure out a solution.

French Roast may be Fabrice Joubert debut as a director and writer, but he has been an animator for several popular animated films such as Flushed Away, Shark Tale, The Prince of Egypt and Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Joubert creates some wonderful characters like the stodgy businessman, the annoying homeless man and the waiter that looks like a cross between Frankenstein and Lurch from the old Addams Family TV series. There is definitely no shortage of laughs here.

The reason I liked French Roast so much, and why I would have voted it Best Animated Short Film, is because of the refreshing and uplifting ending. I will not go into much detail, but I’ll say the businessman gets help from a truly unlikely character which makes this short so great.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5

All of these shorts can be watched online.