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With: (voices) Tim Minchin, Jim Thornton, Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Rob Brydon, Robbie Coltrane, Sam Lewis, Phoebe Givron-Taylor
Written by: Bastien Dubois, Shaun Tan, Geefwee Boedoe, Tim Crawfurd, Teddy Newton, Julia Donaldson, Jakob Schuh, Max Lang
Directed by: Bastien Dubois, Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan, Geefwee Boedoe, Max Lang, Jakob Schuh, Teddy Newton
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 81
Date: 18/03/2013

Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation (2011)

4 Stars (out of 4)

One Fine Day

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This year's selection of five animated shorts is the strongest I've seen in a while, with all five contributing something special to the bunch, and no weak links. Best of all, none of them are terribly long, and this animation collection runs a total of about 65 minutes.

Pixar's Day & Night, directed by Teddy Newton (6 minutes) has the biggest push of the five shorts, playing as it did in front of the blockbuster hit Toy Story 3, but even with all that, I think it's the best short Pixar has yet made, and that's really saying something. It's a joyous combination of inventiveness, storytelling, and humor that's as exciting as the first time we saw Tin Toy back in 1988. Even as strong as this entire collection is, I'd say that Day & Night is the front-runner. (See clip.)

Max Lang and Jakob Schuh's The Gruffalo (27 minutes) is an outstanding, unhurried kids' program that revels in the little pauses between plot twists. (It also has the strongest star power of the five.) Helena Bonham-Carter voices a squirrel who tells a story to her children: a mouse takes a stroll in the wood and, to avoid being eaten by a fox, an owl and a snake, invents a scary creature called "the gruffalo." Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, and Robbie Coltrane provide voices. (See clip.)

If I were a concerned Academy voter, I might cast my ballot for Geefwee Boedoe's Let's Pollute (6 minutes), hoping that everyone on the planet would watch it and get its hilariously cynical, backwards message. Designed like an old-time educational film, it encourages Americans to pollute, showing them the ironic consequences as if it were a reward. The hand-drawn animation moves quickly and gleefully, with much wanton destruction. (See clip.)

Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing (15 minutes) is probably the program's most sadly beautiful film, set in a bizarre future filled with sad people, dead ends and a dizzying array of confusing signs. The hero (voiced by Tim Minchin) finds a "lost thing" on the beach and tries to figure out where it goes. But the miracle is not so much that he pulls off this feat, but that he ever saw the thing at all. (See clip.)

Bastien Dubois' Madagascar, A Journey Diary (11 minutes) is probably the program's least film -- it's arguably more focused on style than on an emotional impact -- but that's relative. It's quite beautiful and affecting in its own way. Several animators contributed a different style to each shot of this lovely, potent travelogue, ranging from hand-drawn to computer-assisted. The transformations from scene to scene are delightfully trippy and it can convey the sense of being disoriented (or even jet-lagged). (See clip.)

To pad the running time, two more shorts, Moritz Mayerhofer's Urs and Bill Plympton's The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, have been added to the program. Both were runners-up, but did not make the final five. (The total running time is about 81 minutes.)

In some ways, the collective power of these shorts makes it the very best thing playing in theaters this month. Don't miss it before the Academy Awards broadcast on February 27.

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