Our top 10 animated short films

Stuart McComb picks his ten favourite animated shorts, including recent Oscar-winner Hair Love

Short films have had an Oscar category dedicated entirely to them since 1932 – the first winner being Disney’s Flowers and Trees – 69 years before feature-length animation. To qualify, these films must be a maximum of 30 minutes long, and many can be found on Youtube, streaming platforms or on DVD, often included as extras alongside the feature film they premiered with in cinemas. I would also recommend if you can find them, watching the shorts on their own and with the audio commentary from the creators.

Image credit: Disney

Kitbull (2019)

Kitbull is one of the Pixar Spark shorts on Disney+. It follows the relationship between a tiny kitten with a big personality and a pitbull dog who uses his aggression to hide his soft “pussycat” personality. The two experience friendship for the first time, changing both of them. The short has a beautiful paint-like aesthetic and contains Pixar’s trademark emotion. I have a feeling this short will make you cry, especially when you learn more about the pitbull.

Image credit: Sony

Hair Love (2019)

The most recent winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, Hair Love can be summarised as an African-American man learning how to do his daughter’s unruly hair for the first time in preparation for seeing his wife. The story, created by Matthew A Cherry (executive producer of Black KKKlansman) is simply beautiful, especially when we learn about the mother. This also sees Sony continue to develop their 2D/3D hybrid animation from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Image credit: Disney

Day & Night (2010)

Unlike most Pixar films, Day & Night is made with a combination of 2D and 3D animation. The story is about a pair of 2D personifications of day and night who meet, clash and eventually become friends by learning the good which comes from their differences. The characters are almost like keyholes into their perspectives as their insides show various actions are shown in the real world. The quote from the film which sums itself up is: “The most beautiful things in the entire universe are the most mysterious”. The film was shown alongside Toy Story 3 in cinemas.

Image credit: Disney

Paperman (2012)

This charming short was shown in cinemas alongside Wreck-It Ralph. The story follows a down-trodden office worker attempting to get a woman’s attention using paper aeroplanes. After multiple failed attempts, the planes come to life and bring the couple together. The short is created using the aesthetics of 2D animation despite being created on 3D animation. It is unfortunate that Disney hasn’t explored further with this animation or attempted a feature length film with this aesthetic.

Image credit: Aardman

The Wrong Trousers (1993)

Of course, I can’t talk about short films without mentioning the lovable British claymation duo Wallace and Gromit, and of the classic shorts I am going with what is universally considered the best short. In this short, to help pay for his bills, Wallace opens a spare room up for rent which is taken by a penguin. Gromit however is suspicious of this penguin and discovers he has plans for Wallace and his new set of Techno Trousers (I dare you to say the iconic quote). This film, despite its length, is still a rollercoaster of emotions including sadness, thrills and joy. I’m sure you’ll know some of the moments from this film including the chase on Wallace’s electric train set.

Image credit: Disney

Bao (2018)

Bao starts with a Chinese woman living in America cooking Baozi dumplings when suddenly, one of them morphs into a small childlike figure. We watch him grow up but tension grows between the two as he becomes more independent. There is a major shock but a conclusion which will warm your heart. This short can serve as a moral for parents about letting their kids grow on their own, like Finding Nemo. The short was shown alongside The Incredibles 2 in cinemas.

Image credit: Aardman

Creature Comforts (1989)

Initially used as Nick Park’s test footage for lip-syncing with stop motion, this short won him his first Oscar in 1989 beating a Grand Day Out. This sort switches between various animals at the zoo talking about their problems and lives. This short feels raw/organic with the audio and the animals ooze personality, especially the Brazilian cat (my guess is it’s a jaguar or cougar) who doesn’t like the small space of his confinement.

Image credit: Disney

Geri’s Game (1997)

Geri’s Game is the first Pixar short to be released after Toy Story and started their tradition of short films accompanying their theatrical features by premiering alongside A Bug’s Life. The plot is basically an old man playing a game of chess against himself on a beautiful autumn day (even though you forget it is the same character). As the Geri commanding the black chess pieces gains an advantage, Geri commanding the white pieces pulls an underhand tactic to win the game. This short was originally devised to experiment with creating human characters with 3D animation but stills feels like its own story. Geri would later appear in Toy Story 2 as the cleaner who repairs Woody.

Image credit: Disney

Piper (2016)

Piper follows a small cute bird growing up on the coast leaving his nest for the first time to find food for himself. He is scared at first, especially of the water, but later gets over his fear by diving in head first. The animation for this short is beautiful looking and almost realistic – especially the setting. The short was shown alongside Finding Dory.

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Duck Amuck (1953)

After watching several classic shorts including Steamboat Willie and Tom & Jerry, my personal favourite was this classic Daffy Duck film. This short is characterised by a fourth-wall break big enough to make Deadpool jealous, with the unseen animator teasing Daffy by setting up and constantly changing the scenes he is walking through and eventually removing him from the frame. One definite highlight is the voice work of the legendary man of a thousand voices Mel Blanc as Daffy.

By Stuart McComb

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