Like last years’ Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short, my selection for the 2016 winner is an easy decision as none of the shorts had the same depth and innovation as my clear favorite did. So before I get to why I liked “The World of Tomorrow” the best, let’s take a look at the other nominees first.
Probably the weakest nominee on our list is “Prologue.” Now, “Prologue” is noteworthy for its combination of colored pencils with a hyper realistic art style but the story was super lacking. In fact, did it even have a story? No, it really didn’t. It’s just about these four dudes fighting each other (in a game I called “The Half Naked Fight”) and a young girl gets traumatized from viewing this deadly battle. That’s it. Violence has weight if there’s a purpose behind it but without tension, it’s meaningless. Why are the dudes fighting? Which side should I be rooting for? And why should I care?
“Bear Story” suffers from its middling plot, style, and story that, in the end, make it another weak contender. I don’t really know what to say about this short since it’s so…meh…I think what really bothers me about the short is there are a lot of unanswered questions, some of which are ones I’m sure the creators don’t want you to think about. For instance, are the circus workers human? Where do they live? How do they know about this animal city? Why aren’t there other humans doing something about this human city? Do the animals live in fear of humans? Even the ending was confusing in the wrong way as it left me more frustrated than satisfied. And unfortunately, the rather stiff animation seems almost jarring when you compare it to other computer-animated shorts. Next.
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” should be retitled as “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos and Each Other.” The two cosmonauts’ friendship rivals their love of outer space and that makes this short super character driven. The minimal art style is reminiscent of Tintin, Doug, and other simplistic cartoons and this is amazing given the breadth of emotion delivered in this film. Because of the style, outer space looks so beautiful, perfectly complimenting the cosmonauts love for it. Really, the major fault I had for this film is the ending which, like “Bear Story,” left me confused when it really shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t focus on this part of the film but it bothered both Mary and I and I can’t let it go. Mary postulated that he committed suicide while I think he somehow found a way to reach outer space and join his friend. Perhaps we should enjoy the ending though as he was reunited with his friend in the end. Pretty good short though!
Now, “Sanjay’s Super Team” I can imagine winning the Oscar but not just because it’s a Pixar film! The other Pixar short I saw in 2015, “Lava,” was no where near as good as this short and I was super glad I didn’t have to watch it again when I saw all five shorts in the theater. I like this short because it was incredibly fluid, visually stimulating and gorgeous. I like the parallels between the father and son’s influential figures and I liked the action scene as well. If it wasn’t for “World of Tomorrow,” I’d say that “Sanjay’s Super Team” would win the award no problem!
Then why does “World of Tomorrow” (directed, produced, animated, written, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt) deserve the Oscar? Well, I think it boils down to “World of Tomorrow’s” delivery of a very earnest, and somewhat sad, look at humanity through the guise of fun, surreal, and often times light humor. I can only imagine how difficult it is to achieve this but “World of Tomorrow” exceeded tremendously. What’s more, the child-like stick figure characters match well with the undefined and abstract-like backgrounds. There were so many good scenes but the one that got to me was when Future Emily talked about clone degenerations and then her eyes blinked rapidly and sporadically. It made me uncomfortable and that was great. The ending scene where Future Emily absorbed Emily Prime’s memory of her mother was quite melancholic but I still had this sense of…optimism? I’m not quite sure how I feel.
I guess in the end, “World of Tomorrow” was the animated short I had been looking for for a long time. When I review the Oscar Animated Shorts, I’m looking for a short that has a stellar art direction mixed with an unconventional storyline or a story that made me think and change my perspective on a certain topic. The last time this happened to me was 2013’s Disney’s “Get a Horse” which, although not really mentally stoking, had a very surprising and refreshing take of the classic Mickey cartoons and that was great! I love being surprised! “World of Tomorrow,” was the opposite as, although it didn’t have a twist or a surprise “gotcha moment,” was still very sweet and emotionally stimulating. And unlike “Bear Story” or “We Can’t Live without Cosmos,” I didn’t find myself frustrated or confused by the storyline, it had a goal and it delivered it to perfection. I highly recommend for anyone to see it.
Btw, anyone notice how there was a severe lack of dialogue in four of the five shorts? Only “World of Tomorrow” had dialogue and it was brimming with it. I kind of find that interesting as the previous two nominated years had a healthy mix of the two. I’m not really surprised truth be told as when you have an animated short, a media where you are free to create anything you like without much limitation, you can easily tell a story using character actions and visual cues.