While Best Actor, Actress, and Picture continually steal the spotlight at the Academy Awards, there’s one category that might deserve more attention… the animated shorts. This year, the five nominated shorts and two notable mentions singled out by the Academy were particularly noteworthy, and many of the storylines seemed to follow a theme: journeys through the unfamiliar. Follow a mouse’s trek to an acorn-laden tree on the other side of the forest in The Gruffalo
(UK), or wander from day to night and back in Day & Night (US), or explore the dystopian future of mechanical animals and equally robotic humans in the winning film, The Lost Thing (Australia). In the Australian film, the narrator (Tim Minchin) chronicles the finding of a “thing” and the winding, and occasionally bureaucratic journey to replace “the thing” where it belongs.
Perhaps the most fascinating of the shorts, however, was France’s Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary), an animated travelogue. The short used several different forms of animation–from watercolor, collage, dots and squiggles to patchwork stitching–to convey a traveler’s chaotic, and often disorienting journey through Madagascar to witness a traditional ceremony called “the turning of the bones.” The film is a patchwork of impressions taken from a foreign place–a hurriedly scribbled bustling market; a jumbled intersection of toy cars honking; a watercolor chicken flying across a dirt street dodging a minibus.
The variety of animation styles also helped convey the emotion and attention of the traveler throughout his journey–intricate detail was given to faces and sweeping countryside vistas, while jumbled lines and hurried squiggles represent the confusion of an urban ‘Tana.
This short was a visceral representation of a personal travel experience.
Another, perhaps more somber short, Urs (Germany) received the Academy’s “honorable mention,” but not an official nomination. Set in what could have been a dilapidated Swiss or Germany village in the Alps, a man decides to leave his crumbling home, which he shares with his grandmother, for greener pastures. Strapping his grandmother in her favorite chair to his back, he climbs mountains, braves the cold, and ultimately finds what he is looking for, even if it is not everything he imagined.
Take a short journey to a cartoon land far away–several of the full length shorts are available for purchase on iTunes. You can also see the full list of nominees and winners on the Oscar website. For more travel-related Oscar news, check our sibling bloggers at National Geographic’s Pop Omnivore who reviewed the Best Foreign Film nominees, and the winner, a Danish film called “In A Better World.”