For this week’s Friday Animation Fun we’ve rounded up a collection of favourite animations as chosen by leading animators. Find out why they made the grade and see if you agree with the selection…
Think that animation history begins with Luxo Jr? Think again. We asked leading animators including Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Richard Williams to Ren and Stimpy’s John Kricfalusi, to name the shorts that every 3D artist should see at least once in their lifetime.
The results form a cross-section of animation history, from classic Disney cel animation to the modern avant garde.
Where possible, we’ve included links to view the shorts online. As ever with online videos, please be aware that some may no longer be available when you come to view this page.
Please be warned that some of these animations deal with adult topics and are not suitable for younger viewers.
Watch the collection of best animated shorts below
Priit Parn & Janno Poldma (1995)
The animated cartoon “1895″ is dedicated to the centennial of cinema. “1895″ is a picture about the life of brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere. The cartoon acquaints the public with so far unknown biographical facts and events from the life of the two celebrated brothers who have immortalized their names as inventors of cinematography. The picture is an illusion. Is illusion truth? this assertion and the subsequent question gave the authors of this cartoon the rights to declare that namely their version of the life of brothers Lumiere and the birth of cinema was the most original and unique of all. (From IMDB.)
BAFTA-winning Jojo in the Stars director Marc Craste comments on the strange appeal of Deadsy
“When I first saw David Anderson’s Deadsy, I was a fan of very traditional, big-feature animation, and the shorts I’d seen that played with different techniques hadn’t impressed me. Deadsy included lots of things I didn’t like – treated live action, what looked like scribbled-over Photostats – but presented in such an atmospheric and startling way that the result was hugely seductive.
“The film is about the Grim Reaper changing sex and becoming Miss Universe, all the better to seduce the war-mongering men of the world. These are themes far removed from what I’d been accustomed to in animation: Deadsy was unlike anything else I’d seen, and one of those rare films that you can’t imagine being done as successfully any other way.
“The surreal soundtrack and the mixed-media visuals combine to create a hallucinatory, dreamlike effect. Yet the effect doesn’t feel forced, as it so often does when so many things are thrown together: it’s a very cohesive vision. It’s also a film with quite literally lots of texture, one of the things CGI sometimes struggles with.
“Of course, Deadsy is not necessarily good simply because it’s unique, but distinctive voices in animation are rare, so originality merits watching. It’s a good short to watch if you’re stuck in a rut and everything you do is starting to look identical. It certainly opened up some horizons for me.”
Ratatouille co-director Jan Pinkava on the poignant Father and Daughter
“When I first saw Father and Daughter, I cried. It wasn’t the last time. And I’m not the only one. Not nearly. If you want to find out if your boyfriend or wife or parent really is heartless, show them Father and Daughter and watch their reaction. To this day – and I have seen it many times – I am deeply moved by the final movement of this near-perfect evocation of longing and nostalgia.
“What I know to be just drawings with timing, sounds and music, reaches inside me and touches my heart. Every time. Just like a beautiful poem. And like a poem that retains its lyrical power through the years, Father and Daughter does not diminish with repeated viewing. I am not Dutch but, in watching this film, Michael’s longing for the homeland of his childhood becomes my longing.
“Perhaps half of it is the music. For this short film, Normand Roger has (with his collaborator) composed one of the gems of his prolific and distinguished career. Music and image are beautifully sympathetic and I can’t imagine them any other way.
“To be sure, the film is only near-perfect. But that is as good as it gets. Those inevitable imperfections help us see the hand of the artist and to wonder all the more at the accomplishment. Who cares whether this is the result of genius or accident or a lot of very hard work? If this isn’t high achievement in animation craft then I’m a Dutchman!”
While reading his favorite comic book, Daffy accidentally knocks himself unconscious and dreams he’s Duck Twacy, famous detective, trying to solve the case of the missing piggy banks. Taking a streetcar (conducted by Porky Pig, in a non-speaking cameo role) to the gangsters’ hideout, he meets up with such grotesque criminals as Pickle Puss, Eighty-Eight Teeth and Neon Noodle. (From IMDB)
Ren and Stimpy’s John Kricfalusi on The Great Piggy Bank Robbery
“I love The Great Piggy Bank Robbery Bank Robbery on many levels. First, it’s really funny. It has more energy than just about any other cartoon I’ve ever seen. Everything you imagine a cartoon to be, there it is, tenfold: surrealism, exaggeration, crazy gags, unexpected twists and turns. It’s like an ultra caricature of a cartoon. And it’s executed with almost superhuman skill by the animators and [voice artist] Mel Blanc under Bob Clampett’s larger-than-life direction.
“Daffy Duck’s acting is unbelievable – or maybe I should say all too believable. Clampett makes us feel Daffy’s every emotion. He takes us through his ordeals with huge enthusiasm and sincerity.
Daffy Duck is animated to perfection in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery
“I also identify with Daffy as he goes through this incredible tension waiting for his beloved Dick Tracy comic to come in the mail, then has conniptions reading it. This is exactly what I did reading Marvel comics as a kid – and the magic of this kind of exaggerated style of storytelling. We identify with the caricature because the details are so magnified.
“Ultimately, this is a cartoon about cartoon fans, so if you like cartoons you’ll probably love The Great Piggy Bank Robbery.”
Oscar nominee Barry Purves on the tragicomic Harvie Krumpet
“Harvie Krumpet is a fantastic example of the concept that less is more, and should be an inspiration to more excessively kinetic CG animators. We’ve all been guilty of our passion for moving things, but Harvie Krumpet demonstrates that stillness is a vital element of movement, just as silence is to music.
“Everything about the film is economical, from the lack of camera moves, through the joyously simple animation, to the basic figures. Yet it packs in more emotion, warmth, incident, truth and invention than many an overproduced, more literal film. Harvie’s comically tragic life is so full of disaster and big issues that the film should be depressing, but its lightness of touch, its naïve imagery, and Geoffrey Rush’s poignant narration makes for a film that lifts you joyously without diluting its message at all.
“Every action, every design decision, every well-timed blink is perfectly controlled to tell the same story. All this with glorious bursts of Verdi and Respighi, defiant nudity, wonderfully timed gags, interesting ‘fakts’, the beautiful Ruby – and the heartbreakingly stoic Harvie himself and his poetically lonely testicle. Little wonder, then, that this moving film won the Oscar for best animated short.”
Michèle Cournoyer (1999)
The Hill Farm
Mark Baker (1988)
Tex Avery, MGM (1947)
Ben Sharpsteen, Disney (1938)
Goofy’s in the driver’s seat, Mickey’s in the kitchen, and Donald’s in bed in Mickey’s high-tech house trailer. When Goofy comes back to eat breakfast, leaving the car on autopilot, it takes them onto a dangerous closed mountain road. When Goofy realizes this, he accidentally unhooks the trailer, sending it on a perilous route. They come very close to disaster several times, while the oblivious Goofy drives on and hooks back up to them. (From IMDB)
Double Negative’s Paul Franklin 06 on the bravura Mickey’s Trailer
“I came to love Mickey’s Trailer through regular screenings on TV in the 1970s and via the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer, an ingenious toy that allowed real film strips to be hand-cranked back and forth, thus revealing animation’s secret of living drawings to an entranced six-year-old me.
“Running a mere seven and a half minutes, the film packs in more ideas than many full-length features: every frame counts. After a short introduction, the trailer is on its way through an ever-changing landscape that rolls past in a bravura display of hand-rendered 3D perspective effects.
“The trailer’s state-of-the-art (for 1938) fixtures and fittings reveal invention piled upon invention in a stunning ballet of physical comedy. As often as not, what’s hidden is as funny as that which is actually seen; consider the scene where Mickey milks a passing cow, all played from inside the trailer with Mickey’s wiggling bottom providing the laughs.
“The animators get the max from everything in shot – even Goofy’s car becomes a character, clambering over the increasingly hazardous terrain in stutteringly comic fashion. Despite everything being in constant motion, you always know how it all fits together. Mickey’s Trailer is the perfect combination of storytelling built upon techniques that were cutting-edge for their day.”
Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland and Damien Ferrié (2006)
a href=”http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2011/07/26/over-time/”>View Overtime here
Pigs is Pigs
Jack Kinney, Disney (1954
Don Hertzfeldt (2000)
Sony’s Christopher Miller and Phil Lord on Rejected
“Rejected is a great example of the power of being dumb. It presents a collection of fictitious adverts for the fictitious Family Learning Channel. Of course, these proposed adverts hit completely the wrong notes for the FLC, and that’s what lends Rejected its humour.
“3D artists could learn a lot from a minimalistic, hand-drawn film like this. The visuals teach the lesson that Simpler is Better; for all the complexity possible in CG characters, the simpler the design and the clearer the movement, the more expressive, visceral and funny the result. The complicated lumpy detailed Muppets were never as appealing as the much simpler Muppets like Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo. And to think their eyes couldn’t even move!
“You can get so much expression out of a limited palette. Rejected really takes advantage of that. Don Hertzfeldt’s bug-eyed stick figures convey character and emotion better than the most complicated, true-to-life motion-capture rig in the world: sometimes all that realism just gets in the way of the truth. Most of all, we love this film because it takes an intelligent look at the relationship between art and commerce – and kicks them both in the groin.”
Chris Landreth (2004)
DreamWorks’ Shelley Page on the emotional impact of Ryan
“Ryan is a very special film for me. I think it is a masterpiece, not only because of the stylistic innovations Chris Landreth developed for the two main characters, but because of the profoundly moving impact it has on the viewer. It asks disturbing questions about the nature of creativity and what it means to an artist to lose the ability – or the confidence – to create art. [An animated re-enactment of Landreth’s conversations with the Oscar-nominated animator Ryan Larkin, the film explores the role played by Larkin’s alcoholism in his descent into homelessness.]
“I followed the entire process of Ryan’s production from a few scribbled character designs Chris showed me during the Annecy Festival one summer, to the first screening of the near-completed film many months later. But the great revelation to me was the way Chris had put himself into the film. He used his own painful personal experiences to articulate Ryan’s situation for the audience, and transformed the original story idea into something stunningly raw and powerful.
“Ryan is an example of a film that is much more than simply a piece of entertainment. It was a life-transforming project for both the director and his subject. Chris was deservedly awarded his Oscar, and it was fitting that Ryan Larkin was able to enjoy the renewed appreciation of his own work.”
Aardman Animations’ David Sproxton on Tale of Tales
“I first saw Tale of Tales at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films in 1980 or thereabouts. This was first animation festival I had attended and it was an eye-opener simply because there was so much material coming out of Eastern Europe at the time which Pete [Aardman co-founder Peter Lord] and I were totally unaware of. The film, which has no dialogue that I can recall, deals with the transience of life and the futility of war. It is seen through the eyes of a wolf watching humans do their thing.
“Although it is a cut-out animation [shot with Norstein’s unique technique of using multiple glass planes], Tale of Tales has a very three-dimensional quality. The images are simply stunning and beautifully realised and the film is clearly the work of a master. I’d never seen anything like it before and was very moved by it. It really opened my eyes to what could be achieved through animation – especially in the hands of a great artist.
“The emotional impact of the film is strong and mostly done without words. Seeing the story unfold through the eyes of the animal gives the viewer a very strong point of view. The film demonstrates so clearly that technique (in this case, cut-outs shot on a multi-plane camera) is subservient to story: a lesson that is always worth learning.”
Industry legend Richard Williams on the charm of The Ugly Duckling
“The Ugly Duckling was one of the first Disney short films where the studio had absolutely everything working perfectly together. It had brought the medium to a new high: the fine, perfectly ordered storytelling; the lovely colour and marvellous art direction; the clearly ordered and crisply timed direction – which is surprisingly tight by today’s standards; the flawless mastery of the animation performance; and the perfectly balanced and synchronised musical score. Everything was boiled down to its essentials and perfectly co-ordinated. Above all, the pathos and irrepressible charm were exquisitely realised without any hint of the corniness which crept into Disney’s work several years later.
“This is a very moving, empathetic, compulsively entertaining little film, perfect in every detail – and a model to study for any artist, animator, or director, regardless of [the medium in which they work].
The charm of the little ducks and swans is engaging because it is all based on familiar human emotions. It’s impossible not to suspend disbelief when it all goes straight to the heart.
“The animation coming out of Disney at that time [which also includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio] was special. The studio had developed a new art form and the unique work of that period has, in my view, never been surpassed. The Ugly Duckling is a real masterpiece.”