A list of all time’s best short-animated films:
(thanks to movie descriptions on the web)
1. Father and Daughter, 2000 (Netherlands) directed by Michael Dudok de Wit
My favourite short animation of all times, it’s a moving drama about love and loss.
Father and Daughter is a Dutch animated short film, written and directed by Michael Dudok de Wit. The film explores the ineffable and irreplaceable love of a daughter for her beloved father who had bid adieu to her while she was a child. The film chooses the universal language, love. Hence words seem unnecessary. The vivid Dutch landscape fills the screen coupled with heart rendering music.
The final shots of the film are poetic and touching. It plays the perfect chords of the human emotions.
2. Destino, 2003 (USA) collaborated between Disney and Salvador Dali
The film tells the story of Chronos, the personification of time and the inability to realize his desire to love for a mortal. The scenes blend a series of surreal paintings of Dali with dancing and metamorphosis. The target production began in 1945, 58 years before its completion and was a collaboration between Walt Disney and the Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí. Salvador Dali and Walt Disney Destiny was produced by Dali and John Hench for 8 months between 1945 and 1946. Dali, at the time, Hench described as a “ghostly figure” who knew better than Dali or the secrets of the Disney film. For some time, the project remained a secret. The work of painter Salvador Dali was to prepare a six-minute sequence combining animation with live dancers and special effects for a movie in the same format of “Fantasia.” Dali in the studio working on The Disney characters are fighting against time, the giant sundial that emerges from the great stone face of Jupiter and that determines the fate of all human novels. Dalí and Hench were creating a new animation technique, the cinematic equivalent of “paranoid critique” of Dali. Method inspired by the work of Freud on the subconscious and the inclusion of hidden and double images.
Dalí described the piece as “A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.” Walt Disney said it was “A simple story about a young girl in search of true love.”
3. The Little Match Girl, 2006 (USA) directed Roger Allers
The story’s popularity far exceeded Andersen’s original intention, which was to call immediate attention to the plight of Europe’s suffering children. The differences between the Disney version and the original Andersen text are slight, such as the change of geographical location from the author’s native Denmark to Russia. The storytelling also places a reduced emphasis in the beginning of the film to the Little Match Girl’s cruel and overbearing father and the death of her grandmother.
The film is set to the third movement of Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D Major by Alexander Borodin. For the filmmakers, the production was not about politics, but was treated as a visual style piece set to music, told entirely without sound or dialogue.
4. Ryan, 2004 (Canada) directed by Chris Landreth
Ryan is living every artist’s worst nightmare – succumbing to addiction, panhandling on the streets to make ends meet. Through computer-generated characters, Landreth interviews his friend to shed light on his downward spiral.
In Ryan we hear the voice of Ryan Larkin and people who have known him, but these voices speak through strange, twisted, broken and disembodied 3D generated characters… people whose appearances are bizarre, humorous or disturbing. Although incredibly realistic and detailed, Ryan was created and animated without the use of live action footage, rotoscoping or motion capture…but instead from an original, personal, hand animated three-dimensional world which Chris calls ‘psychological realism’.
5. Contre Temps, 2012 (directed by Jérémi Boutelet, Thibaud Clergue, Gaël Megherbi, Tristan Ménard, Camille Perrin, Lucas Veber)
The short film Contre temps (Against time) is set in a post-apocalyptic city that was long ago covered by rising tides. While exploring the city at low tide, however, a scavenger discovers another soul within the city.
This animated short was directed by Jérémi Boutelet, Thibaud Clergue, Tristan Ménard, Camille Perrin, Gaël Megherbi, and Lucas Veber as their graduation film, and it was an official selection at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and at Siggraph 2013. It uses the painterly quality of its CG animation to a particularly grand effect, creating a beautiful city reclaimed by sea life and a pair of characters who prove winning in the end.
6. 9, 2009 (USA) directed by Shane Acker
(this is the original short animation, not the movie produced later by Tim Burton which failed to deliver)
In a world destroyed in a war between man and machine, a hand-stitched doll with the number 9 written on its back comes to life. The world he has awakened in is frightening, but he quickly learns that he is not alone and that there are others like him, also with a single digit written on their back. The first one he encounters is 2 who tells him something of what happened to the world. 2 is also thrilled with the disk 9 is carrying, one with three unique symbols on the front. 9 soon learns that the disk and some of the other dolls who are prepared to die for the good of humankind may be the last hope for man’s salvation.
7. Même les pigeons vont au paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven), 2007 (France) directed by Samuel Tourneux
“A soul in peril needs to be saved.” Samuel Tourneux’s film mixes great dialogue and fast paced editing with an otherworldly subject, treated with a comedic approach. Shifts in subjectivity in narration and use of ellipsis provide extra spice to the creative short.
The original idea for the film was quite different, according to the author it was about a man who wanted to meet God to ask him “why is life so difficult?”. But it was abandoned and reworked two years later with the help of assistant producer Karine Binaux. It ended up being nominated for an Oscar.
8. Bunny, 1998 (USA) directed by Chris Wedge
Through stunning visuals and a heart-warming story of an anthropormorphic metamorphosis, “Bunny” is a flawless example of genuine animation. Bunny is a simple and touching tale of love and loneliness.
Baking alone in her weathered house, hearing only the sounds of the lonely night, “Bunny” receives an unexpected visitor: a nocturnal pest. Searching for the light in such an unachievable manner, a single moth clinks and clanks upon “Bunny’s” fixtures. The old ragged “Bunny” persistently tries to remove the hairy moth, but to no avail, the moth is slow to quit on its mission. Through anger and fury brings raw and nostalgic yearnings; her past is awakened while rays of light cover the darkness. Through fantasy and hope, “Bunny’s” life is finally fulfilled.
9. French Roast, 2008 (USA) directed by Fabrice Joubert
The story is mediocre but the animation is beautifully done.
10. Kiwi!, 2006 (USA) directed by Dony Permedi
The animation is visually limited, but the magic of what animation can really achieve is often forgotten. Kiwi is a fully developed character and the fact that he gets characterized simply via mimic and gestures is one of the many wonderful things the creator has achieved. We know everything we kneed to know about kiwi – his dream and what it means to him.
11. Mount Head, 2002 (Japan) directed by Kōji Yamamura
The art is very original. Its unique design is quite different from the typical anime style, and much more expressive. It tells the story of an old man so parsimonious that he couldn’t bear throwing away the pits from some old, discarded cherries, which he ate rather than discard. What follows is true, quite poetic, justice. As the old saying goes, true justice is something most of us would actually be happier without.
12. Paperman, 2012 (USA) directed John Kahrs
A Disney animated short film that tells the story of a New York office worker who falls for a woman he just met, on his way to work, and is drawn to her through paper (paper airplanes to be more specific). “Paperman” is a funny and romantic mute short animation in black and white, and with a tale of serendipity in New York. The story is lovely and sweet and full of emotions along seven minutes running time: love, disappointment, expectations, frustration, fantasy and romance that entertain a lot.
13. Balance, 1989 (Germany) directed by Christoph Lauenstein, Wolfgang Lauenstein
From post-communist Germany comes this remarkable social experiment that serves as an allegory in explaining the fall of Soviet communism- all without uttering a single word. Directed by German brothers Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein, it strikingly moralizes the dilemma of human beings working in cooperation.
The fact that the men are identical but for their numbers, is this not a oft-used symbol for the anonymity desired of those in a Communist society? That they are all the same and thus interchangeable? The cooperation they display at first is perhaps indicative of Socialism, and the box, what is the meaning of the music it plays, the dancing it inspired? Radio Free Europe used to broadcast American music, such as the jazz heard coming out of the box, into Communist countries throughout the Cold War. Perhaps the box is a symbol of possibility, of what is outside the closed system, which inevitably undermines said system. And so a parable about selfishness becomes an allegory about German society and Soviet Communism at its fall. The sad and ironic ending of Balance, who is at fault? The men that fail to do what is best for them? Or the system that fails to acknowledge this human quality?
14. Old Man And The Sea, 1999 (Russia) directed by Alexander Petrov
A Masterpiece!! This is a 20 minutes long animation based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 novella of the same name. Petrov’s film was awarded Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2000. More than two years of painting on glass sheets, using brushes but mostly his own fingers, resulted in over 29,000 paintings that enabled Petrov to produce this absolutely awesome, one of the kind feast of colors, images, and emotions that celebrate the famous work of literature and its creator. I have watched it perhaps ten times during the last weekend. I am still overwhelmed by its beauty and depth, and the admiration for what human imagination, creativity, and talent are capable of producing. The extremely rare technique made the film both incredibly realistic and magically dream-like. The director himself gave us the key to understanding his work when he explained that painting with his fingers instead of brushes, “is the closest way from the heart to the cartoon”. He put his own heart in every scene of the film, and that’s probably why every image is alive, breathing, and shining.
15. La Maison en Petit Cubes, 2008 (Japan) directed by Kunio Kato
A very touching 12-minute dialogue-free short from Japanese animation director Kunio Kato, as an elderly man must build more levels onto his house as his town is flooded with water. When he drops his pipe into the depths below, he journeys down to get it while reliving cherished moments from his past. There’s comfort and warmth in this now empty home, where the simple animation is complimented with beautiful colour and shading that is very pleasing to watch. It is right in lockstep with the fuzzy feelings, loving moments and nostalgia that our main character goes through. In the end, all you have in life are the experiences and the moments you share with others. Many films have captured this sentiment but few do it so simply and so beautifully.
16. The Monk and The Fish, 1994 (Germany) directed by Michael Dudok de Wit
In this charming and visually elegant film from 1994, the Dutch-born animator Michael Dudok de Wit tells the story of a single-minded monk and a very elusive fish. While the setting and symbols are Christian, the story progression is essentially Buddhist.
The director said, “The Monk and the Fish is not a story about the solution of a conflict, it’s more about the rise above the conflict, the rise above duality.” Like the story, the visual style was inspired by the Far East. “The Japanese in particular, and also the Chinese and Koreans,” said Dudok de Wit, “have a way of using negative space, of not filling the picture, which is very typical of the Far East and very untypical of the West. We can be inspired by it, but it’s profoundly in their culture–in their genes maybe, and not so much in ours. It’s not just about the brush line, it’s also the space around the line that is inspiring.”
17. The Lost Thing, 2010 (Australia) created by Shaun Tan (one of my favourite illustrators)
The Lost Thing was originally published as a children’s book in 1999. The story revolves around a young man who finds a… well… Thing. Nobody else seems to notice the Thing, and the young man decides to find out where it is meant to be. The film is set in a drab, dystopian world that is akin to Dali’s impressionistic artistry. For people that enjoy not only animation, but also art, this is a fantastic choice. The visuals and Thing are quite astounding to watch and the story is very well executed.