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Arts and Entertainment

Your Guide To The Oscar Nominees For Best Animated Short Film

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Of all the Academy Award categories, the one for Best Animated Short Film may be the most fun. Aside from the obligatory slot that Disney or Pixar takes on a yearly basis, the competition is always an eclectic mix of different animation styles from around the world.

Notable winners from the past include Walt Disney (who won 12 of his 22 total Oscars from this category alone, including 10 of the first 11), seven "Tom and Jerry" titles, three Pixar titles ("Luxo Jr.", the source of their desk lamp mascot, was nominated in 1986), and two "Wallace and Gromit" titles. With the shorts programs hitting theaters ahead of the awards ceremony, now is your chance to see this lively mix. Here's your guide to the five nominated for Best Animated Short Film, in the order of presentation.

"Get A Horse!" | Director: Lauren MacMullan

"Get A Horse!" is director Lauren MacMullan's tribute to some of the first black-and-white Mickey Mouse shorts, interspersed with lush and vibrant 3-D animation. Mickey and his buddies, including his love Minnie Mouse, enjoy a happy afternoon singing and riding a hay wagon until villain Peg-Leg Pete attacks the group. This leads the friends to be forced off the big screen into the "real world" of a movie theater. The homage to the 1928 original keeps true to its form, with its CG characters following the likeness of the earlier drawings. It encapsulates how far animation has developed over the past 85 years—and it's a fun ride. "Get A Horse!" originally accompanied Frozen in theaters, and also marks Oswald the Lucky Rabbit's first appearance under the Disney name since he was reacquired in the Al Michaels trade. —Jean Trinh

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"Mr. Hublot" | Directors: Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares
"Mr. Hublot," by directors Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, is a computer-animated short from Luxembourg and France. In this semi-mechanical world, Mr. Hublot—who bears a striking resemblance to a robotic —Despicable Me minion in a tie—is a recluse. Hublot suffers from OCD and has a highly ordered life, but he's finally forced out of his comfort zone when he rescues Robot Pet from the streets. This visually stunning film has absolutely no dialogue, but packs a little bit of suspense and a lot of heart in its 12 minutes. —Christine Ziemba

"Feral" | Director: Daniel Sousa
In director Daniel Sousa's first Oscar nomination, his animated short "Feral" follows a boy who gets the chance to start over in civilization after living in the forest alone. A child lost, like the Tarzan or Mowgli of our time, he struggles to make sense of his new surroundings with the same tactics he used in the woods to survive. The nearly 13-minute animation is captivating from the start, leading viewers to get lost in Sousa's beautiful and haunting world. "Feral," which has been making the rounds in the festival circuit, is the only Oscar-nominated short that can be purchased on Vimeo on demand. —Jean Trinh

"Possesions" | Director: Shuhei Morita
In this Japanese short, a man finds refuge in a storm in an old, dilapidated shrine. Throughout the night, he enounters Tsukumogami—100-year-old household objects inhabited by spirits. The tools and other items in the household are resentful after years of neglect, but the villager sets out to repair the damage—physically and metaphorically. There's a scene in the film with Japanese umbrellas created with such vibrant color that makes for one of the film's more memorable moments. This "ghost" story is a mortality tale of sorts, commenting on our accumulation of material goods and our throw-away
modern world. —Christine Ziemba

"Room On The Broom" | Directors: Max Jang & Jan Lancaster
The United Kingdom's "Room on the Broom" features Simon Pegg as the narrator and Gillian Anderson as the titular witch. The nearly 27-minute film follows the witch and her cautious cat through their adventures in the forest. The witch can't say no to animals in need, so the broom gets very crowded with a dog, frog and bird in tow, much to the cat's chagrin. There's a dragon chasing after her, too, so he can have "witch and chips" with his tea. The animals band together to save her, and learn a little bit about self-sacrifice and the meaning of family. It's old-school in its storytelling, but it's crafted in such a way to resonate clearly with today's audiences. —Christine Ziemba

Also rounding out the program to feature length are the following "highly commended" animated shorts that just fell short of an Oscar nod: "A La Francaise", "The Missing Scarf", and "The Blue Umbrella". These shorts were not made available for review.

The Oscar-nominated Animated Short Film program opens tomorrow at the Nuart Theatre (West L.A.) and the Regency South Coast Village 3 (Santa Ana). The films will become available on iTunes/Amazon and pay-per-view/video-on-demand on Feb. 25.