Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Animated Short

Here’s how this works: every day leading up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. The goal is to both familiarize everyone with the category itself (how it works, what its history is and how you go about figuring out what’s gonna win) while also making it easier to reference when I write my giant article with picks and everything. A lot of the leg work is already here. But really, the goal is to see if there’s anything to look for leading into Oscar night that could be a shortcut to me picking the category.

What we do is — I give you all the winners of the category throughout history, go over all the recent trends if there are any, discuss the precursors and whether or not they matter, and then we talk about this year’s category and how we got to it, and then just look at where we are and rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning (at the current moment in time. Of course, things can and will change going into the ceremony). It’s all pretty simple. I’ve done this every year. Everyone should know the drill.

Today is Best Animated Short. AKA, “It’s probably Pixar or Disney again, isn’t it?

Year Best Animated Film Winners Other Nominees
1931-1932 Flowers and Trees Mickey’s Orphans

It’s Got Me Again!

1932-1933 Three Little Pigs Building a Building

The Merry Old Soul

1934 The Tortoise and the Hare Holiday Land

Jolly Little Elves

1935 Three Orphan Kittens The Calico Dragon

Who Killed Cock Robin?

1936 The Country Cousin Old Mill Pond

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor

1937 The Old Mill Educated Fish

The Little Match Girl

1938 Ferdinand the Bull Brave Little Tailor

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood

Good Scots

Hunky and Spunky

1939 The Ugly Duckling Detouring America

Peace on Earth

The Pointer

1940 The Milky Way Puss Gets the Boot

A Wild Hare

1941 Lend a Paw Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt

How War Came

The Night Before Christmas

Rhapsody in Rivets

The Rookie Bear

Rhythm in the Ranks

Superman

Truant Officer Donald

1942 Der Fuehrer’s Face All Out for “V”

Blitz Wolf

Juke Box Jamboree

Pigs in a Polka

Tulips Shall Grow

1943 The Yankee Doodle Mouse The Dizzy Acrobat

Five Hundred Hats of Batholomew Cubbins

Greetings Bait

Imagination

Reason and Emotion

1944 Mouse Trouble And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street

Dog, Cat and Canary

Fish Fry

How to Play Football

My Boy, Johnny

Swooner Crooner

1945 Quiet Please! Donald’s Crime

Jasper and the Beanstalk

Life with Feathers

Mighty Mouse in Gypsy Life

The Poet and Peasant

Rippling Romance

1946 The Cat Concerto Musical Moments from Chopin

John Henry and the Inky-Poo

Squatter’s Rights

Walky Talky Hawky

1947 Tweetie Pie Chip an’ Dale

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse

Pluto’s Blue Note

Tubby the Tuba

1948 The Little Orphan Mickey and the Seal

Mouse Wreckers

Robin Hoodlum

Tea for Two Hundred

1949 For Scent-imental Reasons Hatch Up Your Troubles

Magic Fluke

Toy Tinkers

1950 Gerald McBoing-Boing Jerry’s Cousin

Trouble Indemnity

1951 The Two Mouseketeers Lambert the Sheepish Lion

Rooty Toot Toot

1952 Johann Mouse Little Johnny Jet

Madeline

Pink and Blue Blues

The Romance of Transportation in Canada

1953 Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom Christopher Crumpet

From A to Z-Z-Z-Z

Fugged Bear

The Tell-Tale Heart

1954 When Magoo Flew Crazy Mixed Up Pup

Pigs Is Pigs

Sandy Claws

Touché, Pussy Cat!

1955 Speedy Gonzales Good Will to Men

The Legend of Rockabye Point

No Hunting

1956 Magoo’s Puddle Jumper Gerald McBoing-Boing on Planet Moo

The Jaywalker

1957 Birds Anonymous One Droopy Knight

Tabasco Road

Trees and Jamaica Daddy

The Truth About Mother Goose

1958 Knighty Knight Bugs Paul Bunyan

Sidney’s Family Tree

1959 Moonbird Mexicali Shmoes

Noah’s Ark

The Violinist

1960 Munro Goliath II

High Note

Mouse and Garden

A Place in the Sun

1961 Ersatz (The Substitute) Aquamania

Beep Prepared

Nelly’s Folly

The Pied Piper of Guadalupe

1962 The Hole Icarus Montgolfier Wright

Now Hear This

Self Defense… for Cowards

Symposium on Popular Songs

1963 The Critic Automania 2000

The Game

My Financial Career

Pianissimo

1964 The Pink Phink Christmas Cracker

How to Avoid Friendship

Nudnik No. 2

1965 The Dot and the Line Clay or the Origin of Species

The Thieving Magpie

1966 A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature The Drag

The Pink Blueprint

1967 The Box Hypothese Beta

What on Earth!

1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day The House that Jack Built

The Magic Pear Tree

Windy Day

1969 It’s Tough to Be a Bird Of Men and Demons

Walking

1970 Is It Always Right to Be Right? The Further Adventures of Uncle Sam: Part Two

The Shepherd

1971 The Crunch Bird Evolution

The Selfish Giant

1972 A Christmas Carol Kama Sutra Rides Again

Tup Tup

1973 Frank Film The Legend of John Henry

Pulcinella

1974 Closed Mondays The Family That Dwelt Apart

Hunger

Voyage to Next

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!

1975 Great Kick Me

Monsieur Pointu

Sisyphus

1976 Leisure Dedalo

The Street

1977 The Sand Castle Bead Game

A Doonesbury Special

Jimmy the C

1978 Special Delivery Oh My Darling

Rip Van Winkle

1979 Every Child Dream Doll

It’s so Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House

1980 The Fly All or Nothing

History of the World in Three Minutes Flat

1981 Crac The Creation

The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin

1982 Tango The Great Cognito

The Snowman

1983 Sundae in New York Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Sound of Sunshine – Sound of Rain

1984 Charade Doctor DeSoto

Paradise

1985 Anna & Bella The Big Snit

Second Class Mail

1986 A Greek Tragedy The Frog, The Dog and The Devil

Luxo, Jr.

1987 The Man Who Planted Trees George and Rosemary

Your Face

1988 Tin Toy The Cat Came Back

Technological Threat

1989 Balance The Cow

The Hill Farm

1990 Creature Comforts A Grand Day Out

Grasshoppers

1991 Manipulation Blackfly

Strings

1992 Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase Adam

Reci, Reci Reci…

The Sandman

Screen Play

1993 The Wrong Trousers Blindscape

The Mighty River

Small Talk

The Village

1994 Bob’s Birthday The Big Story

The Janitor

The Monk and the Fish

Triangle

1995 A Close Shave The Chicken from Outer Space

The End

Gagarian

Runaway Brain

1996 Quest Canhead

La Salla

Wat’s Pig

1997 Geri’s Game Famous Fred

Mermaid

Redux Riding Hood

La Vieille dame et les pigeons

1998 Bunny The Canterbury Tales

Jolly Roger

More

When Life Departs

1999 The Old Man and the Sea 3 Misses

Humdrum

My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts

When the Day Breaks

2000 Father and Daughter Periwig Maker

Rejected

2001 For the Birds Fifty Percent Grey

Give Up Yer Aul Sins

Strange Invadors

Stubble Trouble

2002 The ChubbChubbs! Katedra

Mike’s New Car

Mt. Head

Das Rad

2003 Harvie Krumpet Boundin’

Gone Nutty

Nibbles

Destino

2004 Ryan Birthday Boy

Gopher Broke

Guard Dog

Lorenzo

2005 The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation Badgered

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jaspar Morello

9

One Man Band

2006 The Danish Poet Lifted

The Little Matchgirl

Maestro

No Time for Nuts

2007 Peter & the Wolf Even Pigeons Go To Heaven

I Met the Walrus

Madame Tutli-Putli

My Love

2008 La Maison en petits cubes Lavatory – Lovestory

Oktapodi – Gobelins L’Ecole de L’Image

Presto

This Way Up

2009 Logorama Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

French Roast

The Lady and the Reaper

A Matter of Loaf and Death

2010 The Lost Thing Day & Night

The Gruffalo

Let’s Pollute

Madagascar, A Journey Diary

2011 The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Dimanche

La Luna

A Morning Stroll

Wild Life

2012 Paperman Adam and Dog

Fresh Guacamole

Head Over Heels

The Longest Daycare

2013 Mr. Hublot Feral

Get a Horse!

Possessions

Room on the Broom

2014 Feast The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

2015 Bear Story Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

2016 Piper Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

2017 Dear Basketball Garden Party

Lou

Negative Space

Revolting Rhymes

2018 Bao Animal Behaviour

Late Afternoon

One Small Step

Weekends

Good news, bad news. Bad news — no real precursors here, so we go in cold and just have to guess. Good news… you can usually do it pretty easily and know what the probably winner is.

What’s funny to me is that most people assume Pixar or Disney is gonna win this category. And for a lot of years, that wasn’t true. Pixar won in 2001 and then neither they nor Disney won again since 2012. And either Disney or Pixar, admittedly has won 4 times since 2012, but it’s on average of every other year. Paperman in 2012, Feast in 2014, Piper in 2016, Bao in 2018. So we’re on pace for a non-Pixar year this year. Which seems like it’s gonna check out.

But let’s first get into our category:

Best Animated Short

Dcera (Daughter)

Hair Love

Kitbull

Mémorable

Sister

The shortlist wasn’t overly strong this year. Of the ones that didn’t make it: Hors Piste was a very comic short that felt like it could have gotten on. He Can’t Live Without Cosmos is a sequel (I guess) to the previously nominated astronaut short from a few years ago. Mind My Mind is a short about autism, I believe. The Physics of Sorrow is a similar short to the director’s previously nominated effort Blind Vaysha, and Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days is a girl reminiscing about her uncle, who was essentially nobody but meant a lot to her. I was only able to see Hors Piste and Uncle Thomas, and I liked them both quite a bit, specifically Uncle Thomas.

Only two of these shorts are available to watch in full, so here you go:

Hair Love:

Kitbull:

Dcera and Sister were online at one point but were taken down. And Mémorable has never been available.

Sister is a short about a Chinese man thinking back to his relationship with his sister (done in gorgeous stop-motion) and then revealing that he never had a sister, because of China’s One Child Policy. Dcera is a gorgeously directed short about the relationship between a father and a daughter. And Memorable is about a painter who is starting to get dementia and the effects it has on him and his wife.

Rankings:

5. Dcera — It’s sutuningly animated. There’s no denying that. And in a similar way to Memorable, too. However, it’s a very personal, dramatic and serious kind of short. And those never win. They’ll get nominated, but they never win in an open vote. Hard to see this as more than a third choice at best.

4. Sister — It’s gorgeous and stop-motion, but it feels of a sort to other shorts that didn’t win in recent years. They generally like colorful, cute and uplifting. And this is none of those things. Maybe the emotional gut punch of the ending will get it some votes, but I’m not thinking this is more than a third choice in the end. And even then, if people see them all, I can’t see how they vote for this one.

3. Mémorable — It’s absolutely stunning. Dcera does a similar stop-motion thing, but goes for a very hardcore vérité kind of feel with a camera that moves and makes everything really… Paul Greengrass. This one doesn’t do that but does more magical things with the elements within the frame, distorting reality to put you in the mind of this man with dementia. In the trailer, there’s a cellphone that becomes a blob of paint that starts to float in the air as he watches it. And at the end, when his wife becomes an almost invisible being except for some splashes of paint… it’s just stunning. Honestly, I can see them possibly even voting for this. I’m keeping it the third choice just because of what the other two are, but this can win. This really can win. If people watch all five of these, this will get some votes because it’s so well done. It doesn’t feel like something that wins, but it’s something that will sway a few people in an otherwise weak/forgettable category.

2. Kitbull — It’s Pixar. BUT…. it’s Pixar light. It’s part of their SparkShorts program, which is them giving people an unlimited budget and six months to make whatever they want. This is a short directed and produced by women, which is nice, but the short doesn’t have that pop that you’d expect out of a Pixar short (at least for me). I’m not sure people would know this is Pixar necessarily in an open vote by just looking at the nominees. Plus, it’s not like they win every single year they’re nominated. This feels like a time when they’re not the automatic favorite or presumed winner. I think in the end I’ll probably make this the third choice and let it beat me. But you can’t ignore Pixar in this category. You can’t ever do that. But because they do have a fairly weak history in this category historically. They didn’t win at all between 2001 and 2016. Piper was their first winner. And then Bao last year. And it’s not like they weren’t nominated — Sanjay’s Super Team, Lou, La Luna, Day & Night… people either just wouldn’t vote for them in the early years and didn’t vote for their weaker efforts in recent years. And this feels like a weaker effort most people wouldn’t know or care about. So I’ll respect it and keep it second here, but in the end, I don’t know if this actually contends.

1. Hair Love — I think people are aware of what this one is. I think awareness is out there, and I think it’s a lovely short with a great message. Not that anyone really pays attention to this category while they vote, but this does feel like the feel-good short that would lose to a Pixar nominee like Piper (which is cute and looks stunning but is ultimately just okay) in most years. But, in the absence of one of those shorts in this category, I feel like this is the favorite and the choice that’s most likely to win. Usually you need a modicum of notoriety or the clear emotional advantage (and you can see a short, like The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore or Bear Story, to know it’s going to win). I think this has that notoriety. Maybe Kitbull or Memorable ends up winning instead, but I feel like this is currently the top choice, with a slight edge over everything else in terms of likelihood of winning.

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