The 2016 Oscar-nominated animated short films screen | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The 2016 Oscar-nominated animated short films screen

Catch these on the big screen before filling out your ballot

The Academy Award-nominated short films don’t garner as much attention as, say, Best Picture. But drawn from across the globe, they do offer a broader menu of people, places and experiences. So, take a break from this year’s think-pieces and Twitter outrage about the lack of diversity, and enjoy this year’s selection before the winners are announced on Feb. 28. 

Pittsburgh Filmmakers will present the short films in three programs. From Fri., Jan. 29, through Feb. 11, the Regent Square Theater will screen the contenders for Best Live Action and Best Animated, in two programs. (On Feb. 12, both programs will move to the Harris, then on Feb. 20-21, to the Melwood.) The documentary shorts will screen weekends in February at the Melwood. 

Below is a review of the 86-minute animated-shorts program (the five nominated films below, as well as four additional films); the live-action shorts are reviewed at left.

click to enlarge Clockwise from upper left: “Bear Story,” We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos,” “World of Tomorrow,” “Prologue” and “Sanjay’s Super Team”
Clockwise from upper left: “Bear Story,” We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos,” “World of Tomorrow,” “Prologue” and “Sanjay’s Super Team”

Sanjay’s Super Team (USA, 7 min.). Inspired by director Sanjay Patel’s own experiences as first-generation Indian-American, young Sanjay wants to watch his favorite TV action hero while his father seeks to engage him in his Hindu heritage. (Each culture is contained in an opposing box — the TV set and a small shrine.) Not surprisingly for a Pixar short, imagination triumphs, as Sanjay discovers the Hindu deities and his superhero can work together.

World of Tomorrow (USA, 17 min.). Don Hertzfeld’s deceptively simply drawn film, featuring stick figures and abstract backdrops, is the one that will stick with you. A small girl is visited by her clone from the future, and what unfolds is equal parts dark comedy, existential examination into being human, and warning about the perils of intertwining technology and humanity.

Bear Story (Chile, 11 min.). This digitally animated work from Gabriel Osorio is utterly charming on its surface, while also offering several layers of meta text. A bear offers a streetside attraction, a series of hand-crafted, mechanical dioramas presented in a peephole box and hand-cranked to provide motion. That story is a heartbreaker about a bear kidnapped by a circus. Which is also the story of the first bear, presented in a fantastical, space-defying box not unlike a film. 

We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos (Russia, 16 min.). Konstantin Bronzit’s hand-drawn work profiles a pair of life-long friends training to be cosmonauts. It’s funny, sweet, sad and just a little bit loopy, but with a deep reverence for a friendship cemented by a shared dream.

Prologue (U.K., 6 min.). Long-time animator Richard Williams’ work, resembling exquisitely rendered pencil drawings, wordlessly depicts the start of a long-ago battle, whose bloodshed and death is witnessed by a little girl. (This film contains graphic violence and nudity; it will be shown last on the program and preceded by a warning.)

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