15 Oscar-Winning Animated Shorts Under 15 Minutes Long

15 Oscar-Winning Animated Shorts Under 15 Minutes Long
Screenshot: Feast/Disney+

The Academy Awards are upon us, and you still have a bit of time to catch up on the nominated films…but not a lot. Theatre-to-streaming windows are shorter than ever, which makes catching the nominees easier than ever, but ever-expanding runtimes (the average length of this year’s Best Picture nominees is a butt-numbing 139 minutes) can make it hard to squeeze them all in.

So why not give up and watch some award-worthy animated shorts instead?

I’m taking this more efficient tack, and watching award-winning animated shorts from years and decades past to steer myself into the Oscar mood. It’s approximately as emotionally satisfying and far more efficient. This year’s nominees are also worth checking out, but only a couple of them are readily available for streaming (Affairs of the Art, above, is on YouTube; Round Robin is on Netflix). Older winners are easier to find. Here are 15 of the best, representing a variety of styles and tones.

For the Birds (2000)

Length: 3 minutes

A silly, cute Pixar short involving a flock of birds on a wire, and the much larger bird who disrupts their whole vibe. In this case, we’re reminded that the one who laughs last…

Tin Toy (1988)

Length: 5 minutes

The first CGI short to win an Oscar, Tin Toy not only served as a proof-of-concept for Pixar’s future animated output, it was also a direct forerunner to the Toy Story series. It remains a cute story about the title toy escaping his pursuer, even if the look of the digital baby is disturbing by modern standards.

The ChubbChubbs! (2002)

Length: 5 minutes

Sony Pictures Imageworks, the in-house special effects group that would go on to animate Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (still the best Spider-Man movie) and The Mitchells vs. the Machines, made a splash in animation out of the gate when this film, initially meant as a test of the group’s CGI animation capabilities, won the Oscar. It’s perhaps not the most emotionally resonant of these shorts, but it’s a fast-paced ride packed with sci-fi references.

Paperman (2012)

Length: 6 minutes

An old-fashioned meet-cute story that blends modern and classic techniques into a cohesive, absolutely gorgeous whole. The title character is George, a young accountant in the 1940s who hopes to get the attention of Meg, whom he’d briefly encountered on a train. The short’s innovation is in its blending of 3D rendering and traditional 2D animation, but the technique never distracts from the story.

Feast (2014)

Length: 6 minutes

Evolving Paperman’s style but adding colour, Feast represents another technical innovation that also, miraculously, manages to be delightful — which seems to be a combination that works in short-form animation far more often than in live-action, where unproven effects can look and feel clunky. It’s a story about the relationship between food, depression, and relationships told through the eyes of a hungry Boston Terrier, and is wildly relatable if you’ve ever had a dog, a relationship, or a French fry.

Hair Love (2019)

Length: 6 minutes

Zuri and her father struggle with the 7-year-old’s gorgeous, unruly natural hair, eventually turning to an instructional video narrated by her mother (Issa Rae). It all leads to a very sweet and poignant conclusion and the tears start welling up in my eyes just thinking about it. (HBO Max is working on an animated series based on these characters.)

The Cat Concerto (1946)

Length: 7 minutes

There’s never been another performance of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2″ quite like this. With all of the gorgeous hand-drawn animation of the golden age of animation, not to mention the weirdly excessive violence, this classic was directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera over a decade before they became the collective Hanna-Barbera.

Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1992)

Length: 7 minutes

What must have been a thoroughly painstaking effort on the part of animator Joan C. Gratz flows in seeming effortlessness: a tour of 55 works of modern art, all recreated meticulously in clay against an easel, and all morphing seamlessly into one another.

Three Little Pigs (1933)

Length: 8 minutes

It’s hard to overstate the success of Three Little Pigs, or its influence on the course of commercial animation. The cartoon was an early mega-hit for Walt Disney and company, earning around $US250,000 ($347,050) (which was real money back in 1933) and playing in theatres for months. It won an Oscar, of course, and also introduced the world to the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?,” which itself became a depression-era anthem of sorts.

The Old Mill (1937)

Length: 8 minutes

Wonderfully atmospheric and a hair on the creepy side, The Old Mill was a testing ground for new techniques and technologies. With no dialogue and little plot, it depicts a community of animals living in and around the title mill, and the storm that nearly destroys it.

Tango (1981)

Length: 8 minutes

Zbigniew Rybczyński’s highly influential short is more avant-garde than many Oscar favourites; in about eight minutes, it depicts the lifecycle of one particular room via all the people who come and go from it. Rybczyński Oscar night, meanwhile, is the stuff of legend: his name was mispronounced at the podium, he was cut off from speaking and, when he went outside for a cigarette afterward, security refused to allow him back in, even with his award in hand.

Father and Daughter (2000)

Length: 8 minutes

A poignant Dutch film about a daughter separating from her father in order to pursue her own life and dreams, Father and Daughter packs a lot of emotion into its brief running time.

Moonbird (1959)

Length: 10 minutes

Two boys set out on a quest to trap a Moonbird. Animators John Hubley and Faith Hubley secretly recorded their children sharing an imaginary adventure (hopefully the kids weren’t too mad about it), and then set about animating the story. Which is incredibly sweet.

If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)

Length: 12 minutes

If there were ever any doubt that animation can tackle big emotions and serious ideas, those concerns are disproven here. As a school shooting tragedy pulls two parents apart, their mutual love for the one they’ve lost begins to pull them back together.

The Danish Poet (2006)

Length: 14 minutes

Kaspar Jørgensen, the titular poet, travels to Norway to seek inspiration from a famous author. As Torill Kove’s animated tale unfolds (as narrated by the great Liv Ullmann), layers of chance and coincidence reveal themselves to be the building blocks of multiple lives. It’s a rather lovely consideration of the tiny, seemingly inconsequential moments that shape us.

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