No Pixar means wide-open animated shorts Oscar race

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.February 14, 2014 

Alfred, played by Pelle Falk Krusbaek, is dying but finds joy through the stories about the fantasy world Helium — in the short film with the same name — told by the hospital’s eccentric janitor, Enzo, played by Casper Crump.

M&M PRODUCTIONS

The first thing fans of animated short films will notice about this year’s package of Oscar nominees is what’s missing: the latest from Pixar.

Pixar, the company behind such features as “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” is a perennial contender in the shorts category and a frequent winner. However, this year’s Pixar short, the sweet but familiar “The Blue Umbrella,” did not make the cut, and neither did Pixar’s 2013 feature film, “Monsters University.”

Instead, here’s what is contending for Oscar:

“Feral”: The freshest of the five nominees is the unsettling fable of a feral child who, transported to the city, attempts to use what he learned in the wild. The style, which combines charcoal drawings and collage, is utterly unique.

“Get a Horse!”: If you’ve already seen any of the five nominees, it’s this Mickey Mouse adventure, which was shown before screenings of “Frozen.” Purporting to be a long-lost Mickey film, it uses 3-D inventively, which is too bad because it’s being screened in most places in 2-D.

“Mr. Hublot”: From France, this is a tender film about a shy loner who is forced to adjust when he becomes the owner of a robot dog. The warm story works, and the steampunk design is very handsome.

“Possessions”: This Japanese fairy tale follows a samurai who learns that abandoned objects can take on lives of their own, which is demonstrated by eye-poppingly vivid umbrellas.

“Room on the Broom”: At 27 minutes, this film is twice as long as any of the other nominees, and I’ll be darned if I can figure out why. It’s a simple, mildly amusing and repetitive story about a witch who is good at sharing.

OSCAR-NOMINATED ANIMATED SHORTS

These are being distributed as a package, and they open this week at the Grand Cinemas in Tacoma.

Running time: About 100 minutes for all five shorts.

Rated: Not rated, but contain mild violence

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