The five Academy Award nominees for animated short film this year split up into two disparate groups: happy meal and white tablecloth.
Originally shown with the Disney feature film "Frozen," "Get a Horse!" is the best known and most seen of the bunch. As with "Saving Mr. Banks," Disney has mined its archives to bring us a 3-D meta update of 1920s Mickey Mouse cartoons. It's a blend of folly and nostalgia that won a nomination over "The Blue Umbrella," the whimsical Pixar short that ran before "Monsters University."
Another Oscar contender, "Room on the Broom," a bedtime story concerning a clumsy, polka dot-adorned and animal-loving witch, bears mentioning only for a star-studded voice cast that includes Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg and Sally Hawkins.
The rest of the shorts here clearly cater to mature palates.
"Mr. Hublot," about an obsessive-compulsive recluse adopting a stray dog, takes place in a baroque future that recalls Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's "Delicatessen" and "The City of Lost Children." The plot runs out of steam quickly, but the film's artful details are breathtaking.
"Possessions" follows in the tradition of Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away." It relays the tale of a handyman who takes refuge from a storm in a haunted temple and proceeds to fix up stuff while entertained by phantoms. The kaleidoscopic imagery is painterly and textured, while the story fancifully drifts from spooky to droll to poignant.
"Feral," the only film to center on a child, turns out to be the most abstract and austere of the batch. Its expressionistic visuals barely distract from the hackneyed narrative and lack of closure.
'Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animation'
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Playing: In limited release. Also on VOD.