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Animated Oscar Shorts

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Animated oscar Shorts

Opens at the Charles Theater Feb. 11

It’s a shame animated shorts don’t get more attention. This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts are brilliant little gems, each a sampling of an entirely unique visual interpretation of storytelling. “Madagascar, a Journey Diary,” Bastien Dubois’ first short film, is a lovingly crafted abstract of time spent in Madagascar. It’s like a living watercolor, the fleshy pastel movements brought into sharp focus with the 3D capabilities of modern animation. And the earthy, African feel of the soundtrack contextualizes the smiling faces and racing lemurs while anchoring the effervescent scenes into a progressive storyline.

“The Gruffalo,” writing-wise, is its opposite: a “Wallace and Gromit”-style story of a little brown mouse and his stroll through the “deep dark woods,” as told by a mother squirrel to her little squirrel children. Pure 3D animation, clear bright colors, and a narrative told in simple rhymes gives the short the feel of a classic fable.

Perhaps most enchanting is “The Lost Thing,” an Australian short about a boy who discovers a, well, lost thing on a beach in his mechanically ethereal world. The “thing” is a giant whirring complexity of metal, gears, and tentacles, and follows the boy like a lost pup home from the beach and into his parents’ shed. The boy, attached, hunts for a new home that will care for his living machine; buried inside his search is a warning about the narrowmindedness and banality that can sneak up and take over with age.

“Thing’s” lesson is subtle; that of “Let’s Pollute,” its competitor, is not. Modeled after 1950s-’60s educational films, “Let’s Pollute” uses goofy animation and vivid colors to present a scathing picture of our inclination toward waste and pollution and the havoc our habits will wreak on our surroundings. Against a backdrop of trash-covered mountains and gasoline seas, the narrator offers instructions to be a better polluter, including the mantra to “always care less.”

While all of the shorts are beautifully animated and wonderfully written, “Day and Night” stands out for its originality. Pixar’s trademark is a certain effortlessness, a feeling that the final product always existed in its completion, a seamlessness of style, idea, and presentation that works at every level. And “Day and Night,” a Pixar creation, doesn’t fail. A simple lesson of appreciating differences and getting along is told, wordlessly, through two ’70s-style cartoon figures whose bodies are views of a characteristc Pixar world, one during the day and one at night. They fight over who’s got the better view until they hear a radio broadcast—taken from a lecture of ’70s self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer—about learning to get along: “You know, to me, the most beautiful things in all the universe, are the most mysterious.” Clean, creative, pleasing to the eye, enticing to the mind—everything animation should be.

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