The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is favoring riskier animation techniques in this year’s Oscar races, and its snub of Disney’s Frozen 2 in the feature film category is just one example of this shift. From student films to a studio’s first animated project and of course, Pixar, taking a chance with a different style, in the best animated short film category the Academy is highlighting nominees who are experimenting to tell their stories Kidscreen chatted with the talent behind all five of the Oscar-nominated short animated films to learn more about what these projects mean for their business, and their future as creators.
Driven by a desire to blend story with the animation style, writer and director Bruno Collet created the Oscar-nominated stop-motion short Mémorable. Produced by French studio Vivement Lundi!—a frequent Collet collaborator—the 12-minute stop motion film is about an aging painter who struggles with advancing dementia. To tackle this issue, while creating a film that stylistically stands out from other short films, the French animator made sure that the film’s look reflected what someone with dementia might see.
Dementia is a syndrome that describes a variety of symptoms, such as deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to do everyday activities. Around 50 million people have it worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year, according to the World Health Organization.
“There are lots of people around me with dementia, and many more all over the world affected by it,” says Collet. “I wanted to shine a spotlight on this as a global issue, and so I made sure the film depicts what the world could look like for someone with the disease. And now the Oscar nomination is helping draw attention to the film and do this.”
Collet gave the film a fantastical and surreal look where colors and objects blend together in a way that’s meant to express the perception of someone with the disease.
“I wanted my protagonist to move in very realistic ways, but I also wanted to be able to show the world around him shifting in impossible ways, and stop-motion was the best way to do that,” says Collet.
Seeing a gap in the market for more experimental animation and stories that tackle dementia, motivated Vivement Lundi! to produce the short in the first place.
Vivement Lundi!, focuses on producing live-action factual content and 2D animation, and producing the short is its way of experimenting on a project that didn’t overly impact its pipeline, says producer Mathieu Courtois. The prodco has worked with Collet before to expand beyond 2D-animation on the stop-motion projects Calypso is like so (seven minutes) and Little Dragon (eight minutes), and wanted to partner with him on Mémorable to continue this growth in a different styles.
The pair have racked in a number of awards over the years, starting with Collet’s first short film Back to the Wall, which won the young critics award at Cannes Film Festival in 2001, and Little Dragon, which won best animated short film from the Catalonian International Film Festival in 2009, and best short film at the Alpe D’Huez International Comedy Film Festival in 2010. Memorable has also picked up some hardware this year, nabbing a Crystal award for best short.
Collet began his career as a set designer on stop-motion productions before becoming a filmmaker in the early 2000s. He’s now planning to create his first stop-motion feature film and is writing a script, but is keeping tight-lipped about details because he wants to ensure he has total creative freedom on it.
“I’ve felt my popularity grow in the last six months because of the film and the nomination,” says Collet. “I don’t know Hollywood, but the people there are starting to know me. Awareness of my work and for Vivement Lundi! is growing, and I’m glad to see that this small movie that had no real marketing campaign was able to earn the nomination on its strength as a movie.”
Read Kidscreen’s coverage on the other Oscar-nominated animated shorts, starting with Monday’s piece on Czech film Dcera, Pixar’s first fully 2D-animated project Kitbull, and Siqi Song’s Sister, about China’s one-child policy and family.