The nominations in the Oscars’ animated shorts category this year range from fairy-tale fantasy to flight of futuristic fantasy.
Room on the Broom (directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer; UK; 25 minutes): The Least Wicked Witch of the East or West has a sweet disposition and joie de vivre unusual for her profession. She’s a happy, user-friendly kind of witch, but she keeps losing things in mid-air and having to retrieve them, aided by her faithful feline companion (a ginger Bando) and various critters on the ground, who all ask the same question: Is there room for them on the broom, too? It’s an old model, with dubious aerodynamics — increasingly crowded and problematic. Favorite detail: When the cat reaches into a haystack, searching for her lost hair-ribbon, he pulls out a needle instead.
Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz; Luxembourg/France; 11 minutes): The hero is described as “a withdrawn, idiosyncratic character with OCD.” This agoraphobic man-of-the-future — made of (spare) mechanical parts, wears quadrifocal corrective lenses and an odometer on his forehead with constantly running numbers, like an electric meter. The invasive arrival of Robot Pet, a stray mechanized dog, disturbs his terrifically drawn dystopia.
Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullen; USA; 6 minutes): Walt Disney checks in from the beyond in this state-of-the-CGI-art homage to early Mickey Mouse. Mick, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow are having a jolly hay wagon ride when interrupted and menaced by Peg-Leg Pete. Suddenly, the violent Punch & Judy action (not so politically correct these days) spills over from its 1928 vintage black-and-white 2-D screen into 3-D color — and the movie theater itself! — as the characters struggle to get back into their old frame. It’s a delightfully surreal exercise, running in some theaters as an opening appetizer to the Disney animated feature Frozen.
Possessions (Shuhei Morita; Japan; 14 minutes): It’s a dark and stormy night in 18th-century Japan, where a lost traveler takes refuge in a long-abandoned shrine full of discarded objects — broken umbrellas, remnants of ancient kimonos — which suddenly come swirling to life, threatening him with their ancient resentments. A Japanese legend has it that, after 100 years, old physical possessions attain souls and demand to be remembered. The weary traveler sets about mending them — and himself — in this deliriously didactic dreamscape.
Feral (Daniel Sousa; USA; 13 minutes): A wild boy in the woods is discovered and “rescued” by a hunter, who takes him back to civilization. Much alienated in the new environment, he tries to adapt with his animal skills in this morality tale — drawn in soft-edged, impressionistic style — that owes much to Francois Truffaut’s The Wild Child.
A nice bonus with the animated program is the inclusion of four runners-up “qualifying” (but un-nominated) shorts — of which A la Francaise, created by a team of students from the French animation school Supinfocom, is to die for: It’s an afternoon in Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, the aristocrats in sumptuous, eye-dazzling costumes cavorting to classical music. One odd thing: They’re all chickens — a hilariously perfect rendering of vanity and intrigue-most-fowl in the Sun King’s court.
Exclusive: Friday-Sunday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth