SXSW 2012: The 5 best animated shorts of the festival

Sure, the features may be what draws people into a festival as deep and continually great as South By Southwest, but the shorts are often times some of the best pieces of filmmaking that one can see while in the great city of Austin, TX. Often overshadowed by the big premieres and indie surprises, the shorts are both absolutely gorgeous, and often times the most enthralling films showing.  Their programs are quite popular, and for a reason.

Looking at the five best animated shorts from this year’s SXSW Film Festival, this should give you a direction to go when delving through this year’s short slate.  Come Oscar time, you may be hearing quite a bit from at least one of these suckers.

Hit the jump for rabbits, biology and some tactile stop motion animation.


5. BELLY (Julia Pott)

Helmed by Julia Pott, the film follows Oscar as he comes of age, “against his better judgment.” The film clocks in at just a tad over seven minutes, so it is one of the shorter shorts that the festival offers up, but it’s also one of the most beautiful animated pieces I’ve seen in a while.  The sound design here is absolutely superb, with great voice acting, and animation similar in style to a more refined version of the Adult Swim cartoon Superjail!. The film culminates in a rather touching and pertinent ending, making this one of the more charming animated experiences in some time.

4. DON’T HUG ME I’M SCARED (Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling)

Coming to us from the pair of Sloan and Pelling, from the This Is It collective of animators based out of London, DON’T HUG ME was not only an animated short showing at the festival, but also part of its Midnight Shorts program. And boy is this is a scary one at that.  Featuring charming, child-like animation, the film is absolutely hilarious, pairing that great sense of comedy with a great sense of dread and terror. This is one of the most original shorts I’ve seen in some time.  Not the deepest of shorts, the film is massively entertaining. What more could you ask for?

3. CALDERA (Evan Viera)

Nothing can take the place of absolutely gorgeous animation.  Directed by Evan Viera, CALDERA follows a young girl who, after lapsing on her medication, heads to an ocean-based dream land in what is truly the most visually stunning short of this year's SXSW.  It’s a bit longer, clocking in at right around 12 minutes, but it’s also incredibly immersive, and visually impressive.  Not the deepest of narratives, the film feels like a show for the talent involved, but there is a deep sense of child-like wonder here, making for a film that’s both entertaining and utterly enthralling.

2. (notes on) BIOLOGY (Danny Madden)

The animated short award winner, the film is yet another inventive animated short, that is both utterly enthralling visually, and also intellectually stimulating.  BIOLOGY is a stop motion animated look into the notes one takes during a biology class. As a recent college grad, I can relate so deeply to this short, having pages upon pages of doodles taken during class. And that's just in the margins.  Now if only my notes would have come to life as beautifully as these do.  Just one of the most inventive and imanginative short films I’ve ever seen.


Simply the very best animated short I’ve seen in a long while.  A touching look into a creature’s attempt to create an entity that he can share his life with, the film is both emotionally resonant, something so hard for a short film to do, as well as being visually ingenious. Yet another bit of stop motion, the short features Henry Selick-esque set and creature design, and is, in its short runtime, able to convey such longing and emotional depth that it may very well be the best animated short film put to celluloid in years.

Check back in on Wednesday for the five best documentary shorts of this year's SXSW Film Festival

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Joshua Brunsting

About Joshua Brunsting

Born in the tiny Michigan city known as Holland, and raised in the even smaller city known as Saugatuck, I have been a film geek for the majority of my life, and have known film was my passion ever since the final frame of THE LION KING. I’m a romantic with a thing for 60’s pop music (preferably French), John Keats poems, and an even bigger thing for film noir. Currently a Journalism Major at Grand Valley State University, I am using my love of film, and my deathly, ninja-like, skill behind the keyboard to slowly take over the world. When I’m not writing about or watching film, I’m listening to music, particularly from the likes of TV on the Radio, Best Coast, and Semi Precious Weapons. I play the ukulele, and I also have a deep and intense love for Gustavo Santaolalla and Ennio Morricone, but then again, who doesn’t. I was drum major for my high school marching band for two years, I’m one of the four people who actually watched Dollhouse, and my favorite film of all time is Godard’s BREATHLESS. I’m a wannabe screenwriter, a wild thing, a nerd, a geek, and most importantly, I’m a lover of film. Oh, and I want to be Captain Planet when I grow up.

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