Academy Awards 2023: Best Animated Short Nominees, Ranked

Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne voice cute animals, but the real standout is Pamela Ribon’s feminist comedy My Year of Dicks.

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Aside from the occasional festival screening, Oscar season is the only time many moviegoers engage with short films, so the nominees count more. An Oscar nomination means more visibility for any film, but its impact is often exponential for short films. Now in its 18th year, ShortsTV offers audiences the chance to immerse themselves in the world of short films by showing all the nominees in cinemas. If viewers are willing to ditch the movie stars and step out of their comfort zone, they’re in for a real treat.

In the past, animated shorts were made for children, but the category has taken a turn in recent years. This year, only one short, Apple Original Films’ The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, appears to be aimed at a younger audience. Others are more mature, such as “My Year of Dicks,” a hilarious journey into the hormonal brain of a teenager on the verge of losing her virginity. Other entries include a father and son affected by global warming, an office worker living in a simulation, and a sailor’s near-death experience.

Overall, the nominees represent a wide range of human experience with a beautiful array of animation techniques. This is a strong group, no real nonsense. However, here are the rankings for all five contenders.

5. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse oscar for best animated short film

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”


At least one traditional animated offering has to be acknowledged, and this year it’s a gracious morality tale about a young boy who finds his way home with the help of a motley group of animals. British illustrator and cartoonist Charlie Mackesy adapts his bestseller with the help of animator Peter Baynton, who enlisted the voice talents of Tom Hollander, Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne (female animals don’t seem to exist in this picturesque tundra).

Using glowing yellows and soothing blues on snowy white plains, the film shares clichés with children. They remind us of the importance of bridging differences, being perfect just the way you are, and making home where your heart is. It’s a beautiful message against a beautiful background.

4. “The Flying Sailor”

Oscar for Best Animated Short, The Flying Sailor

“The Flying Sailor”


It is based on the true story of a sailor who survived the largest accidental explosion in history. This energetic short film gives an abstract picture of a person’s life flashing before his eyes. The inciting incident occurred in 1917 when two ships collided in Halifax Harbor and a rough and tumble sailor was sent flying through the air before landing safely but without his clothes on. The Canadian animation duo Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, previously nominated in this category in 2011, imagine the sailor with a round body and a sullen face. While the simple tale doesn’t achieve any transformative effect, it’s an entertainingly original spin through imaginative imagery.

A moody sea shack poisons his heavy gait as he muscles his way through a knockdown brawl, only for a tragic collision to stop him in his tracks as a tough guy. As she flies through the air, she twirls like a chicken, her naked body makes her look as innocent as a baby. Images from his life float away; empty portholes, childhood toys and a mother’s worried gaze. It eventually evolves into just a pink circular shape that floats off into the vast unknown of the Milky Way before landing safely underwater, puffing on a still lit cigarette.

3. “Ice Merchants”

Academy Award for Best Animated Short Ice Merchants

“Ice Merchants”


The most visually striking film of the nominees, the eerily beautiful “Ice Merchants” is an elegiac family tale set on the side of a cliff. By the way, it also comes from the youngest filmmaker of the bunch, 27-year-old Portuguese filmmaker João Gonzalez, making “The Ice Merchants” the first Portuguese film to receive an Oscar nomination. He is also an illustrator and a classically trained pianist and composed the effects score for the film.

Reminiscent of traditional Japanese illustration, Gonzalez’s signature style uses a limited palette of grays, reds, and blues, combining brightness with shading. He also plays with perspective brilliantly, conveying the overwhelming dizzying scale of the film’s dramatic setting. The wordless story follows a father and son who live in a cool cliffside hut hundreds of yards up, held up by a simple screw system, and deposited in a massive ice sheet. Every day, the father straps his son to his chest before the duo parachutes into the local village. When the ice sheet begins to melt, they must make a daring escape. “Ice Merchants” is beautiful to look at and visually inventive, setting the bar high for the future of animation.

2. “An ostrich told me the world is fake and I guess I believe it”

“An ostrich told me the world is fake and I guess I believe it”


Falling into a surreal office ennui that is both timeless and depressing au courant, this bite-sized title is well worth the extra word count. Australian animator Lachlan Pendragon takes a cheeky look at the entire stop-motion animation apparatus, endowing his main character with a self-awareness that leads to an existential crisis. Imagine an Aardman-esque figure taking the red pill, with a mundane office setting from “The Truman Show.”

Selling an underpowered toaster, the cartoon’s protagonist, Neil, is framed via the in-frame monitor, the first sign that something is afoot. When a cheerful, truth-spitting ostrich tells him he’s living in a simulation, he falls down a literal rabbit hole into a box of his own body parts. Hilarious and clever, with a healthy dose of the filmmaker’s own behind-the-curtain self-awareness, “Ostrich” is a refreshing comedy about the meaning of life.

1. “The Year of the Tail”

It's the year of the tail

“The Year of the Tail”


The film with the catchiest and most provocative title doesn’t always win, but in this case the product delivers as advertised. This autobiographical comedy combines elements of documentary (and even some fuzzed-up VHS footage) for a nominally hybrid affair, though it’s primarily told through a few different styles of computer animation. Set in 1991, the 25-minute film follows a hormonal teenager’s quest to lose her virginity and the various disappointing boys she meets. Complete with dad’s cringe-worthy sex talk and a not-so-mysterious viewing of “Henry and June” (1990), “My Year of Dicks” offers an honest and realistic portrayal of a young woman on her way to sexual awakening.

Divided into five chapters, the film is based on the memoirs of Pamela Ribon, the prolific storyteller of the animated mega-hits “Moana” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” A-list writer/creator Ribon teamed up with Icelandic director Sara Gunnarsdóttir to create a chilling feminist riff on a coming-of-age story. The most personal film of the bunch is also the funniest, combining traditional narrative elements with a playful animation style for an excitingly bold swing that really pays off. It should be required to be viewed in sex classes, if they still exist.

The short films nominated for the 2023 Academy Awards will be available in select theaters on Friday, February 17. Find a participating cinema here.

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