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Perry’s Previews Movie Review, Director Interviews & Oscar Predictions – 2015 Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts

Published on: 19th February, 2015

2015 Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts

2015 Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts

Perry’s Previews Movie Review & Oscar Predictions – 2015 Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts

By Perry S. Chen

February 19, 2015


      2014 brings us another year of great variety in animation style and storytelling. Among the Oscar-nominated animation shorts, we see computer animation in 2D and 3D, stop-motion, hand-drawn, silent as well as films with dialogue or voiceover, and foreign entries from the U.K, Canada & Norway, and the Netherlands. The nominees are: A Single Life, Me and My Moulton, The Bigger Picture, Feast, and The Dam Keeper. I had the pleasure of interviewing every nominated director, by Skype, email, and/or in person.


A Single Life

A mysterious record disc, named after the title of this two-minute animation, falls into the hands of a curious woman. When she plays the mysterious vinyl record single, she realizes that skipping and rewinding the track allows her to travel through her own lifetime.

Job Roggeveen, Joris Oprins and Marieke Blaauw, creators of “A Single Life”

The three Dutch directors/writers/animators/producers,  Job Roggeveen, Joris Oprins and Marieke Blaauw came up with the idea while listening to a record skip, an idea arising that the record didn’t skip, but instead that they traveled a tiny bit in time. “The idea stayed with us for some years and finally we started talking about it some more.” They revealed that the house you see at the beginning is based on the student house where Job and Joris lived. With a short for Dutch broadcaster NTR, a childrens’ book, and a 25-minute film in the works as well, the three partners have a lot on their plate, even before the Oscar nominations have been announced.

Perry Chen getting a drawing from Job Roggeveen (R), Joris Oprins (M) and Marieke Blaauw (L), creators of “A Single Life” at the 2015 Oscar Shorts Awards hosted by ShortsHD (photo by Zhu Shen)

A Single Life is a brief but fast-paced tale boasting a rather charming story. I can see how the directors may have attempted to insert some deeper meaning, perhaps about one’s mortality, but the short’s attempt at a morbid twist of humor didn’t do it for me. Personally, I think it’s a good film, but not exceptional.  The idea is novel and interesting, but a bit thin on its own.


Me and My Moulton

“Ten thousand men in our town. One single mustache. And it has to be on MY dad. It makes my stomach hurt…”

Can you find “My Dad” with his singular mustache in this picture? – “Me and My Moulton” (Directed by Torill Kove)

Set in 1965 Norway, Me and my Moulton is an animated story of a 7-year-old girl and her two sisters, who live in a very eccentric, and often stress-inducing household. Their greatest dream is a bicycle like the one their neighbors has, but end up getting something they never could have imagined. The story is about the great challenge of not conforming to the “norm” and keeping one’s unique individuality, especially as a young person.

There are different ways to deal with the problem of “not fitting in.”  Some people handle it by isolating themselves from society, some by changing themselves to fit in, others like me go about their daily life as usual, not caring as much about what others may think of them. As I summarized the moral of “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Being different allows you to see what others cannot.” Staying true to myself helps me to retain my creativity.  The girl in the film was so distraught about not fitting in with her circle of friends because of her eccentric family that she suffered stomach cramps. In the end, she finds a way to deal with the stress of not fitting in and grows up.

I interviewed director Torill Kove and producer Marcy Page briefly at the 2015 Annie Awards Red Carpet. The film had roots of inspiration in autobiographical basis; largely stemming from Kove’s very own childhood experiences. “Well it’s based on my family, its kind of a true story, some of it anyway,” said Kove. Page described the impact that Me and My Moulton had on its foreign countries of origin. “This was a co-production between Canada and Norway,” she explained, “it’s causing quite a stir in […] both countries.”


The Bigger Picture

“Wicked? I’ll tell you what’s wicked! A son who never does a bloody thing! That’s what’s wicked!” -Nick

Elderly mother has always favored her more successful son Richard over his unemployed, messy-haired brother Nick. While Richard is praised for being a “good boy”, Nick is treated as a “skivvy” in the house; valued no more than a domestic servant. However, when their mother’s health begins to deteriorate, the two brothers’ love and devotion for their parent will truly be tested.

The most initially striking aspect of The Bigger Picture is the life-sized paintings on the walls of the set. Although its art is done in stop motion, The Bigger Picture’s style of animation belongs in a category all on its own. White walls roughly painted by hand are coupled with 3-Dimensional models in such a way that the laws of foreground and background are completely warped. The film’s visual style incorporates a seemingly chaotic array of effects: reversal, real props, fourth wall breaks, and unconventional mood lighting, and organizes it in a surprisingly congruent way. This unique style is developed by director Daisy Jacobs at the National Film and Television School in the U.K. “I’d done lots of hand-drawn animation […] but it was all small-scale,[…] and I was really missing painting,” explains Jacobs, “ So I found a wall in school, […] painted two huge characters on it, and just started animating life-size.”

Perry Chen giving two thumbs up to the drawing by “The Bigger Picture” director Daisy Jacobs and animator Chris Wilder at the 2015 Oscar Shorts Awards hosted by ShortsHD (photo by Zhu Shen)

The process of animating these huge figures and painting by hand was grueling, both physically and mentally. According to Jacobs, “We were working in full-size real sets, and for ten hours a day, for six months, I would paint the characters life-size on the wall and animate them ‘straight ahead.’”

Personally, it took quite a few viewing of this short for it to truly sink in. It’s a story that feels different every time I watched, delving into the deepest human emotions of envy and despair; loneliness and love. Unlike all of the other films this year, the general atmosphere of this short film is moody, somber, and dark. According to Jacobs, “the story is loosely based on the last years of my grandmother’s life and on the conflicts that arose in my family as her need for care increased.”

Daisy Jacobs and Chris with their art The Bigger Picture

Director Daisy Jacobs (L) and co-animator Chris Wilder (R) working on “The Bigger Picture” (courtesy of the filmmakers)

I also think that the story is slightly vague at times; and leaves some room for the viewer to imagine or decide. Like the style of its art, The Bigger Picture is organized messily in small clips, as if from a flashback of a memory, pieced back together. I think that The Bigger Picture has the second highest chance to win the Oscar.

Jacobs’s next short animation is about family break-up and has been successfully crowd-funded on Kickstarter. “Production starts in June. It will use the same life-size technique with startling new elements!” says Jacobs, “I can’t wait to start painting!” Her advice to aspiring artists is a succinct ideology she clearly takes to heart: “Be shamelessly individual.”



Feast, a Disney production that is played ahead of its Oscar-nominated animation feature “Big Hero 6,” follows the life of the lovable Boston Terrier Winston, who loves food just as much as he loves his owner. It’s a dog’s life for Winston, spoiled every day with an endless supply of meaty junk food and leftovers from his master’s single lifestyle. However, everything in the playful pup’s life is turned upside-down when a new love interest, a health-conscious waitress, enters their lives, whose presence restricts the canine’s diet to one of sparse vegetation. Winston is relieved when the two break up, before noticing his owner’s ensuing despondency. Winston is faced with the hardest decision of his life; between food and his master’s happiness.

Perry Chen with Oscar-nominated, Annie-winning animation short "Feast" director Patrick Osborne & producer Kristina Reed at 2015 Annie Awards red carpet (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen with “Feast” director Patrick Osborne (R) & producer Kristina Reed (L) at 2015 Annie Awards red carpet (photo by Zhu Shen)

“We made the film in 53 weeks,” explains producer Kristina Reed at the 2015 Annie Awards, “we were racing so that we could stay ahead of Big Hero 6.”  One of the greatest challenges for making the film was summed up by Director Patrick Osborne, that there is an “amazing amount of talent available, but they are there only for a small amount of time, so you gotta make sure that all the things are in place…” Story-wise, the concept was quite simple to begin with; “ based on this idea of telling a story through dinner,” remarked Osborne, “I thought I could tell a story that way.  You know how when you’re eating alone, your dinners work a certain way, and then maybe a first date dinner would look a bit differently, eating healthy is different, and eating with family is different.” Finding a subject, a protagonist, for the story to follow was a challenge as well. “It took a while to find the right animal,” explains Reed, “ We had to look through all the other dogs that have ever been done by Disney and find one that hadn’t.”

Perry Chen holding “Feast” Limited Edition poster (photo by Zhu Shen)

Feast probably has the highest chance of winning the Oscar this year, largely due to the fact that it won the Annie Awards. I think that they would definitely deserve it, too, because it is my clear second favorite out of all of the nominated ones. This year, Feast’s animation has the quality that none of the others have: realistic, lively movement. Also, the simplistic story conveyed a message easy to follow.


The Dam Keeper

“Dad had always said the job of the dam keeper is to keep the darkness away. But he never told me what to do when it surrounds you. His mask protected me from the cloud, but nothing I had protected me from the people.”-Pig

In a pastel-colored future, a single town inhabited by anthropomorphic animals has survived thanks to the large windmill dam, whose spinning arms help keep out the Cloud, a stifling, inky mass of polluted fumes. The dam’s sole operator, the school-aged Pig, winds up the windmill every day, keeping the blades rotating and the town safe. Even so, Pig is mocked by his peers for his dirtiness and shunned by a snide, indifferent public; an outcast despite all that he does. Everything changes, though, when an unlikely new student arrives in town, Fox, who becomes Pig’s only friend who brings sunshine and art to his life.

Both directors, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, had a long history of collaboration at Pixar even before taking on The Dam Keeper as directors of their first independent animated short project. “We pretty much worked on the same projects every time,” Tsutsumi pointed out in my Skype interview with the duo: “For Toy Story 3, Robert was the art director on set design, and I was the art director on lighting and color, […], our offices were always kinda right next to each other, too.”

Perry watch Oscar-nominated animation short "The Dam Keeper" co-director Dice Tsutsumi draw for him at 2015 Annie Awards (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen watching “The Dam Keeper” co-director Dice Tsutsumi (R) draw for him at 2015 Annie Awards, with co-director Robert Kondo (L) (photo by Zhu Shen)

“This is the first time Dice and I have written anything together, and it took a long time. We worked at Pixar while we were writing this film,” Kondo elaborated, “ It took us about a year, and in that year, we went through about five almost completely different stories.”

One story in particular contributed a great deal to the general idea of the plot: a century-old folktale titled The Little Dutch Boy, in which a young boy plugs a hole in a leaking dam with his finger. “Well that’s an interesting premise for our main character,” Kondo explained, “[We thought,] what if every day, he (the protagonist) was saving the town, but the town actually didn’t know it. We want to showcase the type of people whose work is important to a lot of people, but whose work is neglected, not rewarded, or even intentionally ignored by the people they serve, yet they still find it important to keep going.”

Perry Chen with “The Dam Keeper” co-director Robert Kondo (R) and producer Megan Bartel (L) at the 2015 Oscar Shorts Awards hosted by ShortsHD (photo by Zhu Shen)

Without a doubt, The Dam Keeper is my top favorite animated short of 2014.  Even the first time I saw it at the San Diego Asian Film Festival in November 2014, I was completely blown away. I remember sitting in the audience after the film ended, thinking to myself that it would undoubtedly be in the Oscar running. I had good reason for it too; plot-wise, The Dam Keeper worked in a kind of charm rarely seen in modern-day animation. This, coupled with nail-biting suspense, a sense of real danger, and visceral feelings of isolation and scorn that everyone has undoubtedly felt before, The Dam Keeper is truly an emotional roller-coaster.

Perry Chen sharing a smile with “The Dam Keeper” co-director Robert Kondo while he is drawing for Perry at the 2015 Oscar Shorts Awards hosted by ShortsHD (photo by Zhu Shen)

I noticed that Fox is popular in the town. Even the animals who don’t like Pig enjoy Fox’s cool drawings. It speaks to the power of art, and how art connects and inspire people.  “Art is such a big part of our life, it’s nice to include it in Fox’s life,” said Kondo.

Kondo and Tsutsumi’s new animation company Tonko House has made its mark in the animation industry already after the duo left Pixar last July to pursue their own artistic vision, garnering multiple film festival awards and nominations for both the Annie Awards and the Oscars. Tonko House plans to release more animations, perhaps expanding the story of The Dam Keeper, by exploring the world beyond the dam.  Their new stories will be driven not by plots, but by whom they are as artists. “We want to find stories we want to tell and share with the world. We are digging deep and trying to figure out who we are first as people,” said Tsutsumi, whose favorite animation is Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” which is also my own favorite Miyazaki film.  Kondo’s favorite is Pixar’s WALL-E.

In summery, I predict that Disney’s Feast will win, because of its huge support and recent Annie Award. Also, people love and connect with stories about pets. The second most likely to win would be The Bigger Picture. Who knows, maybe the most unorthodox and somber film will pull through. Most of all, I would be happiest if The Dam Keeper wins, since it is my favorite short of the year, and the most emotional story of all.

I look forward to meeting all of these talented animation directors at the Oscar-nominated Shorts Awards in Beverly Hills on February 21, 2015, the night before the Oscars, hosted by ShortsHD, one of my favorite awards event of the year!

Perry Chen with "How to Train Your Dragon 2" director Dean DeBlois and Producer Bonnie Arnold at 2015 Annie Awards for Animation (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen with “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ director Dean DeBlois (R) and Producer Bonnie Arnold (L) at 2015 Annie Awards for Animation (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen with “How to Train Your Dragon 2” director Dean DeBlois and his drawing of Hiccup for Perry at 2015 Annie Awards (photo by Zhu Shen)

Finally, among the Oscar-nominated animation features, “Big Hero 6,” “The Boxtrolls,” “Song of the Sea,” “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” I predict DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2” directed by Dean DeBlois, produced by Bonnie Arnold to take home the Oscar.  Dragon 2 is my only 5-starfish-rated film of 2014, a sequel that can stand on its own compared to its amazing original in 2010. It seems unstoppable with its Golden Globe and Annie Awards!

Copyright 2015 by Perry S. Chen


About Perry Chen:

Perry S. Chen is a 14-year-old award-winning child critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 8th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog, as well as restaurant reviews for DiningOut San Diego Magazine and San Diego Entertainer. He won the San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2013 for his movie and restaurant reviews.

Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his most personal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. Zhu Shen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancer researcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after a long, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to support Perry’s animation film:

Perry won an “Excellence in Journalism Award” from San Diego Press Club in 2010 and 2011 for his movie and restaurant reviews, an “Excellence Writer Award” from “We Chinese in America” Magazine in 2010 for his movie review column. Perry is widely recognized as an authoritative spokesperson about movies for his generation, and appears frequently at red carpet movie premieres, awards, and film festivals, interviewing prominent directors from such films as Toy Story 3, Up, How to Train Your Dragon.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation in Hollywood.  Perry and his mom Dr. Zhu Shen are featured in a new book about parenting and youth entrepreneurship, “The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids,” published in Aug 2011.

Perry’s first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” in collaboration with animation legend Bill Plympton, won multiple film festival awards and has been screened at over 30 international film festivals, now available on iTunes. More info:

Watch “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” on iTunes:

Watch Perry on “Live Life & Win” national TV show:

Become a fan on Facebook: (Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest official FB page) (Perry’s Previews fan page)

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For business inquiries about Perry Chen, his animation films, movie reviews, contact Dr. Zhu Shen, cc0218 at gmail dot com


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