I’ll say that going in, there is a general caveat that all of these animated shorts are supposed to be fantastical and take viewers to imaginary worlds where Michelin Men talk and the Grim Reaper is real. But I still think that they need to follow the rules of the world that the animators have created. To the extent that the short film  is successful at that largely defines how much I enjoyment I get from it.

French Roast

Jared: Not a strong way to start off the animated shorts. While there was a certain old-fashioned sense of humor to which I related, this short depicting a businessman who can’t pay his bill really wasn’t that funny, and it definitely was trying to be a comic film. The “twists” weren’t unexpected and also didn’t really add anything. The short wasn’t awful, I may have chuckled a few times, but wasn’t anything special.

Brian: An odd little story that had some amusing physical humor, French Toast didn’t make all that much sense to me. There was too much going on for such a short film — between the cop, the waiter, the bum, the snooty espresso drinker, the old woman, the wanted poster — nothing really stuck as one conceit worth highlighting. I did like how they played with the use of the cafe’s mirrors and glass doors — where all the reflections combined for a fascinating optical illusion — but it was still likely my least favorite of the batch.

The Lady and the Reaper

Jared: There seemed to be a collective gasp from the audience when Antonio Banderas’ name appeared in the credits as a producer, which was a little odd. The short starts out a little sad, focusing on a little old lady who lost her beloved husband and who now lives alone. She passes away in her sleep, and then…well…hilarity ensues. I guess I’d call it the closest thing to a modern Looney Tunes I’ve seen, but whatever it was, I laughed almost nonstop. Just about everything in the short worked, and worked well. Somehow, it’s sense of humor careened from Marx Brothers to Edward Gorey, relentless trying to top itself. Best thing I saw all night.

Brian: One of my top two of the bunch — and I agree with Jared, this seemed like a Looney Tunes sketch of the best kind. Batty, engaging, and even touching at times — the short hit all the right notes. It even had many of the small side-jokes emblematic of the Pixar films; the three-headed poodle acting as Cerberus was brilliant.

A Matter of Loaf and Death

Jared: At this point, any Nick Park creation is going to come with higher expectations, unfair or not. And unfortunately, while impressively clocking in at about a half-hour run time, this short failed to reach those expectations, though it was still decent. Many of the familiar tropes were there, same sense of humor, same dynamic between Wallace and Gromit. And it was funny at times, with some great puns littered throughout the short. But too often it felt like a retread of a sitcom. I didn’t think the other characters worked particularly well, plus they meant less time was devoted to Wallace and Gromit’s relationship, never a good thing.

Brian: I agree with most of what Jared said — it lacked the inventiveness of their other work and I didn’t sense their imaginitive spirit. Nick Park put in the same old jokes without a new twist, and while its to his credit that he kept my attention for 30 minutes, I couldn’t help but just think “meh” while watching the credits.

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

Jared: A fractured fairly tale of a bitter grandma telling a bedtime story to her frightened granddaughter, this is a one-joke short. The joke is fairly funny, but the film desperately needed a further developed sense of humor. Because while it was it pretty entertaining, the joke was wearing thin well before the end and with even one more source of humor, it could have been something special.

Brian: Dammit Jared, I want to stop agreeing with you. I felt as though I was watching a bizarre SNL animated sketch: one joke and a very well done joke at that. (Oh wait, maybe it isn’t like SNL…) I found the animation to be probably one of the more interesting of the batch — a twist on the picture storybooks we grew up with, but beyond that — it was one joke that just never died.

Logorama

Jared: Simply put, the idea behind this short (which basically depicts a world in which everything, person, place, building, car, everything is a logo) is pretty brilliant. The execution felt indifferent. There’s sort of a police action movie in there, with a car chase, hostages, and a standoff. Then it becomes a disaster movie of sort. I’d imagine there’s a message in there somewhere, but I have no clue what it is. Some people in the audience seemed to have fun picking out all the logos, and the integration of some of them was pretty ingenious. But I didn’t find the short to be interesting at all.

Brian: Yes! A disagreement! I thought this was a great idea that fell off the rails in the third act when it tried to get political — and I don’t like my cartoons to be political, goshdarnit. Throughout the short, my eyes were darting all around the screen looking for each and every joke placed by the animators. This was easily the most ambitious of the bunch, I place it as the other of the top two merely for its audacity. I guess I would be among that “some in the audience” group Jared mentioned.

BRIAN: Will win: Wallace and Gromit; Should win: The Lady and the Reaper

JARED: Ditto. Will Win: Wallace and Gromit; Should win: The Lady and the Reaper

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