|Scene from World of Tomorrow|
With the news of this year's Academy Awards nominations fueling a lot of conversation on the internet, it's easy to lose sight of the categories outside of acting, directing, and writing. For many, the Best Animated Short category is a treasure trove of content that will never be seen by mainstream audiences (unless you're in front of a Pixar film). However, there's one surprise nominee that is definitely worth your time, and will hopefully be on more people's radars as they work through the list. I am talking about director Don Hertzfeldt's World of Tomorrow, which may look unassuming and juvenile, but was one of the greatest philosophical stories of 2015. The best part is that you can watch it right now online for free. That is, if you have a Netflix account and 16 minutes.
For those who need a crash course in Hertzfeldt's style, it's pretty difficult to sell without sounding a little crazy. Starting in the 90's, he worked to create subversive animation (most of which is available on his YouTube page) which attempted to revolutionize hand drawn animation by combining it with narratives that were either crass or more mature than the style would suggest. His breakout hit was Rejected, which landed him his first Oscar nomination in Best Animated Short - and featured some of his more surrealistic concepts. He would continue to experiment, finding a niche by the time he released It's Such a Beautiful Day: a collection of three shorts combined to tell the story of a manic depressive stick figure. It was also a turning point, in that it combined multiple animation styles into his whole perfectly surreal vision.
His latest, World of Tomorrow, premiered at Sundance and has been getting nonstop acclaim since. If it's not as ambitious as It's Such a Beautiful Day, it at least is more assured and mature. Following an adolescent girl named Emily, it follows her story as she's exposed to a weird future that is pure Hertzfeldt. Most of all, the balance between melancholic and comical is done superbly and gives the short an overall sense of purpose. Considering that the visual style may be an adjustment for some, it may not appeal to mass audiences, even though I personally love it and rented it back when it became available on Vimeo when it premiered (if you wish to see it this way, you can rent it here for 30 days at the cost of $3.99).
If you're more conservative with your spending and have a Netflix account, there's some good news for you. As of this publication, you can watch the Oscar-nominated short for free through streaming. Considering that the short only runs 16 minutes, there's not too much of a commitment to worry about. I assure you that if you've always wondered what goes on with this category, it's definitely worth your time. If nothing else, I hope that it helps you to respect the craft of Hertzfeldt, whose animation technique is far and away a very interesting counterculture to Pixar and Studio Ghibli films. I will be reposting a review that I wrote on Optigrab tomorrow so that you can get a better idea of what World of Tomorrow is about.
To watch the short on Netflix, please click here and enjoy.