2023 Animated Shorts – Reviews

My Year of Dicks (Dir. Sara Gunnarsdóttir)

My Year of Dicks is a charming, coming-of-age short film that many, many will relate to. With stunning animation, witty dialogue, and a story the author is deeply connected to, this short film is truly one you want to spend more time with. The film follows a fifteen-year-old girl in the 1990s as she sets out to lose her virginity. My Year of Dicks was adapted by Pamela Ribon from her memoir, “Notes to Boys (And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public).” The short film was originally going to be part of a television series at FXX, but the network was confident in the film and proceeded to taking My Year of Dicks to film festivals over the next year.

The film is broken into chapters with each chapter’s animation created by a different artist. Each one feels unique with their various animation styles, but they are so deeply connected by the strength of the story tying them all together. Anyone who grew up desperately wanting a big, romantic relationship and to feel that ‘spark’ or have butterflies will easily relate to My Year of Dicks.

Film lovers will find amazing easter eggs to films that could have been responsible for sexual awakenings in their late teens.  There are such strong callbacks to many of our adolescent years outside of film from awkward ‘birds and the bees’ talks with parents to innocent friendships that could be more.

Ribon creates an easy, hilarious yet earnest reflection on the inner life of a teenage girl. Our most private thoughts that many of us kept to ourselves or shared in secrecy with close friends displayed in bright, kaleidoscopic animation feels special. While some coming-of-age stories can often feel manufactured, My Year of Dicks is an honest look back.

– Kenzie

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse (Dir. Peter Baynton & Charlie Mackesy)

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse follows these four vastly different creatures attempting to help the boy find his home. Directed by Peter Baynton and Charlie Mackesy, this film blends beautiful animation with one of the best scores of the year from Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to craft a short that is truly entrancing.

The dialogue, while a bit too cheesy at times, is quotable and relatable. Sayings about being kind and how asking for help is a form of fighting on are things that anyone might need to hear, but especially those at a younger age. The voice performances are also great from a very talented group of performers. Tom Hollander is charming as the mole, and Idris Elba’s Fox is relatable in the insecurities and worries he has.

Through beautiful animation, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse tells a story of loneliness and loss through a boy’s struggle to find a home. What this short does so well is showing that home itself might not always be somewhere with four walls and a roof; sometimes home can come in the form of people who stick by your side and help you through.


The Flying Sailor (Dir. Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby)

The Halifax Explosion of 1917 remains the largest artificial non-nuclear explosion to ever occur. It happened on the morning of December 6, 1917, when a French cargo ship and a Norwegian vessel collided in the waters of Nova Scotia. One ship was carrying large amounts of explosives which were set off by the collision, causing destruction for miles around. Almost 1,800 were killed and another 9,000 were injured. The exploitation was particularly destructive for the Black community of Africville and the indigenous Mi’kmaq people of the region. 

But amidst the tragedy, one extraordinary thing occurred: a 22-year-old sailor named Charles John Mayers was picked up by the blast and deposited back on the ground a half a mile away wearing nothing but his boots. He lived, despite all odds, and was able to help piece together what had occurred. Mayers serves as the inspiration for Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s animated short, The Flying Sailor. 

In the short film, which clocks in under eight minutes, we see the sailor on the dock as the two boats collide. Then he is flung into the air where he floats along, naked, for several minutes as flashes of reminders of humanity – both in his own life and in the natural world – appear to him. The film features no dialogue, only Luigi Allemano’s beautiful score. 

The combination of 2D and 3D animation, along with some live-action shots, is interesting and the styles are unique, though not particularly to my personal taste. More context for the story being depicted might have improved the film, which can seem a bit boring despite its short length as the middle section of him floating lasts several minutes. Still, The Flying Sailor is a creative commemoration of one of the most strange parts of the tragic Halifax Explosion. 

– Nicole

An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It (Dir. Lachlan Pendragon)

Told through a wildly existential mind akin to that of Charlie Kaufman, An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It follows a telemarketer named Neil who has slowly become hyper-aware of the inconsistencies within his surroundings. Whether it be the changing landscapes or other various oddities (including mouths falling off and people typing on desks that don’t exist), Neil begins to question the entire world that he is in. When Ostrich comes along, confirming his theories, Neil sets out to prove himself right by showing how the world he knows isn’t real.

Director Lachlan Pendragon utilizes stop-motion animation in a spellbindingly interesting way. Starting with watching this short through a screen that is displaying what the cameras are picking up, we get a sense of the different worlds between us and the figures. By doing this, Pendragon creates a truly existential experience for the audience by displaying an objectively fake claymation figure having a crisis in his reality.

When the stop-motion world meets up with the real world, it is both tense and entertaining watching this figurine figure out the world around him. But by the end, it becomes eye-opening with Pendragon showing the disposable nature of Neil given that he has an infinite number more. At times scary and at times a true trip of a movie, An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It is as absurd as the title would leave you to believe, but it is quite interesting as well.

– Jacob

Ice Merchants (Dir. João Gonzalez)

Told with some of the most breathtaking hand-drawn animation I have seen in quite some time, Ice Merchants tells the story of a young boy and his father who live above the clouds and deliver ice to the people below.

This film looks beautiful thanks to the impeccable animation, but it stands out in the dialogue, or lack thereof. Having no dialogue forces the audience to take a closer look into what is happening and connect with the characters and João Gonzalez’s film does just that. The film follows a father and son who do everything together, and when it all goes wrong and the father has to protect his son, I surprisingly found myself getting surprisingly emotional.

In only 14 short minutes, Ice Merchants can reel you in and force you to feel, and deliver an experience that none of the other animated shorts were able to evoke, and in a creative and risky way too. It’s not just a story of a father’s love for his son and the desire to do anything he needs to protect him. It’s also a tale about loss, and how the loss of a mother can be felt, but when she is needed most she will be there for her family. I was truly blown away by how powerful this short was.

– Jacob

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