Ranking 1930s Animated Short Oscar Winners
The 1930s were the golden age for animated short films. But even though it had Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop and Popeye among others, the Academy only bestowed its short Oscar to just Disney and basically to the Silly Symphony series alone. And although that is problematic in and of itself, at least the entries they chose were mostly excellent and deserving of the award. So without further ado, let’s rank them by their quality.
8. Three Orphan Kittens
The last place goes to Three Orphan Kittens, a film that definitely deserves that place on this list, but that is mostly because of the tough competition that it faced as the film itself is quite solid and is actually one of my childhood favorites. It is well animated and incredibly cute, but there is unfortunately nothing else to it besides that obviously cutesy and coziness factor. It lacks in terms of storytelling and ambition and that is why it is much inferior to the other entries on the list.
7. The Country Cousin
Whereas Three Orphan Kittens lacks in terms of the substance, The Country Cousin is good in terms of the storytelling, but is still disappointing as it should have been much better in execution. The plot here is so important and timeless that its quite weak treatment is unfortunate as the film decides to be a mixture of gags and goofs instead of being the exploration of the relationship between the two mice. But the ending is still incredibly good and the film is so charming that it still ended up being quite good, if not great.
6. Flowers and Trees
This low ranking of hugely influential and important Flowers and Trees doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the film as I really hold a huge admiration for its groundbreaking color animation and character design, but it’s just that in terms of storytelling, it is admittedly quite typical and in the vein of those earlier Silly Symphonies that relied too much on animation and music instead of the plot. But the short still remains an important piece of animation that has aged remarkably well and is admirable to this day.
5. The Old Mill
Everything that I said about the entry above can also be applied here. But whereas it does feel too simplistic in its story and it lacks conflict, The Old Mill is still thematically interesting and it has an even more groundbreaking and important animation than the one in Flowers and Trees. The use of multiplane camera is gorgeously achieved here and the film does look splendid, but its melancholic tone is also really powerful and it remains one of the most intriguing, different Silly Symphonies.
4. The Ugly Duckling
This is the point on the list where we reach the classics as all four of these movies are absolute masterpieces and such great achievements in the medium of animation. The Ugly Duckling is the weakest of the four because it could have been more dramatic and more mature, but it is still probably the best adaptation of this universal tale to this day with absolutely beautiful animation, an endearing, tragic protagonist and such a perfectly utilized storyline with not a single scene wasted. It is poignant and wonderful.
3. Ferdinand the Bull
Being one of the most original entries in the series, Ferdinand the Bull is also one of the most emotionally satisfying and one of the most relevant. Yes, its theme of being different is so well realized in an unusual, yet perfectly fitting storyline. That last sequence in particular is probably my favorite of the whole series as it contains amazing camera work, terrific animation and a great score. Its message of accepting those who are different is so ahead of its time which is why it remains important and touching to this day.
Another important story with a very important message for children, The Tortoise and the Hare manages to teach children about hard work and warn them of arrogance in the best way possible – using a very annoying hare character and a very likable tortoise one. The animation is excellent, but what takes it to the next level is the editing which is deft and just perfect and the overall execution of this plot with not a single moment lacking anything. It is an almost perfect cartoon that would easily be number one if it weren’t for…
1.The Three Little Pigs
And this is the champion, the number one 1930s Oscar winning animated short film – The Three Little Pigs. It has everything the previous couple of entries had – an incredibly important message for children, amazing animation and superb execution, but it also has something that those others lack and that is the music and the character development. Yes, it is groundbreaking in terms of characterization as each and every character here has a personality and is so well defined, but it also has an awesome score and that classic song that remains fantastic today. It is so entertaining, so well told and just perfect in every way and thanks to all of those reasons, it is not only the best on this list, but also the best of the entire decade and in my opinion the finest animated short of all time.