For fans of animation, especially shorts, this was a bountiful year, Pixar nailed it with two shorts this year: the Toy Story-themed Partysaurus Rex and the visually stunning La Luna, which captured an Oscar earlier this year. Fox hit us with a Maggie Simpson short, The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare, and the Cartoon Brew animation blog really became an invaluable resource, notably its annual Student Animation Festival, which had more than 200 entries in 2012, one of which is featured on my list below.
21 Years in 7 Minutes, Caroline Torres (Cartoon Brew) Almost all of the animated shorts I've watched this year fit into the category of animated film, as if there were more inherent merit in that than in cartooning, so I appreciate the fact that Torres went straight for the cartoon jugular in laying bare the peculiarities of her life story (so far). By being so personal and so funny about it, she ends up making an animated film anyway.
One Day, De Joël Corcia, Bung Nguyen, Thomas Reteuna, Laurent Rossi, Bernard Som (Gobelins) In this lonely piece of fiction, a man lives in a house that is unstuck in time, keeping its foundation in place only one day before picking up and disappearing into another time and place altogether. When it lands in a modern city, a cup of coffee could change everything. The possibilities are endless with this concept (as with all time travelers), and it's a shame they had to whittle it down to one story, but they chose a great one.
Paperman, John Kahrs (now playing with Wreck-It Ralph) Though I chose to do this list alphabetically, Paperman is one of the best films I've seen in years of any genre, length or artistic discipline. The film adheres to the Disney style of magic, employing the paper airplanes in the same tone that Mickey did 50 years ago with his enchanted brooms, while also forging new ground stylistically with its brilliant multi-layered mottled ink-and-paint style. I can't speak highly enough of this film.
Patton Oswalt's Magical Black Man, Dan Henrick (AV Club) You could argue that Oswalt's storytelling is the driving force behind this short, but the purposely crude animation serves this story unbelievably well as Patton has a life-altering meeting with a polite magical black man, changing the course of his comedy forever.
Sundays at Rocco's, the Rauch brothers (StoryCorps) This is a sweet, heartbreaking story of immigration, eminent domain and Sunday supper – but above all, family and the sadness that comes as we drift apart.