Australian award-winning animated short films
There are over 1,000 Australian animated short films in the NFSA collection, with the earliest here dating back to the 1920s.
Examples in this curated collection encompass analogue techniques like hand-drawn cel animation, through to 2D and stop-motion animation and purely digital works complete with 3D computer-generated imagery.
Regardless of how they were made, these shorts encapsulate the creative vision of the filmmakers and are labours of love, often taking many years to produce.
We also collect documentation for these productions, including storyboards and other materials that illustrate the work of the filmmakers from initial concept, to planning and final implementation.
Using stop motion and two colourful, crocheted and endearing lead characters, directors Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe and producer Lucy Hayes spent four years making Lost and Found, which you can watch here in full.
The shoot took 14 months and the attention to detail is evident, from the back story provided so the audience understands the relationship between the characters through to the custom-built set.
Several handcrafted puppets were purpose-built to handle different animation situations. Lead animator Samuel Lewis was with the project for three years and created water substitutes from heat-warped acetate, bubble wrap, hair gel and personal lubricant. This allowed the waves and splashes to remain rigid long enough to capture the desired frames.
Lost and Found has attracted awards in Australia and across the globe, including the Yoram Gross Animation Award at the Sydney Film Festival 2018 and the AACTA Award for Best Short Animation 2018. Lost and Found was also one of 10 films shortlisted for the 91st Academy Awards in the Best Short Film (Animated) category.
The Cat Piano, which you can watch here in full, is a short animation narrated by Nick Cave.
In a city of singing cats, a lonely beat poet falls for a beautiful siren. When a mysterious dark figure emerges, kidnapping the town's singers for his twisted musical plans, the poet must save his muse and put an end to the nefarious tune that threatens to destroy the city.
The delivery of the poem by musician Nick Cave is reminiscent of poetry associated with the Beat Generation, such as 'Howl' by Alan Ginsberg. The music complements this approach.
The animation employs a limited colour palette of purple, white, green and red against shaded black.
This is a short clip from the stop motion sand animation The Hunter by director, writer and animator Marieka Walsh.
A boy goes missing in the icy wilderness, feared taken by wolves. A hunter undertakes a journey to find the boy, dead or alive.
As the hunter tracks the boy into the mountains, he discovers that his instincts can no longer be trusted. Here, far from civilisation he must make decisions that will forever change his relationship with the wilderness he has always feared.
Combining sand and stop motion creates a distinctive illustrative technique. Marieka Walsh manipulates her materials to create playful interactions between with light and shade to generate a depth of tone.
The animation was created with a piece of glass cut to size, cardboard, sand, brushes, ceramic tools and her hands and was shot on an Oxberry model 6, a 35mm animation camera from the 1960s.
The animated short Dad’s Clock is narrated by Barry Otto and can be seen here in full. A giant metal bird flies towards the wooden skeleton of a ship on a wooden slatted sea. Inside the ship is the timber figure of a man making a wooden clock. The bird returns a number of times to assist.
This clip is from The Lost Thing, which started as a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. The book was later adapted into a short film narrated by the multi-talented performer, Tim Minchin. It won an Oscar for Best Short Film (Animated) at the 2010 Academy Awards, held on 27 February 2011.
Set in a bleak Australian future, The Lost Thing is a story about a boy who enjoys collecting bottle tops. One day he discovers a very strange creature which the narrator refers to as 'The Lost Thing'
This clip illustrates the structured world of the film and creates a sense of isolation, particularly through the music at the beginning. Signs and instructions highlight the rigidity of the world the boy inhabits.
The story emphasises the importance of curiosity and compassion, as the boy and The Lost Thing move through a montage of the city looking for the right location. The Lost Thing is both an ally to the boy in this world and something to be looked after, akin to a younger sibling.
True to the style of Shaun Tan, many questions about The Lost Thing remain unanswered. The hulking shape and size of The Lost Thing is juxtaposed with its friendly, playful demeanour and the dainty bells that make it look vulnerable in such an indifferent world.
The tentacles and pincers are reminiscent of another sea creature – the hermit crab, which moves as it needs to inhabit larger shells. Is The Lost Thing a part of the big red teapot-like structure, or is it sheltered within?
In Pussy Pumps Up, which can be viewed here in full, a feline female figure assumes more masculine characteristics.
Summary by Dr Marian Quigley.
This short film by Isobel Knowles was originally made for the Melbourne Women's Circus and later adapted for the Amazing Rolling Picture Show in Sydney where it was shown on a screen attached to a rickshaw.
Knowles plays with the role of women within a fantastic life cycle that includes pregnancy, birth, circus performance and transformation into a bird.
The animation style uses shadow effects and the classic paper cut-out stop motion technique. It is reminiscent of pre-cinema formats, such as the zoetrope.
Lucky is a music video created for the band All lndia Radio. It won Best Animated Music Video at the St Kilda Film Festival in 2010.
Darcy Prendergast and the team at Oh Yeah Wow merged live action with images created with coloured lights to animate inner-city Melbourne.
The instrumental music provides a melancholic feel in contrast to the bright, often playful, animated figures and neon 'scribbles'.
Prendergast said, 'Lucky was spontaneous – we would leave the studio as soon as night fell and spend an hour or two on set every night just trying to think of what to shoot. There wasn't much of a direction, it was just fun.'
This is a clip from The Gallant Captain, which was written and developed by Graeme Base in collaboration with Katrina Mathers and animation studio The Lampshade Collective who had previously made the multi-award winning short animated film, Nullarbor (2011).
The Gallant Captain is about a boy called Will who sails into unknown waters with his Cat, a little bottle and a vivid imagination. Faced with certain peril, Will must learn to become the Gallant Captain. It's a beautiful exploration of grief, imagination and friendship.
The film has won numerous awards, including from Aspen Shortfest Film Festival 2014 (Best Short Film), St Kilda Film Festival 2014 (Best Animation) and Hsin Yi Children's Animation Award 2014 (Winner).
Dr Claude Belgon (Helmut Bakaitis) watches from the shadows as Jasper Morello (Joel Edgerton) is attacked by the creature they discover on the island. Summary by Dr Marian Quigley.
Lee (voiced by Alycia Debnam-Carey) plays with her food at dinner while a radio broadcaster (Barry Eaton) describes a scene at the airport where Mrs Petrov (voiced by Inge Romantsova) is attempting to board a plane back to the Soviet Union. The dinner scene is interrupted by black–and-white news footage of the event taking place. The next morning we return to the family listening to the radio around the breakfast table where they hear that Mrs Petrov has now sought, and been granted, asylum in Australia.
Notes by Stephanie A Nemazee
Manuk (voiced by Joshua Ahn), pretending to shoot a gun, exchanges a few battle cries with his absent father, and throws a rock at a man on a bicycle, who crashes. It is the postman, who nevertheless has delivered a parcel. Manuk walks home, unwraps the mysterious parcel and plays with its contents.
Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz.
In the 1800s, Adnyamathanha children of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia were inspired, schooled and entertained by their interactions with country.
In this clip from the short animated film, three adventurous kids have set out for a day of exploration near their camp, playing traditional games and spooking one another with tales of the ancient Yamuti.
Later, they find unusual tracks that set their hearts racing, and make a discovery that changes their lives forever.
Harvie Krumpet wishes for things to change, and they certainly do. The family home burns to the ground, his parents are frozen to death, the Germans invade and he escapes to Australia. Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz.
'Hi-ro-ko, Hiroko!' In the short film My Little Sumo, which you can watch here in full, Australian girl Daisy gets a sumo name from her trainer Kenji and then nothing will stop her in the quest to become a champion.
But life doesn't always go according to plan and Daisy learns that loss is something that brings a family together in their saddest moments.
My Little Sumo has a richly textured animation style, with many surfaces patterned to create interest. The scenes are often from a low angle, replicating the height of the protagonist. Dreams, or other sequences where imagination takes hold, are seen from a higher angle.
The story navigates between finding interests in the real world and the possible places your imagination can take you, with neither needing to take precedence.
Leisure, directed by Australian master animator Bruce Petty in 1976, won the Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated). It is one of the more unusual films to have come out of Film Australia and you can watch it in full here.
It represents a time when Film Australia and the filmmakers were pushing the boundaries and exercising more freedom in their films. The film emphasises the use of leisure time as an important aspect of life in our society. Planning for recreation and leisure time should be undertaken both on a personal and on a public level.
Bruce Petty made several more films for Film Australia as well as many independently released projects including his film Utopia in 2012. Produced by Suzanne Baker.
Animal Beatbox, which you can watch here in full, doesn’t have a story. Instead, it’s a music video with voice and paper cut-outs that relies on repetition for its humour.
Animal Beatbox was a controversial winner at the 2011 Tropfest short film festival. Was it a fresh and experimental short animation for the internet age? Or a gimmicky novelty, created quickly by filmmaker-actor Damon Gameau in his mum's spare room, reputedly for less than $90?
Tropfest founder and Director, John Polson, said, 'It’s such an interesting and unusual film, unlike anything I have seen. The crowd reaction was incredible. It’s the sort of film that’s difficult to describe – an animated poem – that somehow resonated with the huge audience.'
A cartoon adventure featuring Captain Goodvibes, the pig of steel, and his sidekick Astro. You can watch Hot to Trot here in its entirety.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
Mac trudges up the hill, followed by his loyal Mutt. The milking done, Mutt would love to play with the bovine Matilda, but must follow Mac to meet the milk truck. Mac collects his meagre payment, but there is no reward for Mutt. Mutt is left all alone with his ball till nightfall. Undeterred in his enthusiasm, he bounds up the hill to play with Matilda.
The combination of live action and puppetry in The Detectives of Noir Town, which you can watch here in full, offers a playful take with the tropes of film noir. The film comes complete with a murder, voice-over narration and a femme fatale.
To make The Detectives of Noir Town, Andrew Chambers taught himself puppetry. The film is voiced by David Collins (The Umbilical Brothers), Nick Boshier (Beached Az) and film and TV actress Zoe Carides.
A Tasmanian tiger paces inside its caged enclosure, then is seen in its native environment and in suburbia. In voice-over, people recount their sightings of the animal.
Summary by Dr Marian Quigley
This is a clip from the multi-award winning, hand-drawn animation The Orchestra, by Mikey Hill.
The film explores a world where striking the wrong note is literal, not figurative. A band of tiny musicians follows you, playing the soundtrack to your life – communicating your emotions, fears and hopes.
This clip shows Vernon, a lonely man with crippling shyness. He is shuttered away from the world, trying to save his pot plant, with his tiny musicians playing out of key and out of tempo.
The Orchestra was nominated for Best Short Animation at the 2015 AACTA Awards and has screened at over 100 film festivals. The film has received 38 awards and honours, including Best Animation and Best Original Score (by Jamie Messenger) at the 2016 St Kilda Film Festival and the Yoram Gross Award for Best Australian Short Animation at the 2016 Flickerfest Short Film Festival.
You can view the short film Mother Tongue here in its entirety. In Korea in 1976, a young Korean girl and her mother record daily events for the girl’s absent father, then learn English in preparation for their move to Australia. Voice-over narration is by Anita Beckman.
A happily napping little kidney bean (voiced by Andy Tamandl) is attacked by two scheming, bullying lima beans (voiced by Helmut Bakaitis). They grow legs and sneak up on it, playing with the kidney bean as if it were a football and laughing uproariously as it lies helpless and flat as a pancake.
Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz
Idyllic hills and a lush banana plantation are rendered in glowing watercolours. A farmer emerges from his Queenslander home and greets the day. He plays a lilting tune on his trumpet, coaxing garlands of bananas to unfurl from verdant palm leaves. Suddenly, garlands of a different kind begin to sprout: a high-rise tower appears with a thud on the horizon, and then multiplies into many buildings. The farmer, alarmed at this invasion of his landscape, walks down the stairs of his home to ground level, his trumpet at the ready.
A young boy, Snooks, chases the animated figure of Snippy up a ladder in his back garden. Snippy teases Snooks before springing over his head and up a tree, then onto a children’s roundabout. Snooks pushes the roundabout but Snippy steals away and climbs through a ventilation hole in the side of the house. Snippy taunts Snooks from inside the hole, his words appearing in a speech bubble, ‘Ta ta Snooks, see you next week’.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
A man cruises St Kilda’s streets in his car at night, and talks about his experiences visiting prostitutes. Sex worker Gillian talks about what it’s like being a prostitute. The police patrol St Kilda and pick up Gillian on suspicion of prostitution.
Summary by Kate Matthews
You can watch Love Song here in its entirety.
The setting is a desolate rocky landscape and cave. A motley crew of three punk-like rats (voiced by Richard Gray and Bruce Currie) provide the chorus for their buddy, the guitar strumming lovelorn Rat (sung by Paul Livingston). Rat spruces himself up and boldly ventures into the dark lair of the object of his love, the mysterious Pussy (voiced by Miche Bonnett).
Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz
In the early years of the 20th Century, Marconi revolutionised communication, Queen Victoria died, and Australia federated. What’s more, imagination took off as the Wright Brothers flew over America, Pavlov questioned the thought process, Picasso challenged perception and Einstein explained relativity. The workers, inspired by Marx, were stirring; empires were far-flung and expanding; and European aristocrats were surprised to see that wealth could come to ordinary people like Americans.
Bruce Petty combines animation, photography and historical footage to explore the achievements and conflicts of the 20th century. This clip is narrated by Neville Thiele.
Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz
Tegan the Vegan, which you can watch here in full, is a stop motion film that draws on the experiences of director Marisa Martin who became a vegetarian at 12 after visiting an abattoir.
The characters were made from epoxy putty, polymer clay, aluminium foil, foam and magnets.
The cast boasts a number of well-known actors, including Noni Hazlehurst as Mrs Poodle and Tegan's Mum; Paul McDermott as Trent, Dorian and Bryan; and Charli Robinson as Tegan.
This form of animation, sometimes called claymation, is highly time consuming. It took a week to create six seconds of film.
You can watch the animated short film Crust here in its entirety.
The protagonists of this surreal drama are seated at the kitchen table arguing over a broken biscuit. Evenrude (voiced by Bruce Currie) resembles a medieval knight with a propeller head, the other figure (voiced by John E Hughes AKA Hobart Hughes) has a head that is a cross between a football and an African sculpture. Each figure sees a fish – supposedly the protagonists’ dinner – circling in space. Inside the biscuit, a hardworking ant works for a 'crust’ to feed his family.
Little Kevin (voiced by Philip Joseph) is busy licking his snotty face at the supermarket. He hides from his mother, opens a packet of lollies off the shelf and gobbles them greedily. An old lady trips over the lollies he’s spilled and falls. Kevin laughs at her helplessness and jumps over her to get to his next treat: a box of ‘Chocky Pops’ cereal with a grinning monkey on the box. Stuffing his face, Kevin notices too late that the monkey has come to life. The monkey stuffs Kevin into the cereal packet and a punch-up ensues. The monkey emerges from the box victorious.