The 10 Best Animated Shorts of the Decade

Best Animated Shorts of the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

With 2019 wrapping up, another decade of cinema comes to a close. From grand blockbusters to more mature international releases, many will remember the feature-length animated films they witnessed in the 2010s. But what about the “little guys” of the animation world? They deserve their time in the film-loving spotlight as well. They are more than just an excuse to run for more chip dip during the Oscar’s telecast and are thriving.

In celebration of all that the decade had to offer, let’s give a salute to the animated shorts. The obvious Pixar and Disney creations will get their respect, along with the unsung heroes of this small yet mighty category. For they often hold the perfect key to blending visual whimsy with some real-world messages – in ways that many feature-length films can’t quite master.

Now, let’s take a look at the 10 Best Animated Shorts of the Decade.

Hair Love

The most recent entry on this list, Hair Love (based on the children’s book of the same name) deserves the recognition for many aspects, but most importantly for its cultural significance. Directed by Matthew A. Cherry, the short combines charming character designs, memorable comedic touches, and an emotional core that makes it impossible not to love. And with representation in entertainment becoming a much-needed focus, this tale of a father doing whatever it takes to make his daughter feel beautiful and proud with her natural self is as modern as it is timeless.

Zero

Upon first glance at a promotional image, Zero (directed by Christopher Kezelos) might seem like a simple tale about some cute yarn dolls. But as its story unfolds, Zero tells a mature story about some all too common issues that continue to plague our world. Combined with haunting imagery, chilling narration, and a heartwrenching ending, Zero‘s messages of acceptance and that all of us have something unique to offer the world, regardless of our nationality, is needed now more than ever.

Dear Basketball

When you pair one of the most famous basketball players in the world with one of the most excellent animators to ever come from Walt Disney Animation, the results can be the definition of magic. That’s certainly the case with the Glen Keane directed Dear Basketball. Narrated by Kobe Bryant (who wrote the letter that inspired the short), this exceptional piece breaks down the barriers of sports and connects the viewer to the simple notions of love. Not the kind of affection that you get for a person, but the sort that fuels you towards your destiny – a sensation that we all can find in our own lives.

A Single Life

Sometimes the greatest of shorts are those that are, well, short. And in the case of Single Life, it has the shortest running time of all of the other films on this list, but still produces some of the most significant reactions in both the funniest and shocking sorts of ways. Directed by Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, and Job Roggeveen, the story is that of a woman who, when playing a 45 rpm record, notices that significant moments in her life are flashing before her eyes. The concept, though silly, represents the inner fears of women across the world and will never lose its low-key creepy factor.

Mr. Hublot

The tale of a man and his best canine friend is a common one, but none of them are quite as quirky (and sometimes downright dark) as Mr. Hublot. The short, direct by French duo Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, shows the journey of the title character and his eventual rescue of a robot dog. Many struggles come from such a pair living in a retro-futuristic environment – but even at its most intense moments, Mr. Hublot is the kind of story that gets you right at your core. Whether you’re a pet owner or know of the issues of owning something hard to tame, the ending of this precious piece of animation never ceases to make you smile and happy cry no matter how often you watch it.

Duet

Specific animators need to have more than just a mere mention on lists like this, and Glen Keane’s is one such individual. Because when you’re the guy who brought to life the likes of The Beast, Ariel, and other memorable Disney characters, you’re a talent to never question. And when it comes to his self-animated short Duet, the artistry Keane displayed at his time at the House of Mouse is amplified here to an eleven. Telling the tale of girl meets boy, from birth to their eventual romantic attraction is presented in full yet humble details – showcasing the kind of animation magic Keane has mastered over his long career.

Bao

Similar to Hair Love, Pixar’s Bao is a timeless yet relevant tale that simultaneously speaks to mother’s around the world and transcends culture and language. In the short, directed by Domee Shi, a lonely woman suddenly discovers that her bao bun has come to life, allowing her to relive the joys of raising a child. But it is the deeper layers to the story as it unfolds that makes Bao something uniquely special not just from the likes of Pixar, but in all of the animated shorts of the decade.

Bear Story

Though featuring adorable bear character designs, along with a whimsical fairy tale aesthetic, Bear Story (directed by Gabriel Osorio) is anything but those descriptors. Weaving a complex narrative that features holocaust imagery, this story of a bear family torn apart by awful circumstances is absolutely stunning in the most devastating and haunting of ways. Though all of the shorts on this list have an emotional gut punch in their own way, none of them require quite as many tissue nor long trails of thought like this one does.

World of Tomorrow

There is no denying that animator Don Hertzfeldt is one of the most talented artists out there. And though it can be near impossible to choose which of his work should make this list, World of Tomorrow fits the bill the best of them all. The short tells the story of a little girl meeting her third-generation clone – and though the initial reaction is awkward comedic perfection, the end result leaves you with an uncomfortable shiver down your spin. Because no one perfectly captures the laughably bizarre yet terrifying notions about the future quite like Hertzfeldt – and few ever will.

Paperman

Ever since its release, Disney’s inventive Paperman has been one of those shorts that has captured the imagination of people throughout the world. It works as an example of perfect romantic storytelling, simultaneously also serving as a beautiful tribute to the studio’s past while also showcasing its technologically advanced future. Directed by John Kahrs, this simple tale of romance found through the most thrilling of circumstances is elevated with stunning animation and sequences that will take your breath away.

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