Animation History
January 15, 2018 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1983

This week: 1983

The nominees were:

MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL Burny Mattinson (Walt Disney Productions [View]

SOUND OF SUNSHINE, SOUND OF RAIN Caroline M. Heyward [View]

And the Oscar went to:

SUNDAE IN NEW YORK Jimmy Picker. [View]

Once again, I have a gap in my research into the preliminary screenings for Best Animated Short. We start this next stretch in 1983, which is significant for the return of Disney – a Disney short, that is – as a nominee. Considering the state of Hollywood animation in the early 80s, this extended Mickey Mouse short was a superior effort. But the tide had turned – independent and foreign shorts now carry the torch for innovation in the art and progression of the field. And, as noted before, a particularly humorous film will top “heart” and “craft” with Oscar voters, and this year’s clever clay animated Sundae In New York had the Academy crowd in stitches.

On April 9th, 1984 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Michael Caine and Jane Alexander present the Oscar for Short Film (Animated) to Jimmy Picker for “Sundae in New York,”. Here’s the video, below:


And so we continue our ongoing research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. In 1983, there were 29 entries. Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175

* Those marked below with an asterisk are films we could not find online video for (All others are embed below):

BACHELORETTE PAD – Anita Rosenberg
THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF – Paul M. Buchbinder*
DISSIPATIVE DIALOGUES – David Ehrlich
EAT THE BEAT – Dreu McCutchen*
GREETING CARD – Gregory William Schmidt*
MACHINE STORY – Doug Miller
MIRROR OF KINGS: TALES FROM KALILA WA DIMA – Karen Lonelan (Smithsonian Inst.)*
NO ONE FOR CHESS – Richard Rooser
REMAINS TO BE SEEN – Jane Aaron*
THE RUBBER STAMP FILM – Joanna Preistley*
SOUL SAILING – Robert Faust*
SPIRIT OF THE DREAM HOUSE– Robert Topagi*
ALBUM – Kresimir Zominic
BOTTOM’S DREAM – John Canemaker
DANCE OF DEATH – Dennis Tupicoff (sp?)
YOU GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY – John Wilson (Bob Dylan song)
JOURNEY THROUGH TIME – THE HUMAN STORY – Derek Lamb*
LADY TREE – Howard Danelowitz*
LIGHTS – Yehuda Wertzel
MIRAJ – Molly Burgess
MONKEYS FISHING THROUGH MOON – ZhouKequenn
MORRIS’S DISAPPEARING BAG – Michael Sporn
NARCISSUS – Norman McLaren
PLAYERS – John Halas
THE VANISHED WORLD OF GLOVES – Jeri Banta
YOUR FEETS TOO BIG – Nancy Beiman

Here’s the documentation:

With these posts we ask that you put yourself in the place of the nominating committee – which of the films submitted would you have nominated? Which cartoon should have won? For your edification and viewing pleasure, we have found embeds (below) for 17 of the qualified submissions that the Academy screened, but didn’t make the cut.

Enjoy the show!


BACHELORETTE PAD – Anita Rosenberg

A cute live action/animation film by 1980s new-wave filmmaker Anita Rosenberg and featuring performance artist Pati Astor. Jimmy Picker did the stop motion sequences with Barbie and Ken dolls.


DISSIPATIVE DIALOGUES – David Ehrlich

Experimental animation. Nuff’ said.


MACHINE STORY – Doug Miller

More Experimental animation – this time from Cal Arts student Doug Miller. And this time, I enjoyed it. I even learned when the first movie projector appeared and what year laser beams were invented.


NO ONE FOR CHESS? – Richard Rosser

A stop-motion clay-animated chess game, which is about as exciting as watching… a chess game.


ALBUM – Kresimir Zominic

From Zagreb; colorful hand-drawn animation of a girl reliving painful moments of her life – via pictures in a photo album – which morph in her imagination into alternative fantasy worlds


BOTTOM’S DREAM – John Canemaker

Animation historian and NYU Professor John Canemaker made this film, inspired by an section from the middle acts of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – in which Bottom’s head is transformed into that of an donkey, and the Fairy Queen is made to fall in love with him.


DANCE OF DEATH – Dennis Tupicoff

An animated satire on television violence, set in a world where the skeletal Don Death runs a popular variety show called “Dance of Death”. Here is a clip:


YOU GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY – John Wilson

John Wilson must have made more animated music videos than anyone else. This one is to a Bob Dylan tune.


LIGHTS – Yehuda Wurtzel

A film about the deeper meaning of the festival of lights – featuring the voice talents of Paul Michael Glaser, Judd Hirsch, and Leonard Nimoy.


MIRAJ – Molly Burgess.

Mirror images of tumbling clouds give way to a surreal trip through an old hotel, a desolate edifice of crumbling walls and empty rooms. Manipulated photography, more experimental than animated…


MONKEYS FISH THE MOON – Zhou Keqin

Beautiful Chinese film using cut-out animation, illustrating the proverb “The monkeys fish for the moon, but do not catch anything”.


MORRIS’S DISAPPEARING BAG – Michael Sporn

An absolutely superior adaptation of Rosemary Wells book – produced by Michael Sporn for Weston Woods.


NARCISSUS – Norman McLaren

Someone will have to explain to me why this McLaren experimental live action ballet film was entered and accepted as an animated short.


PLAYERS – John Halas

A John Halas co-production with Peter Sis – produced in Prague – about a war between two tennis players. Some sort of anti-war analogy I gather.


THE VANISHED WORLD OF GLOVES – Jiri Barta

Ok, I couldn’t find The Vanished World of Gloves on line – but this is worth a look. It’s Barta’s film with the soundtrack composed of Dire Strait’s MTV, Walk of Life and Your Latest Trick. You get the idea.


YOUR FEETS TOO BIG – Nancy Beiman

We’ve saved the best for last – Nancy’s Beiman’s tour-de-force based on a Fat’s Waller song (and performance). Produced in a small studio on Horatio Street in Manhattan. Wonderful!


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980.

(Once again, super-duper special thanks to Chris Sobieniak)

26 Comments

  • What about the DAICON IV Opening Animation? I think that might blow some voters away!

    • To be fair, that was only sow at one convention in Osaka and I don’t think the guys behind it had any idea they could play it at other places at the time, especially LA!

  • I recall Charles Solomon once said of 1983 as being a bad year Oscar-wise as he didn’t care for Jimmy Picker’s SUNDAE IN NEW YORK, stating he didn’t see why the animator went to this much bother to create something that had such a short shelf life? This was stated as part of his audio commentary released on a laserdisc by Voyager in the 1990’s for a release of “The World’s Greatest Animation”. I suppose SUNDAE IN NEW YORK with it’s clever use of clay-based caricatures was enough to push it above Disney’s festive attempt and a another work based on a children’s book of a blind boy’s view of the world around him. Again, it’s the humorous entries that tend to get the final applause.

    I would agree with your thoughts on Doug Miller’s MACHINE STORY. It certainly gives you a good idea of how human expansion via invention and innovation took shape, especially during the last few centuries with things just exploding on the screen in both sound and chasing visuals. Funny how there’s a large stretch between 100 BC and 1185 AD with nothing new being invented, as if we wasted a good millennium doing nothing.

    John Wilson must have made more animated music videos than anyone else.

    Seems that way. He needs to be given his due now and then.

  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol should of won the 1983 Oscar for best animated short. It has one of the most obscure Christmas songs that should have been released on record and played on radio. The song in question? “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day”. Sadly FreeForm (formerly ABC Family) rebroadcast a heavily edited version of Mickey’s Christmas Carol which took out several scenes by fading them out like the Jacob Marley (played by Goofy) sequence where he tripped over the stairs as he left Scrooge’s bedroom and let loose his famous “Goofy Holler” and the scene where Willie the Giant portraying The Ghost of Christmas Present still having trouble saying pistachio but instead saying yogurt instead of green gravy.

    • Television, especially modern television, tends to ruin the integrity of a lot of earlier work that wasn’t suited to today’s ad time (the film’s running time along necessitated a need to give it an hour spot on network TV in the 80’s and 90’s, but I guess Freeform feels it can shave it down to 22 minutes or less if that’s where they are with it.

  • I remember seeing “Your Feet’s Too Big” all the time in Nickelodeon back in the day. A funny, very lively piece.

    • Nickelodeon used to play lot of odd little shorts, often to fill time after a movie on “Special Delivery” every weekend afternoon. I remember “Your Feet’s Too Big” popping up a lot around ’86 or ’87. Back then they often played a lot of neat little films that would’ve gone missing had it not been for Nick finding time to play them, like Marv Newland’s “Sing Beast Sing”, a Halas & Batchelor effort called “Professor Yaya’s Memoirs”, Cordell Barker’s “The Cat Came Back” (which I’m sure we won’t hear the end of it once ’88 comes around), Nick Park’s Creature Comforts and more. One that sticks out in my head was a sequence from Suzan Pitts’ yet-unfinished “Joy Street”, featuring a mouse doll figure of sorts who climbed up a dresser, turns on a radio and goes extremely wide to a jazzy, uptempo version of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”.

  • Since today is Martin Luther King Day, now would be good time to watch “SOUND OF SUNSHINE, SOUND OF RAIN”. The message of both the film and the unfortunately out of print children’s book still is pretty relevant especially now (it’s very depressing hearing the news right now as I type this involving someone I didn’t vote for).

    • I’m glad that video was posted here. I first saw this short some years back after acquiring a print of it. It’s a interesting take on blindness, not just blindness in a visual sense, but one of humanity itself. I remember being really taken back during that part at the grocery store and it’s the sister who has to explain to the clerk, who just assumed it was another black kid causing trouble at his place, it really hits you from them on.

  • I’m not gonna mince words, Sundae In New York SUCKED. It’s not funny, it looks far too cheap, the recitation of “New York, New York” was just painful to listen to, and it didn’t know if it wanted to be a love letter to the state or a satire of its problems. It’s terrible all around and I HATE it. When I attended Eric Goldberg and Burny Mattinson’s panel at the CTN Expo this year, they mentioned that “Sundae In New York” won the Best Short Oscar over “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, and they showed a brief clip from the former film. When it was finished, Eric turned to Burny and said, “You were ROBBED.” The film’s director, Jimmy Picker, seems to have fallen to obscurity, because outside of a sequence in the 1985 teen comedy Better Off Dead, he hasn’t done anything noteworthy since.

    I haven’t seen the other shorts yet, but I’m sure a good portion of them are infinitely better than Sundae In New York.

    • I would say “SOUND OF SUNSHINE-SOUND OF RAIN” was a perfect nominee for its message.

      I’m glad someone came out and said what they thought of SUNDAE IN NEW YORK. I personally thought Picker’s heart was in the right place if he was trying to glamorize New York’s legacy away from the horrible shape it was still in at the time. And while he took home the Oscar, it apparently didn’t seem to do much for his career for sure. It was a bad year as I had mentioned earlier. Still I will say I like the idea of David Letterman being reduced to being the pizza boy! 😛

    • What about Jimmy’s 1988 TV special about The Statue of Liberty featuring the glasses wearing kid from “The Wonder Years”? I recall that being re-runned on The Disney Channel when I was little.

    • You know I don’t think I ever saw that one at all Nic. Jimmy doesn’t even get a mention for that in his imdb page, so it must’ve became quite obscure over time.

    • It’s a live-action/animated special called “My Friend Liberty” and “A Sundae in New York” is interlaced in the special. It’s on Youtube in five parts. The animation starts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGQuJvz3F9Q

    • Not everyone like MCC (Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs down: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Icz8Yo14KZA )

  • Thinking about NARCISSUS right now, I suppose the real kicker in all this is the lack of an experimental category the Academy probably needed for such works as this, DISSIPATIVE DIALOGUES, MIRAJ and even MACHINE STORY. Films that don’t quite fit either category but on their own, following a similar, non-objective or abstract approach. It seemed like the lesson in Tango’s Oscar win from the previous year didn’t quite get to ears of the Academy anyway.

  • Disney has enough Oscars through all of their companies, thank you, While Mickey’s Christmas Carol should have won, the Mouse already won an Oscar in 1941 screwing over Paramount for both Fleischer and Pal.

    And you think an unfunny film winning over Mickey’s Christmas Carol is bad? Well Disney had that same thing happen with “Popeye Meets Sinbad”, with their unfunny “Country Cousin” Silly Symphony. I mean throughout Fleischer’s career at Paramount, Popeye Meets Sinbad was the their best chance of winning!

    • While I suppose you could be right anyway, I still think some merit in what is funny and what isn’t (or shouldn’t be) should also be taken into consideration.

      There certainly were some contenders here that could’ve got the nomination like Sporn’s or Beiman’s film. I still think SOUND OF SUNSHINE – SOUND OF RAIN had a shot with it’s message of equality.

    • To be honest, I found “Lend a Paw” more of Pluto’s short than Mickey’s. Then again, Scrooge took center stage in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” but I digress. And I should mention that there was an over 40 year gap between the years Disney ever got another “Best Animated Short” award (not counting Pixar, of course). I do sometimes wish Mickey did win considering the state of the studio at the time.

    • Sporn would eventually get one in 84 with DOCTOR DESOTO

  • I love MCC, but in defense of SINY the Academy would’ve repeated themselves (79-heartwarming tearjerker (Every Child), 80-experiment (The Fly), 81-heartwarming tearjerker (Crac) and 82-experiment (Tango); maybe they needed a break or two (as in 84 with one of my new favs-CHARADE).

  • Also, Sundae wasn’t that bad (though I like Jimmy The C better) and I saw Mr. Picker on the doc about Oscars from my WB Academy Awards DVD set

  • I remember seeing Players with the Zucker Brothers/Jim Abrahams Top Secret! back in 1984. I thought the last 10 minutes was a spoof of European history. ( I thought it would end with Hitler and not Napoleon,but I guess that would have been too ‘recent’).

    I’m glad Mickey’s Christmas Carol was nominated, I really loved the cameos by various Disney characters.

  • All very good and worthy films, but I’m glad “Sundae in New York” won. It’s a classic! I remember it to this day.

    • New York animation at it’s finest: gritty, raw, sketchy

  • I’ll try to figure out which 1982 shorts were considered for Oscar gold:
    VINCENT (Disney-Time Burton)
    STRANGE CASE OF MR. DONNYBROOK’S BOREDOM (David Silverman)
    FUN WITH MR. FUTURE (Disney-Darrel Van Citters)

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