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Video: 100 Masters of Animated Short Films

From Winsor McCay to the Brothers Quay: A look at animation greats.


‘Winsor McCay and his Animated Pictures’ looks at the great animator’s process.

One of Keyframe’s most popular articles from last year was its illustrated guide to 100 masters of the animated short film. Film animation has thrived for over a century, but has never seen quite the level of recognition afforded to live-action feature filmmakers. And while there are plenty of outstanding animated features to celebrate, a list of those films wouldn’t boast nearly as much eye-popping diversity as those represented by this list. Working within the compressed parameters of the short form, some of the most unique talents in the field of animation delivered their inimitable visions with maximum potency in a matter of mere minutes or even seconds. This video attempts to demonstrate that spectrum of brilliance with as much brevity: 100 masters in nine minutes.  Of course such a video can’t possibly do full justice to each of these artists,  but watching this visual roll call of animation heroes proceed, what’s remarkable is how strong a visual impression just a few seconds of each artist can make.

Video: 100 Masters of Animated Short Films

This video would not be possible without the work of some of my old friends at the IMDb Classic Film Board, who first created this list back in 2008. They have since followed up to produce a list of 250 Great Animated Short Films, which can serve as an excellent guide if you’re looking for specific titles to explore any of the artists featured in this video. Suggestions for further viewing are also listed in the list of the 100 masters.  And Fandor has films by several of these featured artists:

Jirí Barta
Émile Cohl
Dave Fleischer
Kihachiro Kawamoto
Winsor McCay
Otto Messmer
Tezuka Osamu
Stephen and Timothy Quay
Wladyslaw Starewicz
Jan Svankmajer

Special thanks to Lee Price, who organized the compilation of both lists, and is currently writing in-depth entries about the 250 Great Animated Short Films on his blog, as well as on Press Play.

Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog, Founding Editor and Video Essayist for Fandor’s Keyframe, and a contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • Hi Kevin, great video. Thank you. Obviously, you can’t feature every great animation master — one I missed is Jiří Šalamoun. Here is one of his charming shorts:


    And I was surprised that Miyazaki is not on the list. Maybe he never did a short?


  • Veikko Suvanto says:

    A very nice tribute, well done. At the risk of nitpicking, however, I’d like to point out that the clip attributed to Robert Clampett at 1:20 comes from a cartoon called “Dough for the Do-Do,” released in 1949 without a director credit but later acknowledged as a Friz Freleng cartoon. Granted, it is a remake of Clampett’s black-and-white cartoon “Porky in Wackyland” (1938) and the particular scene you had chosen appears in the earlier cartoon in virtually the same form, but it still would have been nice to have Clampett represented by a clip from his own work, like everyone else was (as far as I could tell).

    For the record, this is what Clampett himself thought of “Dough for the Do-Do” (from a 1970 interview): “After I had left, they took a cartoon of mine that was a beautiful cartoon in black and white – it got all sorts of critical attention – and they remade that, changed it all around, and it was a complete nothing.”

  • Ccs says:

    Personally I’d add Masaaki Yuasa and Koji Yamamura to this list. It could do with more Japanese animators considering their immense output and addition to the field.

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