Best Oscars Short Films of 1982: A Stellar Line-Up of Talent

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Written By Kelsey Waddell

Kelsey Waddell is a freelance writer living in Virginia. She's a fan of science fiction, Iron Chef, and anything with a musical number and a happy ending.

The 54th Academy Awards held in 1982 showcased a remarkable collection of Short Film nominees that demonstrated the power of storytelling within the concise format. From captivating animations to thought-provoking documentaries and gripping live-action dramas, the 1982 Oscars Short Film category celebrated the best and brightest emerging talents in the film industry.

Each film offered a unique perspective on the world, showcasing exceptional creativity, technical expertise, and the ability to evoke profound emotions within a limited runtime. In this article, we will delve into the Best Short Film nominees of the 54th Academy Awards and explore what made each of them stand out in their respective categories.

These extraordinary works exemplify the incredible potential of short films to captivate audiences, provoke thought, and leave a lasting impact. Join us as we celebrate the artistry and storytelling brilliance of the filmmakers who made their mark on the world of cinema in 1982.

Animated Short Films


Crac is a 1981 animated short film directed by Frédéric Back, a Canadian animator and artist. The film tells the story of a rocking chair, from its creation in a lumber mill to its eventual destruction and transformation into a violin.

The main character of the film is the rocking chair itself, which is portrayed as a living, breathing entity. The chair is created by a team of lumberjacks and is then sold to a family who cherishes it for many years. As time passes, the chair is passed down through generations until it eventually falls into disrepair and is discarded. However, the chair’s journey is far from over, as it is eventually rescued and transformed into a beautiful violin.

The visual style of Crac is a stunning blend of hand-drawn animation and stop-motion techniques. The animation is highly detailed and realistic, with each frame carefully crafted to capture the beauty and complexity of the chair’s journey. The use of color is also notable, with warm, earthy tones dominating the early scenes and giving way to brighter, more vibrant colors as the story progresses.

The animation style is essential to the storytelling in Crac, as it allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the chair’s journey. By portraying the chair as a living entity, the film creates a strong emotional connection between the viewer and the object, making its eventual transformation all the more poignant.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when the chair is rescued from the junkyard and transformed into a violin. The sequence is beautifully animated, with the chair’s transformation depicted in vivid detail. The music that accompanies the scene is also a highlight, as it perfectly captures the joy and beauty of the chair’s new form.

Overall, Crac is a beautiful and moving film that is sure to resonate with audiences of all ages. Its unique blend of animation styles and emotional storytelling makes it a must-see for anyone interested in animation or short films. While the film may be particularly appealing to fans of classical music, its universal themes of love, loss, and transformation make it a film that anyone can enjoy.

The Creation

The Creation is a stunning and imaginative animated short film directed by Will Vinton, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981. The film tells the story of the creation of the world and everything in it, from the formation of the stars to the birth of humans.

The animation style used in The Creation is claymation, a technique that involves sculpting characters and objects out of clay and then manipulating them frame-by-frame to create the illusion of movement. The use of claymation in The Creation is particularly effective because it allows for a tactile and textured feel to the film, adding a sense of depth and realism to the story.

The film’s main character is a playful and curious creature named Morpho, who guides the audience through the creation story. As the film progresses, Morpho interacts with various other creatures and characters, including the sun, the moon, and the first humans.

One of the most striking aspects of The Creation is the way in which it uses color to tell its story. The film starts with a dark, empty void, but as the story unfolds, the colors become more vibrant and varied, reflecting the creation of the world and the diversity of life within it.

Several scenes in The Creation stand out as particularly memorable. One of these is the birth of the first humans, which is depicted with a sense of wonder and magic. Another memorable moment is the creation of the oceans, which is shown with a beautiful blend of blues and greens.

Overall, The Creation is a stunning and visually captivating film that will appeal to audiences of all ages. The use of claymation adds a unique and textured feel to the film, while the use of color helps to tell the story in a vivid and engaging way. I highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates imaginative storytelling and creative animation.

The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin

The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin is a charming and heartwarming animated short film directed by Janet Perlman in 1981. The film is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story, but with an adorable twist – all the characters are penguins!

The story follows Cinderella Penguin, a kind-hearted and hardworking penguin who is mistreated by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of her fairy penguin godmother, Cinderella Penguin attends a fancy ball where she meets Prince Charming Penguin. However, when the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella Penguin must leave the ball and return to her mundane life. But with a little bit of magic and perseverance, Cinderella Penguin and Prince Charming Penguin are able to find each other again and live happily ever after.

The animation style of The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin is simple yet effective. The film is animated using a technique called “cut-out animation,” where characters and objects are cut out of paper and moved around to create movement. This style gives the film a unique and playful feel and adds to the charm of the story.

One scene that stood out to me was when Cinderella Penguin is cleaning the house and singing to herself. The song is catchy and sweet, and the animation perfectly captures the joy that Cinderella Penguin feels despite her difficult circumstances.

Overall, The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin is a delightful short film that is perfect for all ages. The cute penguin characters and playful animation style will appeal to children, while the heartwarming story and clever twist on a classic tale will be appreciated by adults. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a feel-good story with a unique twist.

Live Action Short Films


Violet is a 1981 live-action film directed by Paul Kemp and Shelley Levinson. The film follows the story of Violet, a young girl who is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death. She lives with her father, who is a workaholic and has little time for her. Violet finds solace in her imaginary world, where she creates a magical forest filled with talking animals. However, when her father decides to sell their house and move to a new city, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She must learn to cope with her grief and find a way to connect with her father.

The film features an impressive cast, with Molly Ringwald in the lead role as Violet. The rest of the cast includes Justin Henry, who plays Violet’s father, and John Vernon, who plays the antagonist of the film.

What sets Violet apart from other films is its unique animation style. The film seamlessly blends live-action with animation, creating a visually stunning world that draws the viewer into Violet’s imagination. The animation style contributes greatly to the storytelling, as it allows the audience to see the world through Violet’s eyes. It also adds an element of magic and whimsy to the film, which helps to balance out the darker themes of grief and loss.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Violet first enters her magical forest. The scene is filled with vibrant colors and whimsical creatures, and it perfectly captures the sense of wonder and joy that Violet experiences in her imaginary world. Another standout moment is when Violet confronts the antagonist of the film, who represents the harsh reality that she must face. The scene is tense and emotional, and it showcases Ringwald’s acting abilities.

Overall, Violet is a beautiful and touching film that will resonate with anyone who has experienced loss or struggled to connect with a loved one. The film is suitable for all ages and would make an excellent family movie night choice. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a heartfelt and visually stunning movie experience.

Couples and Robbers

Couples and Robbers is a 1981 live-action film directed by Christine Oestreicher, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category. The film follows the story of two couples who are struggling with their relationships and decide to rob a bank to find a way out of their problems.

The main characters in the film are the two couples, played by actors Martin Jarvis, Susan Penhaligon, Simon Chandler, and Caroline Langrishe. The film explores the dynamics of their relationships and how they are affected by the decision to rob the bank. The visual style of the film is unique, as it combines live action with animation, creating a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere.

The animation style in Couples and Robbers contributes to the storytelling by creating a sense of whimsy and fantasy, which contrasts with the serious themes of the film. The animated sequences are used to depict the characters’ inner thoughts and emotions, adding depth and complexity to their struggles.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the couples are planning the bank robbery, and their conflicting personalities and motivations are revealed. Another standout moment is when the couples are driving away from the bank with the stolen money, and the animation style creates a sense of euphoria and freedom.

Overall, Couples and Robbers is a thought-provoking and visually stunning film that explores the complexities of relationships and the consequences of our actions. The film is recommended for fans of experimental cinema and those who appreciate films that challenge traditional storytelling techniques.

First Winter

First Winter is a Canadian film directed by John N. Smith, released in 1981. It is a live-action film with animation elements that tell the story of a group of Inuit people struggling to survive in the harsh winter of the Arctic.

The plot follows a young Inuit boy named Kanaalaq, who lives with his family in a small igloo in the middle of the frozen tundra. When Kanaalaq’s father is injured, he must take on the responsibilities of the family, including hunting for food and keeping the fire going. Along the way, he befriends a magical bird named Kili, who helps him navigate the dangers of the Arctic wilderness.

The main characters in the film are Kanaalaq, his father, his mother, and his little sister. Each character plays an important role in the story and brings their own unique perspective on life in the Arctic. The film also features a cast of Inuit actors, which adds to the authenticity of the story.

The visual style of First Winter is stunning, with breathtaking shots of the Arctic landscape and beautiful animation sequences that bring Kili the bird to life. The animation style is simple yet effective, adding a magical and otherworldly quality to the film.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when Kanaalaq and Kili encounter a pack of wolves while out hunting. The tension and danger of the scene are palpable, and the animation of the wolves is both realistic and terrifying.

Overall, First Winter is a beautiful and moving film that offers a unique perspective on life in the Arctic. The animation style adds an extra layer of depth to the storytelling, making it a truly immersive experience.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in exploring different cultures and ways of life. It is a great film for families to watch together, and for anyone who appreciates a good coming-of-age story set against a stunning backdrop.

Documentary Short Films

Close Harmony

Close Harmony is a 1981 documentary directed by Nigel Noble that explores the lives of the students at the Piney Woods School, a boarding school in rural Mississippi that focuses on music education. The film takes a close look at the school’s choir, which is made up of students from all walks of life, and follows their journey as they prepare for a big performance.

The film’s style and cinematography play an integral role in the storytelling. The camera work is intimate and often captures the students in moments of vulnerability, allowing the audience to connect with them on a deeper level. The use of close-ups during musical performances helps to convey the emotion and passion that the students bring to their music.

One scene that stood out to me was when the choir visited a nearby prison to perform for the inmates. The contrast between the students’ youthful energy and the inmates’ somber demeanor was striking, and it was clear that the music had a profound impact on both the performers and the audience.

Overall, Close Harmony is a heartwarming and inspiring film that showcases the transformative power of music education. It would appeal to anyone who enjoys documentaries about education or music, as well as those who are interested in stories about the power of the human spirit.

I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a powerful and uplifting documentary. The Piney Woods School students’ stories will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Americas in Transition

Americas in Transition, a 1981 documentary directed by Obie Benz, is a remarkable film that explores the lives of six individuals from diverse backgrounds living in the United States. The film’s central theme is the American dream, and how it is perceived and experienced by people from different walks of life.

The film follows six people, including an African American family in Harlem, a migrant worker in California, and a Native American woman living on a reservation in South Dakota. Through their stories, the film highlights the struggles and challenges faced by people living on the margins of society and the resilience and determination that they exhibit in the face of adversity.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is its visual style. The film uses a combination of interviews, voiceovers, and candid footage to tell its story. The cinematography is intimate and immersive, capturing the everyday lives of the film’s subjects in a way that is both engaging and thought-provoking.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is a conversation between a young African American boy and his father in Harlem. The father talks about the struggles he has faced in his life, and how he wants his son to have a better life than he did. It is a poignant moment that captures the hopes and dreams of many parents, and the sacrifices they make to ensure a better future for their children.

Another standout moment in the film is a scene that follows a migrant worker as he picks strawberries in a field in California. The camera captures the backbreaking work that goes into harvesting crops, and the difficult conditions that these workers endure on a daily basis.

Overall, Americas in Transition is a powerful and insightful film that offers a unique perspective on the American dream. The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to its storytelling, creating an immersive and engaging viewing experience.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in exploring the lives of people on the margins of society. It is a film that will leave a lasting impression on its viewers, and spark important conversations about the challenges and opportunities that exist in America today.

Journey for Survival

Journey for Survival is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary film directed by Dick Young, which was released in 1981. The film explores the struggle for survival of African wildlife and the human communities that live alongside them. It is a fascinating and heartbreaking look at the challenges faced by these animals and the people who try to protect them.

The film follows a group of conservationists as they travel through East Africa, documenting the lives of elephants, lions, cheetahs, and other endangered species. The filmmakers also interview local villagers and park rangers who work tirelessly to protect the animals from poachers and other threats.

One of the most striking aspects of Journey for Survival is its stunning cinematography. The film is shot in a beautiful and immersive style, which makes the viewer feel as if they are right there in the African wilderness. The filmmakers use a mix of close-up shots and sweeping panoramas to capture the majesty and vulnerability of the animals.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling. The filmmakers use visual storytelling to convey the beauty and fragility of the African ecosystem. Through stunning imagery and powerful interviews, the film highlights the importance of preserving this delicate balance between humans and wildlife.

There are several scenes and moments in the film that stand out. One of the most memorable is a scene where a group of elephants is seen migrating across the savannah. The camera captures the majestic animals in their natural habitat, accompanied by the sounds of the African wilderness. Another poignant moment is when the filmmakers interview a young boy who dreams of becoming a park ranger to protect the animals he loves.

Overall, Journey for Survival is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in conservation, wildlife, and the natural world. The film is a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting the environment and the animals that call it home. While it may be too intense for younger viewers, it is a great choice for anyone who loves nature and wants to learn more about the challenges facing the African ecosystem.

See What I Say

See What I Say is a 1981 documentary directed by Linda Chapman, Pam LeBlanc, and Freddi Stevens that explores the lives of four deaf people in America. This groundbreaking film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and remains a powerful and moving portrait of deaf culture.

The film follows the daily lives of Robert, a teenager who attends a school for the deaf; Nancy, a young woman who works in a factory; Terry, a deaf actor and writer; and Mari, a mother who is deaf and has a hearing daughter. Through their personal stories, the film explores the challenges and triumphs of deaf individuals in a hearing world.

The visual style of the film is striking, with beautiful cinematography that captures the essence of the subjects’ lives. The filmmakers use a mix of interviews, reenactments, and observational footage to tell the stories of the four individuals. The use of sign language and subtitles add to the authenticity of the film, making it accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Robert attends a school dance. As he dances with a hearing girl, the camera cuts back and forth between his face and hers, highlighting the communication barrier between them. Another memorable moment is when Terry performs a one-man show in sign language, showcasing the beauty and expressiveness of sign language as an art form.

The style and cinematography of See What I Say are integral to the storytelling, providing a window into the lives of deaf individuals and highlighting the unique challenges they face. The film is a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit and is a must-see for anyone interested in deaf culture or social justice issues.

Overall, I highly recommend See What I Say to anyone looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant documentary. The film has universal themes that will appeal to a wide audience, but it will particularly resonate with those interested in deaf culture or the experiences of marginalized communities.

Urge to Build

Urge to Build is a captivating documentary directed by Roland Hallé and John Hoover, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1982. The film explores the world of architecture, design, and construction, following several architects and builders as they work on various projects.

The film’s subjects are a diverse group of individuals, including a young architect who is designing a futuristic home for himself and his wife, a group of students constructing a pavilion for a design competition, and an experienced builder working on a large-scale commercial project. Each character brings a unique perspective and approach to the craft of building, making for a rich and varied exploration of the subject matter.

What sets Urge to Build apart is its stunning visual style. The filmmakers use a mix of techniques, including time-lapse photography, aerial shots, and slow-motion footage, to capture the beauty and complexity of the buildings and structures being created. The cinematography is often breathtaking, highlighting the interplay between light and shadow, form and function.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling, providing a sense of awe and wonder at the creative process of building. One of the standout scenes is a time-lapse sequence of a skyscraper being constructed, which captures the building’s rise from the ground up in a mesmerizing and almost hypnotic fashion. Another memorable moment is a scene where a group of students constructs a pavilion out of paper tubes, demonstrating the power of design and ingenuity.

Overall, Urge to Build is a must-watch for anyone interested in architecture, design, and construction. The film’s compelling subject matter, diverse characters, and stunning visuals make for a captivating viewing experience. While the film may appeal more to those with an interest in the subject matter, its universal themes of creativity, perseverance, and passion for one’s craft make it a film that can be appreciated by all.

1982 Oscar Short Film Winners

Animated – Crac

Live Action – Violet

Documentary – Close Harmony