For casual viewers, the Academy Awards' Best Animated Short category can be one of the most puzzling of the evening. Though this year's crop contains a few familiar faces — including Maggie Simpson, who stars in "The Longest Daycare," and the nameless black-and-white stars of "Paperman," a short film that played before Wreck-It Ralph in theaters — it can be difficult for even the most devoted animation fans to see each year's nominees. (Watch a trailer for this year's Best Animated Short nominees below.) What does it take to be the year's Best Animated Short? For the past five years, the Academy has handed the award to a fascinating, eclectic group of films that have varied significantly in length, animation style, and country of origin. Here, watch the last five winners for Best Animated Short Film:
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" (2011)
Country: United States
This short film, which relies on a variety of animation styles, follows a New Orleans man who finds that a hurricane is blowing the words out of the memoir he's writing. In the wake of the storm, he follows a woman to a library of flying books, where he assumes responsibility for the unusual collection.
"The Lost Thing" (2010)
Director Shaun Tan adapted his own picture book for this 15-minute short, which follows a man living in a steampunk dystopia as he attempts to return a large crablike creature to its home.
This inventive short film, which re-imagines Los Angeles as a world dominated by the logos and mascots of more than 2,500 different companies, follows a gun-toting Ronald McDonald as he goes on a crime spree with a series of Michelin Men in hot pursuit.
"La Maison en Petits Cubes" (2008)
This nostalgic, dialogue-free short follows an old man living on the top floor of a house submerged in water. When he drops his pipe into the house's depths, he dives into its lower levels — and the memories of his youth — in order to retrieve it.
"Peter and the Wolf" (2007)
Like "La Maison en Petits Cubes," this short — which clocks in at nearly 30 minutes— features no dialogue. Instead, it relies on the punch of its stellar visuals, and the power of Sergei Prokofiev's legendary 1936 musical composition, to offer a unique spin on the folk tale.
This year's nominees: