Subjects: English Language Arts, Music, Drama, Health/Personal Development
Stories form a fabric that weaves us together through time and space. Listening to stories gives children a sense of where they fit in the world and how people relate to one another. This playlist of animated short films is accessible for children as young as six years old, but the deeper meanings behind the stories in the films would be suited to older children and teens as well. Not only does this list include Indigenous stories passed on for generations, but also modern stories, along with some humorous fractured fairy tales.
Ideal for teachers who want to expose students to short animated stories from different cultures, this playlist will have students thinking critically and creatively. All these clever and entertaining films demonstrate that there’s more than one way to tell a tale, and that stories from different times and places have something in common: the wish to communicate a message and uplift the spirits, no matter the type of media used.
Whether you teach English Language Arts, Music, Drama or Health/Personal Development, this playlist provides a tapestry of thought-provoking films woven together in one place. The themes of love, grief, revenge, forgiveness, bullying and humility come through several films, including those based on Indigenous stories. Students will not be surprised that the NFB has received accolades and awards for these films, including an Academy Award.
As teachers, we are always reaching out to our students to make connections between the curriculum and their experience. The “Once Upon a Time” playlist provides an opportunity for this to happen through high-quality animated shorts that can be analyzed, compared and reenacted. These films remind us to take pride in Canadians’ impressive storytelling and filmmaking skills. Your students will ask to watch them again and again.
Brenda MacNaughton, NFB Educator Network
In this animated short, Sleeping Betty is stuck in bed, victim to a strange bout of narcolepsy. The King calls on his subjects to rescue her and they all respond to the call: Uncle Henry VIII, Aunt Victoria, an oddly emotional alien, a funky witch and a handsome prince. But will a kiss really be enough to wake the sleeping princess? The film, drawn in ink, is a classic example of the anachronistic and playful world of Claude Cloutier.
New Year's Eve, late 1800s. A group of loggers in an isolated lumber camp yearn to celebrate with their loved ones, but the river is frozen. If the men want to see their families, their only choice is to make a pact with the Devil to ride in a flying canoe. Original music and animation preserve the spirit of this Quebec legend.
In this animated short, Roch Carrier recounts the most mortifying moment of his childhood. At a time when all his friends worshipped Maurice "Rocket" Richard and wore his number 9 Canadiens hockey jersey, the boy was mistakenly sent a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey from Eaton's. Unable to convince his mother to send it back, he must face his friends wearing the colours of the opposing team. This short film, based on the book The Hockey Sweater, is an NFB classic that appeals to hockey lovers of all ages.
This Oscar®-winning short animation follows Kasper, a poet whose creative well has run dry, on a holiday to Norway to meet the famous writer Sigrid Undset. Kasper attempts to answer some pretty big questions: can we trace the chain of events that leads to our own birth? Is our existence just coincidence? Do little things matter? As Kasper's quest for inspiration unfolds, it appears that a spell of bad weather, an angry dog, slippery barn planks, a careless postman, hungry goats and other seemingly unrelated factors might play important roles in the big scheme of things after all.
This animated short presents a dilemma faced by a couple every time they go out to eat. Will their culinary differences douse the flames of romance, or will love prevail? Set to a rollicking doo-wop song by Canadian songwriter Alexander (Zander) Ary, the film brings Lynn Smith's gouache paintings to life as she animates directly under the camera. This short is a tasty comic narrative that skips along an array of tantalizing dishes. Vocalists Susie Arioli and Zander Ary each bring a unique interpretation to this funny, charming song.
In this animated short, filmmaker Diane Obomsawin shows how childhood can be a chaotic time, especially if you're bouncing back and forth between two continents.With engaging candour and gentle humour, Obomsawin fleshes out an uncertain identity and takes control of her life. Using drawings on paper and digitized snippets of fabric, she creates a whimsical world of simple lines and pastel tones.
This animated film by Martine Chartrand (Black Soul) recounts the friendship between a young Félix Leclerc and Frank Randolph Macpherson, a Jamaican chemical engineer and university graduate who worked for a pulp and paper company. An inveterate jazz fan, Macpherson inspired Leclerc, who wrote a song about the log drives and entitled it “MacPherson” in honour of his friend. Paint-on-glass animation shot with a 35mm camera.
This hilarious Oscar®-nominated animation is based on the century-old folk song of the same name. Old Mr. Johnson makes increasingly manic attempts to rid himself of a little yellow cat that just won't stay away... Also won the 1989 Genie Award for best animated short film.
Love this film? Bring it home with you with its’ official merchandise!
In The Mountain of SGaana, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter spins a magical tale of a young man who is stolen away to the spirit world, and the young woman who rescues him. The film brilliantly combines traditional animation with formal elements of Haida art, and is based on a story inspired by a old Haida fable.
Winner of over 35 international awards, Hedgehog's Home is an animated film by Eva Cvijanović. Based on the classic story by Branko Ćopić, a writer from the former Yugoslavia, it is a warm and universal tale that reminds us there truly is no place like home.
This animated short retells the classic tale of a pretty little girl, her grandmother and a conniving old wolf. Preserving all of its delight, innocence and anticipation, this children’s classic leaps from the storybook to the screen through the magic of animation.
This short animation is a zany version of the classic fairy tale, with the leading role played by a mistreated, romantic penguin, with hilarious results. Cinderella Penguin loses her magic flipper as she runs to meet her midnight deadline, but all ends well when Prince Charming finds the right webbed foot and the nasty step-family is brought to heel. A 1981 Oscar® nominee.
In this animated short, the traditional folklore tale of Pinocchio takes a wry turn. This time around, the hero, a carved wooden puppet named Spinnolio, is totally devoid of mobility and human consciousness. Noted for his "cool head" and unruffled personality, he makes a totally passive, though quite successful go at life, until his employer decides to replace him with a computer. A reflection on consciousness, the work ethic, interpersonal relationships and the citizen in society.