As the dreary days of autumn become more frequent and you need something more cheerful than spooky Halloween movies to get you through rainy October evenings, there are few things better than an animated short film to lift your spirits. From tiny animals to star-crossed lovers to books that come alive, these seven wholesome videos will almost certainly leave your cheeks aching from smiling.
1. “Piper,” dir. Alan Barillaro
From the 2017 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film, this beautifully animated video tells the story of a baby sandpiper learning to catch food for herself and survive the lapping waves that threaten to sweep her into the ocean. “Piper” follows the enthusiastic little bird from her first glimpse of the ocean to her discovery that she is a proficient catcher of clams, with many adventures along the way—including a friendship with a baby hermit crab and several scary tumbles into the sea.
With big eyes, clumsy feet and a round, fluffy body, the sandpiper radiates the kind of innocent lovability that will leave you sobbing if you are the type of person who cries at overwhelmingly cute things.
2. “Soar,” dir. Alyce Tzue
Many children have fantasized being able to fly, but the protagonist of this short film goes further than most kids in fulfilling that dream. The film tells the story of child who tries to fly her model plane on a windy day, but when a small, mysterious aircraft crashes near her and a tiny human jumps out, she turns her attention to helping him back into the sky.
“Soar” melds cute characters, gorgeous music and a lovely surprise ending into a heartwarming story of friendship and kindness. If anything could make the sun shine on a rainy day, this short film could be it.
3. “The Wishgranter,” dir. Kal Athannassov, John McDonald and Echo Wu
Foiled love and unexpected comedy lend this short film its slapstick air. A man and a woman stand on opposite sides of a fountain in a deserted town square and each tosses a coin into the pool wishing for love. Meanwhile, deep below the street, a man watches as the coins get stuck on their way to his wishgranting factory and the two lovebirds turn away from each other, thwarted in their search for romance. The wishgranter scrambles to get the two to notice each other before they leave the square, and a hilariously desperate chase ensues.
Although the two star-crossed lovers in this film are adorable, each is infuriatingly oblivious of the other’s wish for love and both of them are dejected by the failure of their wishes. On top of that, the comic relief of the wishgranter himself makes the film worth watching.
4. “Paperman,” dir. John Kahrs
This short film combines two oddly relatable feelings: falling in love with someone you pass on the street and being bored at work. The protagonist is waiting for the train to take him to his undoubtedly mind-numbingly dull office job when a woman comes to stand beside him. They glance shyly at each other, but she boards the train and is swept away before he can talk to her. His luck improves when he arrives at work and catches a glimpse of her through an open window of the office building across the street from him. Using the colossal stack of papers that his boss has slammed in front of him, he begins throwing paper airplanes toward her window, and a hilariously frustrated quest after love at first sight ensues.
Funny and endearing, “Paperman” may leave you yearning for love at first sight, but it will hopefully make you laugh as well.
5. “In a Heartbeat,” dir. Beth David and Esteban Bravo
“Paperman” and “The Wishgranter” are both lovely stories and beautiful films, but “In a Heartbeat” provides a refreshing break from stereotypical heterosexual romances. It tells the story of the struggle between head and heart when a closeted boy falls in love with another boy at his school. The boy’s heart escapes his chest and chases after his crush with the wild abandon of first love, while the boy, terrified that his heart will out him, scrambles to catch it before his crush—or the rest of the school—notices his vulnerability.
Put together by two art students on a low budget, the film combines beautiful animation with a seemingly ill-fated romance and perfect comedic timing to create a story that tugs at your heart, yet still leaves you smiling.
6. “Feast,” dir. Patrick Osborne
After watching this 2014 Best Animated Short Film Oscar winner, you’ll wish you could always see the world from the perspective of a tiny dog who loves food only slightly less than he loves his owner. The film follows this doggedly happy puppy from meal to meal as his life progresses from a stray on the streets to the beloved pet of a man who shares every meal with him.
Animated in the sort of classic Disney style that could make even the coldest heart melt, the puppy feels nearly tangible as he pounces on every morsel of food thrown his way. The unadulterated joy of the puppy when he sees food is both relatable and endearing, and the film will doubtless leave you smiling and wishing pets were allowed in dorm rooms.
7. “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” dir. William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
At fifteen minutes long, this film is a bit lengthier than the previous six, with a more complex plot. Reminiscent of “The Wizard of Oz,” the film starts black and white amidst a tornado that sweeps Mr. Morris Lessmore into a colorful world where books can fly. He finds his way to a gorgeous library, filled wall to ceiling with living books that he begins to take care of. For any bookworm who wishes they could adopt a library full of books and care for them as Mr. Lessmore does, “The Fantastic Flying Books” tells the story of a dream come true.
Everyone needs something to feel good about in the dreary days of fall, and an afternoon or evening of heartwarming short films may be one of the best cures for the autumn blues. Whether you binge watch them or save one for each day of the week (since you won’t be able to get through more than one of them before becoming overwhelmed by their cuteness), these short films will undoubtedly bring some much-needed sunshine into your life.