Among all the other inequalities in cinema, one of the oldest is the general preference for feature-length films over shorts. Very few short films are considered essential masterpieces, and even fewer animated short films have that title. It's even more difficult if you consider that a whole generation of us grew up watching hours upon hours of cartoons on television (with commercials), without the knowledge or experience to discern that some of them might have been actual works of genius or art. How many times, for example, did I watch Chuck Jones's What's Opera Doc? (1957) without really contemplating or even noticing the detail and the imagination that went into it. I didn't know at the time that I would eventually go on to call it the Citizen Kane of cartoons.
Now the blog Shooting Down Pictures has compiled an essential list of 100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films, which -- at the very least -- gives us a starting point. The introduction specifies that the list is simply 100 important directors, and not THE 100 most important directors. The very first comment on the list was: where's Mike Judge? And the listmakers replied by saying that these filmmakers are primarily theatrical and not television-based. (That explains the lack of Rocky & Bullwinkle, too.) The list of directors was originally created when the folks behind the great movie-list website They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? decided to make a list of the 250 greatest short films, which never materialized.
Either way, it's a great list, starting with some of the great American comedy cartoon makers, like Tex Avery (Red Hot Riding Hood), Dave Fleischer (Snow-White, with Betty Boop), Walter Lantz ("Woody Woodpecker"), Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks and many others on the Disney team, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and others from the Warner Bros. team, and Otto Messmer ("Felix the Cat"). Joseph Barbera & William Hanna are best known for their ultra-cheap, ultra-fast television work ("Scooby-Doo," "The Flintstones," etc.) but they made the list, based on their exceptional work on the Tom & Jerry cartoons at MGM. The little-known Robert Clampett, the man behind the brilliant, mind-bending Porky in Wackyland (1938), also earns a mention, as does Robert Cannon, who directed the Oscar-winning, Dr. Suess-written Gerald McBoing Boing (1951).
The list also contains a few pioneers, such as the wonderful comic strip artist Winsor McCay, whose entire existing output, including the groundbreaking Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), is available on a single DVD. Polish animator Wladyslaw Starewicz made some of the first stop-motion cartoons, like The Cameraman's Revenge (1912). And German-born Lotte Reiniger did most of her work with silhouettes; today she's best known for her feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).
International and experimental filmmakers from all over the world made the list, too, including Walerian Borowczyk, Bruno Bozzetto, The Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer, John & Faith Hubley, Norman McLaren and Osamu Tezuka. George Pal is here, even though he's best known for doing visual effects on feature-length films, as well as Frank Tashlin, who gained later fame as a feature filmmaker of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis films.
Finally, there are some current geniuses here, like Don Hertzfeldt (Rejected), John Lasseter (Tin Toy), Nick Park (the "Wallace & Gromit" films) and Bill Plympton (Your Face). And that's only a fraction of the entire list, which includes dates of birth, country of origin, and lists of recommended titles. A little time spent combing over the list combined with some web searching could yield an impressive collection of DVDs (alternatively, a good many of these shorts are available for viewing online) and some life-changing cinema experiences.