The average viewer probably doesn't get to see the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short Film, unless maybe it's shown before Finding Nemo or something. This year, though, filmmakers put their shorts online in their entirety for free.

This helps their "award campaign" by getting the word out and giving people a chance to see the shorts. "Academy affiliate" Shorts International (they're a "distribution partner," meaning they get films to a small theatrical release, OnDemand, and iTunes) sent the nominees a letter requesting they take the films down because theatrical attendance "plummeted." It may have affected it a little, but at least for us, putting them online meant a lot more people got to see them. We didn't even know you could see them in theaters.

Sales are apparently up 80% from 2006, though, and putting them online doesn't give anyone an advantage as far as Academy voters. It's difficult anyway for filmmakers to make money from Shorts International's theatrical program; posting online gives them "non-financial rewards."

One director said he's been posting his shorts online for ten years. "I believe in making my films and sharing them with the world. it’s difficult to tell people to go to a theater to watch a 1-2 minute film," said the director of Fresh Guacamole. "[But] I can make ideas and put them out there, and they can influence people and build a reputation that brings more opportunities to make more films."

Disney's Paperman is a frontrunner, as is Fox's Maggie Simpson short The Longest Daycare. The other nominees are Adam and Dog, Head Over Heels, and Showtime's Fresh Guacamole. As of this morning, Paperman has already been taken down, Adam and Dog is available on iTunes, The Longest Daycare has been removed from Hulu, and Head Over Heels has been taken off YouTube, too. You can still watch Fresh Guacamole on Showtime's YouTube channel. Way to fight the man!

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[via Deadline]

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