My favorite animated short ever is "Garuda," made by a group of students from the French school Gobelins (and one from Calarts). Despite clocking in at only a minute sixteen - it packs quite punch. I get goosebumps every time I watch it.
Students from Gobelins never fail to produce work of a consistently high quality in all facets of production: animation, visual development, art direction, sound design, and music.
Unfortunately story and character can sometimes be a casualty in their films, though in their defense there's only so much you can do in a minute. Perhaps it is due to the film's status as a portfolio piece for five students: showcasing skill and aptitude for the "Wow!" factor seem to win out over quieter, well-observed character moments.
I do feel that Garuda works better than most, so here's a brief list of three things I love about this film, stunning production values aside:
1) The Symbolism
The story of a boy who is transfixed by a great magical bird, and, by chasing it down, ends up becoming one himself, is fascinating. To me it's a powerful metaphor for the life of anyone who constantly pursues greatness, only to one day wake up to realize greatness has unknowingly been achieved.
2) The Transformation
That moment of realization (underscored by masterful sound design) that he has become a bird is magical for me. I'm a bit transfixed with animal transformation; I've found it difficult making it relevant to my story, and here is one place Garuda succeeds masterfully.
3) The Mythological Underpinning
The source material for this film was the character Garuda, a magical bird-man creature of Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
The mining of mythology has continued to prove fruitful for Gobelins. Perhaps the millennia's worth of buildup in our collective unconscious gives these stories a heft that would otherwise be difficult to achieve in one minute's time. Here's another great example, this time using the Norse myth of Fenrir: