If Anything Happens I Love You, directed by Will McCormack and Michael Govier, was released on Netflix in November 2020 and quickly became a phenomenon on the platform. It then went viral on the Chinese video-sharing platform, as users challenged each other to watch the 12-minute film without crying.
Some users called it “the saddest movie of the year”.
If Anything Happens I Love You borrows its title from a text message in the film, sent by the couple's daughter before she's killed.
McCormack, who also co-wrote Toy Story 4, says he was shocked when the film went viral on TikTok.
"My niece called me a couple of days after the movie came out and she said, 'Uncle Will, your movie's trending on TikTok.' And I was like, 'I have no idea what you're talking about'," he told the Associated Press.
"There were kids all over the world, people of all ages, but mainly kids who were filming themselves before the movie, during the movie and then after the movie."
He added it proved "people do want to show up to stories and feel, and you can do that in animation and you can do that in 12 minutes".
The idea for the film was born out of the frequency of mass shootings and how quickly the news cycle and public awareness moves on, adds co-director Govier.
"All of us grew up and we did not have active shooter drills in school. Like I had a fire drill ... And so I think the world has changed so much and the fact that that has become a norm, we wanted to show what grief looks like," he said.
The film was animated, composed and lead-produced by an all-female team.
Nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced on Monday.