The short that started it all for animation juggernaut, Pixar, was merely a tease of what was to come. It’s a very simple story about a lamp and that lamp’s son playing with a ball, but it’s a testament to the studio that out of that premise, they were able to make a relatable film. To make the audience empathize with inanimate objects would prove to be their first claim to fame nearly a decade later with Toy Story.
Two market place street musicians in medieval times compete for the last coin from a young girl. After the two’s escalating performances cause her to drop the coin and lose it, she demonstrates her own musical ability earning her more gold than the two men could ever imagine. Reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon in a way, because of the intense rivalry and one-upsmanship and pettiness of the characters. Shows once again Pixar’s talent at telling an engaging story without dialogue, which they put on full display soon after with Wall-E. Their artwork and Michael Giacchino’s music tell the story.
Uniquely personal short film from the Pixar team, relating a scene from the writer/director’s childhood with his father. Young Sanjay, like most kids, fantasizes about super heroes. A battle between his modern fantasies and the Hindu traditions of his family ensues when his father’s prayers conflict with a favorite television program of Sanjay’s. The hyper-cartoonish art style, while lovely, seems at odds with the material, and the main action feels designed to keep younger kids attention. I would have preferred a simpler design and telling of Sanjay’s story. Still, a fine short film.
Attempting to update a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon for modern times, this short starts off with Mickey in a quintessential premise. The big bully Pete is after Mickey’s girl Minnie, and it’s up to Disney’s greatest creation to save her. Complicating matters, and putting a new spin on the material, is the breaking of the fourth wall, almost literally. Mickey breaks through the theater screen, and becomes a three dimensional figure. The short then sees Mickey using the fourth wall and his bag of tricks to stop Pete. Much of the short is clearly designed to show off the then booming trend of 3-D. Thankfully, the film avoids being outright gimmicky. It’s a solid piece of animation, though Mickey looks a whole lot better in 2-D.
One of my favorite short films, Paperman tells a romantic story of a listless company man who meets his dream girl through a chance encounter. Separated before he can make a move, he later sees her across the street from his office building, and uses paper airplanes to try and reach her. The black-and-white animation is magnificent and integrated perfectly within the story. The triumphant idea is executed perfectly by Disney.
Beautifully animated telling of the famous John Henry folktale wherein the newly freed black man attempts to build a better future for his wife and family out west. There, on the verge of their dream, Henry and many other black families face opposition leading to the folklore hero’s legendary battle with a steam-powered hammer. Man versus machine. The story is told in colorful, hand-drawn (with the pencil shadings left in) fashion mixed with excellent music from Sounds of Blackness. This is a wonderful adaptation of the myth and would be a perfect introduction to John Henry for any kid. Also unfortunately the earliest portrayal of black people in a Disney animated film.
Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen (how many great Disney films has he inspired?), this short follows a young orphan girl as she looks to sell matches from her box for money to live on. Later that night, having not sold any, she strikes up all the matches to find their warmth replay the best memories of her life, and she’s able to sink off in to a world of fantasy as life leaves her body. This is an incredibly sad story, all the more so since it eschews the traditional Disney fairy tale ending. It’s beautifully animated, and moving. The perfect short.