MENU

SparkShorts
Category

Kitbull Might Be Pixar’s Cutest Short Yet

Short Film, Shorts, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • February 18, 2019

Pixar’s series of SparkShort YouTube releases is coming to an end with their latest short “Kitbull”, and it’s absolutely the cutest one out of the bunch. Even the YouTube thumbnail is enough to make my heart grow a couple sizes.

The most immediately noticeable thing about “Kitbull” is the fact that it’s 2D – it has joined the small and highly respected group of 2D-animated Pixar shorts. It’s not often we get to see Pixar tackling hand-drawn projects (and so beautifully!), but this isn’t the only thing that makes “Kitbull” special.

“Kitbull” follows a tiny stray kitten who is independent but frightened of the unfamiliar. The kitten is also a strong contender for Pixar’s cutest creation to date. You can tell the animators took inspiration from the internet’s wealth of cute cat videos: its playful behaviour, clumsy, unpredictable movements, and ridiculously dilating pupils are all spot on.

The kitten meets a dog – a pit bull – but is too scared to approach it at first. This is partly, and understandably, due to the enormous size difference, but also because of the kitten’s fear of anything new or unexpected. It takes a vital moment of brave empathy and vulnerability for the kitten to finally extend a paw of friendship to the poor dog – a moment that ends up improving both of their lives for the better.

It’s difficult to put into words how delightful “Kitbull” is. The digitally hand-drawn style is beautiful. When you see storyboards and colour scripts from Pixar movies, there’s always this wonderful sense of fluidity and ease to them, and “Kitbull” feels like a collection of these brought to life. Obviously the 3D-animated movies Pixar are famous for are stunning in their own way, but it feels special to see something different, especially when it’s done so well. The kitten is also quite abstract in its design, which is something I feel makes the world of animation so magical.

“Kitbull” is unique in its animation style, but also in its use of darker themes. On the surface, it’s heart-achingly cute, which makes it memorable in itself, but also cleverly adds to the impact of the moment you realise the pit bull is a victim of animal abuse.

As with the other SparkShorts, you can see the Behind the Scenes and Meet the Filmmakers videos for “Kitbull” on YouTube too. It looks like the team had a lot of fun on the project! Writer and director Rosana Sullivan clearly found the whole thing incredibly rewarding, and I think that really shows in the end product. This quote from her was particularly lovely:

“At first, I just wanted to draw something that made me feel good and was fun, but it evolved into something more personal for me eventually. I realised that growing up I was always very sensitive and shy and had actually a lot of trouble kind of making connections…making friendships. So I related to this kitten. Because it never really stepped outside of its comfort zone to be vulnerable and make a connection. So that’s eventually what the story became.”

“Kitbull” is the last of the SparkShorts that we’ll be seeing for a while. At the end of the year, Pixar plan to have them all available on Disney+, along with three other SparkShorts that are already complete – “Loop”, “Float”, and “Wind”.

Read article

Smash and Grab: An Elegant Ode to Robots

Shorts, Smash and Grab, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • February 11, 2019

Pixar’s second entry in their new SparkSports program continues the studio’s tradition of being dialogue free. You might be tempted to compare it to their 2008 feature, Wall-E, but “Smash and Grab” is an entirely different film.

The short’s title refers to the names of the two robots, who work diligently in the engine room of a sleek and futuristic locomotive. Smash, the taller of the two, has hammer arms, which he uses to smash rocks, while the short and stocky Grab, just has hands to toss the rocks into the furnace. The two are confined to this room, until Smash sees the wider world outside. The robots out there move freely, unlike these two companions, who are bound to their station by a long, fluorescent green rope. Smash is startled to see these robots, but he can see himself and Grab out there, too. And so begins their great escape.

“Smash and Grab” was actually first unveiled in May of 2017 at SIGGRAPH. Back then we didn’t have any more details on the short. Now that the whole thing has been released, it’s much better than what we might have imagined! For one thing, this is a story about defying the status quo. Smash and Grab want more out of life than to toil away at an unfulfilling job, a struggle a lot of human beings and millennials especially can relate too. It’s often a wistful aspiration, because a lot of the time, people just can’t afford to leave their jobs, even if they do hate them. So it’s quite easy to root for Smash and Grab to live the lives they want, rather than be stuck in that cavernous engine room forever.

Pixar have long personified inanimate objects and animals, just like many other animation studios. But making robots more personable is a tricky task. They can be nefarious, like the HAL 3000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; or friendly and humorous like Star Wars‘ C-3PO and R2D2. But rarely, if ever, are robots soulful. Smash and Grab are, just like Wall-E. I can believe they have hearts beating underneath their cold, metal exteriors. Their longing is palpable as well. The stakes are also high. There’s even a heart wrenching moment in the short that’ll make you gasp, if you’re like me.

And that’s to say nothing of the short’s stunning visual poetry. In the engine room, the rocks glow blue, as if embedded with crystals. Much of the short takes place at dusk, in the red-orange afterglow of the sunset. The lighting has a burnished gleam which reflects nicely on the robots and other surfaces. Take a look at the sea of pillowy soft clouds in the image above; the texture alone is amazing. The designs are impressive too, both of the robots and the train. (Maybe if more of them looked like that in our world, I’d be enthusiastic about public transit).

“Smash and Grab” was directed by Brain Larsen, a longtime story supervisor at Pixar. To see more of the short, check out the filmmakers and behind the scenes videos.

Read article

Purl – Pixar’s First SparkShort Is Full Of Surprises (And Knitting Puns) And Hope!

Purl, Short Film, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • February 4, 2019

Pixar released their first SparkShort on YouTube today, which you can watch below:

“Purl” is full of surprises. And knitting puns. And hope! It follows the story of an enthusiastic ball of yarn, Purl, facing her first day in a new workplace. Right from the beginning, it’s clear that the company’s current employees are all practically identical. Pixar’s SparkShorts could be described as creative ‘side-projects’ (but you can tell they’ve been made with just as much love and care as Pixar’s full-length features, if not more). With the shorts being made on a limited budget and schedule, it’s to be expected that some shortcuts will have to be made, but the current male employees all being essential clones of themselves seems like a very deliberate choice: Purl immediately feels out of place.

The more we see of Purl, the more she stands out. First of all, she’s a ball of yarn. All her belongings are beautifully knitted. But even her animation is slightly different to that of her colleagues – she moves a little more ‘choppily’. She behaves differently. She has fresh ideas. Her fellow employees don’t think that’s a good thing, and eventually, neither does Purl herself. Soon, her frustration is literally tying her in knots. The lack of acceptance and understanding is breaking her down.

Purl ends up doing what seems to be the only solution – she attempts to fit in by making herself a clone of the clones. It works, but that’s obviously a bad thing. By suppressing her true self, she suppresses her new ideas and her originality – the company can’t move forward, and life can’t move forward like this either. Finally, it takes a new employee, another bundle of enthusiastic yarn, to make Purl see what’s truly important.

The story of “Purl” will feel eerily familiar to many of us: women being stifled in a male-dominated work environment; people of colour feeling isolated in a predominantly white community. Amazingly, the short could easily be applied to Pixar Studios itself with its recent changes in staffing. The short couldn’t have come out at a more fitting time, and its ending is brimming with hope and diversity. Let’s hope Pixar’s first SparkShort sparks a positive change across the industry, and the world! Every workplace could do with a better balance of knits and purls.

You can even watch Behind The Scenes of “Purl” and Meet The Filmmakers on YouTube! We’re being treated to two more SparkShorts in the next two weeks too – next week we’ll see “Smash and Grab”, and the week after is “Kitbull”! We couldn’t be more excited.

Read article

SparkShorts – What Is It And Why Should We Be Excited About It?

Short Film, Shorts, Smash and Grab, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • January 12, 2019

One of the best things about Pixar is their commitment to innovation. We’ve been highlighting the studio’s short films recently, which have been part of its DNA since it was founded over 30 years ago. That legacy continues with their latest project.

Yesterday Pixar revealed their new SparkShorts program – an official title for the experimental shorts department that we found out about in 2017. It was already an exciting concept – for years, Pixar shorts have been a way of trying out new things and giving employees a chance to try their hand at directing. Having a whole internal program dedicated to giving people at Pixar – from all sorts of different backgrounds and departments – the opportunity to create with little to no restriction or pressure is ingenius. It’s what Pixar is all about: encouraging and inspiring creativity.

Now that the program has been officially revealed and titled, SparkShorts is filling us all with that feeling of awe and pride that Pixar fans are familiar with. Watch their video about it below for some sneak peaks of the upcoming SparkShorts (some of which we’ll be lucky enough to see in just over a month!):

“Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of SparkShorts. The program was created to provide opportunities to a wide array of artists – each with something unique to say.” – Lindsey Collins, vice president of development for Pixar.

The first three shorts in the SparkShorts program will be shown at the El Capitan Theater following The Little Mermaid this January 18th-24th. After this, the shorts will even be available on YouTube for us all to see. Pixar have published the titles and descriptions of these three shorts which you can read below.

  • “Purl,” directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan, features an earnest ball of yarn named Purl who gets a job in a fast-paced, high energy, bro-tastic start-up. Yarny hijinks ensue as she tries to fit in, but how far is she willing to go to get the acceptance she yearns for, and in the end, is it worth it? [Available on YouTube on February 4th]
  • “Smash and Grab, directed by Brian Larsen and produced by David Lally, is about two antiquated robots who risk everything for freedom and for each other after years of toiling away inside the engine room of a towering locomotive. [Available on YouTube on February 11th]

  • Kitbull,” directed by Rosana Sullivan and produced by Kathryn Hendrickson, reveals an unlikely connection that sparks between two creatures: a fiercely independent stray kitten and a pit bull. Together, they experience friendship for the first time. [Available on YouTube on February 18th]

Just months after Domee Shi became the first female director at Pixar for her memorable short “Bao”, it’s so encouraging to see more female directors and new talent from all sorts of different backgrounds making their debut. It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to the new shorts, and to the future! There are countless stories waiting to be told by the talented employees at Pixar, and with projects like this going on, we’ll actually be able to hear them!

UPDATE 16/01/19

You can now find out more about each of the SparkShorts on Pixar’s site here. They’ve also released each short’s corresponding poster. “Loop” and “Wind” are my personal favourites, but they’re all very cleverly designed.

It’s already clear that having crews of diverse storytellers and animators has led to these SparkShorts connecting with a wider range of underrepresented communities and cultures: praise has been given to “Float” for being the first Pixar short to feature Filipino characters, and “Loop” will feature Pixar’s first non-verbal autistic character ‘Renee’, who can be seen in the poster.

Read article