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The original score for Pixar’s OUT is now available!

Soundtrack, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • July 3, 2020

If you haven’t seen Pixar’s latest SparkShort “OUT” yet, then I envy you – watching it for the first time is an absolute joy. It’s on Disney+ along with all of the other shorts from Pixar’s experimental shorts programme. You can read our review of it here.

“OUT” was made even more charming by its soundtrack, written by Jake Monaco and Natasha Adorlee. The rainbow space cat and dog duo’s theme – which is titled Pink and Purple in the soundtrack listing (by Natasha Adorlee) – stuck with me in particular. I think it stuck with the protagonist’s parents too, evidenced by the fact that they hum along to it at the end of the short.

You can purchase and listen to the soundtrack now.

Apple Music 

Spotify

 

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Pixar’s “Out” Is A Weirdly Wonderful Coming Out Story

SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • May 22, 2020

The latest SparkShort Out, directed by Steven Hunter, is Pixar’s first coming out story featuring its first gay protagonist, Greg. It’s moving day, and Greg is preparing for a new life in the city with his boyfriend Manuel. Moving day ends up being a little more hectic and otherworldly than he expected – not only do his parents show up on his doorstep, but a magical collar appears, defying the laws of time and space.

When the title of Out was first revealed, I’ll admit that my mind at no point envisaged a coming out story, but I am so thrilled to have been surprised by this. Not only is it a coming out story, but it’s a weird one. In the best way possible. The weirdness doesn’t take away from the emotional impact – if anything, it adds to it.

Greg is suffering from a struggle that will be familiar to many – coming out as gay to his parents. When the opportunity is flung on him, he freezes and does anything he can to hide the truth. In fact, he is so determined to not have his parents find out about his relationship that even when he swaps bodies with his dog his first priority is to continue hiding the evidence. And that leads to some pretty drastic decisions.

It’s only when he’s given the chance to sit and listen to his mom’s own inner struggle that he finds the courage to open up about his too.

Pets are wonderful things. They can’t talk back (at least in human). They’re just there, and they let you talk through your feelings. It’s so cathartic to have a dependable ear for those words to fall on instead of having them dissipate into thin air. Countless people have poured their hearts out in front of their cat and then thought “Wow, I wish I could just tell my parents that.” It’s good practice though.

This is what went through my mind when Greg’s mom was taking a moment to reveal her worries in front of Jim the dog (she wasn’t to know that her son was currently residing in the dog’s body). We should all wear our hearts on our sleeves a little more, and I think Greg learnt that in this short snippet of his life. Even more importantly, though, is that he learnt that there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s gay, and that’s good.

“What is wrong with you?” “Hm…nothing.”

The story isn’t the only wow factor that Out has – the experimental animation style, the character designs, the voice acting, Wheezy from Toy Story 2…they’re all great. It’s amazing that they fit this all into just 10 minutes.

No two coming out stories are going to be the same. This one was based on a true story, and we’re wondering how much was real and how much was imagined. Fingers crossed that beautiful gay-space-rainbow cat and dog couple are real though. Bravo SparkShorts on yet another inspiring film!

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New Pixar SparkShort – OUT – Coming To Disney+

SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • May 1, 2020

OUT is the title of the new short coming out of Pixar’s SparkShorts program, and it will be available on Disney+ on May 22nd.

We don’t know anything about the story of OUT yet, but here is a very charming still that was just released today:

We’re enjoying the different art style they’ve gone for here – it’s a little reminiscent of the lovingly drawn and animated SparkShort Kitbull. And look at what’s in this cute pup’s mouth: Wheezy from Toy Story 2! Right?! We wonder if his squeaker is still working.

The SparkShorts program is really inspiring – it allows Pixar employees from all sorts of different departments across the studio to tell their own stories and try out new things. So far we’ve been beyond impressed by Kitbull, Purl, Float, Loop, Smash & Grab, and Wind. It’s been exciting seeing how creativity can be fuelled by limited resources and limited time. The animation style experiments have been eye-opening!

Not all SparkShorts have quite been released on the European Disney+ yet. Wind was released last week, and Loop is still to become available.

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Looping through colors and sounds

SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • January 21, 2020

When “Loop” premiered on Disney+ a few weeks ago, I watched it three times in a row. (As of this posting, my view count is now at five). It’s the first Pixar release of 2020, and I can’t think of a better one to hold that distinction. It represents another first as well: one of the protagonists is autistic and nonverbal. Her name is Renee. I remember really liking her design the first time I saw the poster last year. All that hair!

“Loop” is Pixar’s second SparkShort about autism, but this time, there are no metaphors or magic. Renee’s autism isn’t portrayed as a mysterious gift. This short is extraordinarily simple – we spend one bright and sunny afternoon with two teenagers in a canoe. Marcus is Renee’s partner. He is not autistic and seems nice enough, although he is reluctant to be paired off with Renee, referring to her as “that girl who doesn’t talk.” Their continuous loop around the lake is fairly uneventful at first, but that’s why I find it so compelling. It’s just two kids with vastly different experiences of the world learning to communicate with one another.

Also available on Disney+ is “The Making of Loop.” It details how the filmmakers, led by director Erica Milsom, worked with The Autistic Self Advocacy Network to bring this story faithfully to the screen. One way they achieved authenticity was with the casting of Madison Bandy, a nonverbal autistic actress, as Renee. Girls are largely under diagnosed with autism, and we might be tempted to associate it with boys only. But for a Pixar film to center a nonwhite autistic girl is really making strides in the realm of representation for both the studio and media in a broader sense. It’s also cool that both characters in “Loop” are nonwhite, with Marcus having dark brown skin.

It’s evident just how passionate Milsom and her team were to tell this story in such an honest way. Marcus is well intentioned, but his plans go awry, and he becomes frustrated. He doesn’t know how to communicate with Renee, but he does give her some space. He learns to be patient. We’re able to sympathize with him. Not once are we meant to pity Renee; rather we identify with her; see and hear the world through her eyes and ears. A great moment in “Loop” occurs when Marcus tells her, “I hear you.” Just because she can’t talk doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen.

One of my nieces is on the autism spectrum, and she struggled a lot with sensory overload when she was younger. That scene in the short where Renee claps her hands to her ears was so immediately recognizable to me, because my niece would always do the same when she was overwhelmed by noise. I am not autistic, but Renee hiding under the canoe was deeply relatable to me. I’ve never done that, but I understand the need to. The comfort she draws from listening to her ringtone, a continuous looping sound, is also something I could relate to: I’ve listened to the same song on repeat when I need comfort, or need to calm myself down.

“Loop” just radiates so much compassion, color, and warmth.

“Loop” is dedicated to Adam Burke, who also has a story credit on the film. Read this Forbes interview with Milsom and producers Michael Warch and Krissy Cababa for more insight on this beautiful little story.

Click the banner below for more of our SparkShorts reviews. 

 

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Congratulations to Pixar on Three Oscar Nominations!

Animation, Awards, Josh Cooley, Oscars, Randy Newman, Short Film, Shorts, SparkShorts, Toy Story 4

Posted by Nia • January 13, 2020

This morning storytellers and film aficionados alike gathered around their TVs, cradled their smartphones, and hunched over their computer monitors awaiting the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominations. Despite some obvious snubs and a few shockers, the broadcast concluded with a solid list of nominations, including THREE for Disney/Pixar.

The studio snagged a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category for Toy Story 4, the Best Original Song category for Toy Story 4, and in the Best Animated Short category for Kitbull.

A lot of time and hard work goes into making any kind of animated content and we wanted to congratulate EVERYONE who was involved in Toy Story 4 and Kitbull. Great work!

Now… it’s time to begin the official award show countdown. We can’t wait for the Oscars, which airs on Sunday 9th of February!

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Pixar Appears Twice In Oscars Shortlists

Awards, Oscars, Shorts, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • December 17, 2019

The 2020 Oscars shortlists have been revealed for 9 categories: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects. Pixar appears in the shortlists twice, and we couldn’t be more happy and hopeful for the teams involved.

Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4 has been shortlisted for Best Music (Original Song). Newman’s music always evokes such a strong sense of nostalgia in me, partly because it brings me back to watching Pixar movies on VHS tapes, but also because the lyrics are always so thoughtful.

The wonderful Sparkshort Kitbull, directed by Rosana Sullivan and produced by Kathryn Hendrickson, has also been shortlisted for Best Animated Short Film. It’s great to see one of the Sparkshorts gaining attention in the awards season, especially with them missing out at the Annie Awards nominations. Out of all the Sparkshorts that Pixar released on YouTube, Kitbull currently has the most views, and holds the record for the most tears I have shed while watching an animated cat.

Good luck to all those that have been shortlisted! As ever, we’re intrigued to see how the awards season plays out.

So far this season, Toy Story 4 has been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes, and at the Annie Awards it gained 6 nominations: Best Feature, Best FX (Alexis Angelidis, Amit Ganapati Baadkar, Greg Gladstone, Kylie Wijsmuller and Matthew Kiyoshi Wong), Best Music (Randy Newman), Best Voice Acting (Tony Hale as Forky), Best Writing (Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton), and Best Editorial (Axel Geddes, Torbin Xan Bullock and Greg Snyder).

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Float: a magical story of acceptance

Bobby Rubio, Disney+, Float, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • December 15, 2019

Please don’t ask if I have a favorite SparkShort. I just can’t choose. (Maybe it’s “Kitbull.” But again, don’t ask)! But if you asked me which one is the most special to me, I’d have to choose “Float.” That’s the one I was lucky enough to watch in Pixar’s beautiful theater, where the ceiling glitters with gold stars. In fact, I was so excited about the prospect of seeing any one of the SparkShorts on a big screen that I gasped aloud when it was announced. And I was sitting in the front row, so Chris Wiggum, our host that night, heard and immediately singled me out. One of my finer moments, to be sure! 

The SparkShorts series came at a pivotal moment in Pixar’s history. At a time when Hollywood at large has reckoned with abuses of power, Pixar has had to do the same. This short film program aims to level the playing field by giving opportunities to diverse voices behind the camera. “Float” was the first to premiere on Disney+ a few weeks ago, and it was also the first thing I watched when I downloaded the app. Nothing could replace the experience of seeing it in Pixar’s theater, but I just had to watch it over and over, and be enveloped by all the emotions it stirred in me. 

“Float” is story artist Bobby Rubio’s first directorial effort. He’s Filipino, as are the characters in the short. In fact, it’s a deeply personal project inspired by Rubio’s relationship with his son. “Float” opens on a warm and golden afternoon. A father and his son enjoy the beautiful day, with the little boy taking a few wobbly steps. As the father blows on a dandelion, the delighted boy breaks into a smile and floats in the air. It’s a moment of innocent magic, and by that point, I was already in love. I just expected to be smiling contentedly for the rest of it, soaking up the warmth.

But then two parents pass by with their daughter, and their reaction to the boy in the air is one of confusion and alarm. That was the moment that my warm and fuzzy bubble burst. Uh, what’s the matter with these people? I thought. This boy can fly! The father did not share my feelings. He grabs his son from the air and holds onto him, retreats into their house, away from the neighbors’ stares. 

The interior of the house is gray and drab, the golden haze gone. The years have passed and the little boy is a bit older now, drawing on the ceiling since he can float up there. His father is grim faced with lanky long hair and a beard. It’s clear that he hasn’t shaved or gotten a haircut in quite a while. He’s also frustrated by his son’s unique ability. He grabs him out of the air and places a backpack loaded with rocks onto him so he’ll remain on the ground. That’s his way of achieving some sort of “normalcy.” 

But his son doesn’t stay earthbound for very long. Despite his father’s best efforts, he still continues to soar. 

I had suspected that “Float” was a metaphor for autism. Bobby Rubio confirmed it for us during a panel with the SparkShorts filmmakers, and hearing him describe his experiences raising his son, struggling to accept his differences, made me choke up just as much as I did watching the short. “Float” may be about a father learning to accept his son, but I found another meaning in it. Autism is so misunderstood, and “Float” doesn’t shy away from that reality. But it also presents it as something magical like flying. Isn’t that amazing? This thing that makes you different, that other people find weird, is actually wonderful. It could be autism or anything else, and that’s also what makes “Float” so significant.

There’s just one line of dialogue spoken, and it’s devastating; I’d rank it up there with some of the most heart wrenching moments in Pixar’s full length films. That’s one of the things I love about these SparkShorts: they tell a lot of story in such a brief amount of time, and none of the poignancy is lost. 

Be sure to watch the The Making of Float, also on Disney+. There’s some beautiful concept art and more background on the short.

 

Click the banner below for all of our SparkShorts reviews.

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The bleak immigration story in Wind

Short Film, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • December 14, 2019

Pixar’s latest SparkShort is now streaming on Disney+. “Wind” is a tale unlike any other at the studio. Of course we watch Pixar films expecting to cry, but rarely do they leave us so winded (pun not intended) without the promise of a happy ending. Toy Story 4 was the first to end on a bittersweet note, but the ending to “Wind” is actually heartbreaking.

The short begins with warm lighting that envelopes the characters, a young boy and his grandmother, in soft, gold light. It’s comforting. But that warmth just vanishes when they step outside. The two of them live in a vast ruin of darkness with massive boulders and debris floating through the air. It’s mostly gray out there; cold and harsh.

I was wondering throughout how this cavernous landfill came to exist, and why these two people should be living on such inhospitable terrain. Those questions weren’t answered but that doesn’t matter: this is a place no one should call home. And so, the boy and his grandmother collect the floating trash as they build a rocket to escape.

Brilliant touches abound in “Wind.” The visual storytelling communicates a wealth of emotions and the tenderness between grandma and grandson without dialogue. I’m sure it qualifies as a silent film, as do the majority of Pixar’s shorts. The visuals are also stunning even in this colorless and bleak environment. The story is one that will resonate with so many real world families making their journeys to a better life. “Wind” is a fantasy that nevertheless reflects the harsh realities of immigration. It’s the kind of story that could be told in a full length feature, but the runtime is one of its strengths. It’s no small feat to tell a meaningful story in ten minutes or less, especially one with protagonists enduring hardship.

“Wind” was directed by Edwin Chang, a simulation technical director. His family’s experiences inspired the short, which echoes other directors and their projects at the studio. The personal always lends these films even more potency. You can read a brief interview with Chang and producer Jesus Martinez at SFGate

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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”.

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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.

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