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Presto – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Pixar Short Films Collection, Pixar Short of the Week, Presto, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Nia • November 23, 2018

This week’s Pixar Short that was hand picked by Twitter followers in our latest poll is the underrated “Presto”! The short premiered in front of WALL-E back in 2008.

The film tells a simple story of famed and ever-so-dapper magician named Presto Digiotagione and his gorgeous white rabbit Alec Azam. The short starts in Preto’s dressing room as we’re introduced to Alec, who is unfortunately locked in his cage. His stomach begins to roar like a tiger; it’s clear he’s famished and eyeing the carrot that’s obviously out of reach. After several failed attempts to scoot his cage in the direction of the carrot and finally get his snack, Presto enters the dressing room and foils Alec’s plans of satisfying his hunger.

When Presto realizes it’s almost time for him to be on stage, he quickly starts preparing for his magic show. He makes sure all the locks are shut on his door and eyes his dressing room suspiciously before unlocking his dresser revealing his, drum-roll please, magic hats. His act is based off two hats that are linked to each other, one that is shaped like Sorcerer Mickey’s hat from Fantasia and the other like your standard black magicians’s hat. Whoever, or whatever, is wearing the sorcerer hat, Presto can reach his hand through his magician’s hat to pull the object or animal through, thus completing his bit. It’s clear when the show starts, Alec is fed up and just wants his snack. This causes Presto’s act to not go as planned as he desperately tries to get Alec to put the sorcerer’s hat on so he can pull Alec through his magician’s hat. Instead, what proceeds is a slew of comical bits where instead of Alec coming through the magician’s hat it’s an egg to Presto’s face, Presto’s hand stuck in a mouse trap, a ladder flying through and hitting Presto where it hurts, and even Presto himself as he survives a death defying stunt at the end resulting in Alec’s refusal to listen to him. Albeit his show looking like a disaster for Presto he ends up delivering one of the most exhilarating magic acts of his career. In the end, despite things going awry, Alec gets his carrot and Presto gets even more acclaim.

This short is one of my all-time favorites. What draws me to it each time is the fact that it pays homage to all the great shorts that came before it; from Looney Tunes to the classic Tom and Jerry episodes, the inspiration is obvious in the gags that pull the story from beginning to end. You could even say that Alec, with his motivations and character design, is a modern day Bugs Bunny. “Presto” thrives in gags that bring the plot forward and help carry the story; it’s clear that the set-up is going to be Alec wanting his carrot and doing anything to get it, even if it means embarrassing Presto and ruining his career. Each gag is escalated the more that Alec doesn’t get what he wants and in return there is never a dull moment.

Some fun tidbits about “Presto”:

  • I love the fact that Presto himself was modeled after my favorite actor William Powell. His physicality and charm (even at Presto’s worse moments) throughout the short is based off the actor. You could even see a little bit of Nick Charles from The Thin Man in Presto’s mannerisms throughout the short.

  • Pete Docter and his team actually re-used the theater that’s seen in Presto for the newsreel in the opening of Up. The stage that Charles Muntz reveals the skeleton on is the same one seen in the short.

  • If you look on the second balcony all the way on the left you will be able to see two iconic characters from the Muppets watching Presto’s magic show: Satler and Waldorf. I wonder what they thought of the performance…

  • “Presto” was nominated for Best Animated Short Subject at the 36th Annie Awards and was also nominated for Best Animated Short Film. Despite Presto not winning any awards, it was still well received and is even more beloved today.

If you haven’t seen “Presto” before or you would like a well deserved re-watch, you can check out the short below:

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The Making of Bao: Story, design inspiration, and more!

Bao, Behind The Scenes, Domee Shi, Interview, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Nia • April 23, 2018

Bao is Pixar’s new theatrical short that will be playing this summer in front of the Incredibles 2. It’s one of my favorite shorts from Pixar and it goes without saying – the film is full of scrumptious designs and a heartwarming story that will have you begging for more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out our review of the film.

During my most recent trip to Pixar I learned some fantastic things about the making of Bao from director Domee Shi, production designer Rona Liu, and producer Becky Neiman-Cobb.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

  1. Bao has two meanings in Chinese: steamed bun and to treasure something precious. Domee thought it would be the perfect title for a story about “a precious little steam bun.”
  2. Domee’s #1 obsession in life, outside of animation, is obviously food (and I don’t blame her – I think about food 24/7). “I love food, not just eating it, but drawing it as well.” Before the days of Bao, Domee was making art about food and posting it online. You might remember some of the food related gags and little food-centric comics from her My Food Fantasies
  3. Domee was also inspired by food folk tales because “they’re so cute and strange – like the little gingerbread man and that one song, there was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” With Bao, she was inspired to do a Chinese version of all those folk takes she loved.
  4. According to Domee, the first ingredient to Bao was obviously food and the second ingredient was what she knew best: growing up as an only child. Domee’s family was a small immigrant family that moved from China and lived in Toronto. Domee’s father worked a lot and because of that she spent a lot of time with her mom growing up. Her mom would hold her close whenever she could and treated her like a “delicate little dumpling.” When Domee started growing up and doing things on her own, it was hard for her mom to let go and she’d tell Domee,“I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I’d know exactly where you were at all times.” Domee even said, “It’s that creepy sweet love of a mom who doesn’t want to let go of her little dumpling that was the spark that became the heart of the story.”

    ©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  5. Domee wasn’t only inspired by her relationship with her mom, but she was inspired by her. She is a “dumpling Queen.” Food was how Domee’s mom showed her love for her and they formed a special bond making dumplings together over the years for numerous holidays and events. “In Chinese culture, food and family go hand in hand. When you want to show that you care about someone and that you love someone, you don’t say ‘I love you’ you say ‘have you eaten yet?'”
  6. Her mom was involved in the research for Bao. She’d come in to do “dumpling making demos” for the animators and effects and simulation artists.

    (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

  7. The third ingredient for this short was Chinatown, specifically Chinatown in Toronto where Domee grew up. She wanted to honor that setting and the equally vibrant Chinatown grannies. “I wanted to celebrate their bold colors, their keen eye when it comes to picking out the freshest produce, and their determination to get the best deals in town.”
  8. The style of Bao was inspired by 2D Japanese animation, especially the visual styles of My Neighbors the Yamatas and One Piece. Domee “loved how squishy the characters looked and how pushed their expressions were.”

    ©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  9. Though translating 2D designs to 3D was the biggest obstacle Domee and her team had to get past. Some poses and expressions didn’t translate as well when it was created with 3D software, since 3D itself is its own medium. Some of the design aspects Domee wanted to pull from My Neighbors the Yamatas or One Piece were going to be an challenge, like the mother’s massive head and exaggerated limbs, but there’s nothing that a little planning can’t solve, especially in animation production. In the end, after trial and error, they were able to combine 2D graphic design and 3D modeling, which gave Domee range to achieve what she wanted.
  10. Production designer Rona Liu “oversaw all the visuals in the film.” Her job was to work with the different departments to make sure the look was cohesive and adhered to Domee’s vision.
  11. According to Rona, Domee wanted the short to look and feel very, very cute. It was also heavily influenced by Japanese folk art. She loved the “simple and graphic designs and the fact that a slice of life was the main subject… she wanted to borrow some of that philosophy with Bao, while keeping focus on the characters as much as possible.”
  12. The patterns on the mother’s clothes supported her emotional journey throughout the film. When the mother is unhappy and lonely, Rona used muted colors. When the mother is happy, the colors were “bold and red and auspicious.”
  13. The environment also played a supporting role to the characters. The background designs used throughout the short are not perfectly straight; if you look closely at some of the sets in the trailer and even when you see the film this summer, you’ll find that none of edges actually meet perfectly together, lines are wibbly wobbly. The mother’s house in particular had to reflect that she was an immigrant, a “blend of East meets West.” Rona had decided all the built-ins in the mother’s kitchen would be Western, while all the things the mother buys would be Chinese. 
  14. According to producer Becky Neiman-Cobb, the pork filling was the hardest thing for the effects artists to figure out. “It took two months for them to master the look and feel of the pork filling for the short.” What made the food effects so challenging was that, “we’re all experts as to what food looks like.” And food is the star in Bao, so “if it didn’t look perfect or believable it would pull the audience out of the story.”

Make sure you save lots of room for dessert because Bao is coming to theaters June 15th!

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Pixar’s first female-directed short ‘Bao’ to play before Incredibles 2

Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Joanna • March 28, 2018

A new Pixar short has been announced! The short film ‘Bao‘, directed by Domee Shi, will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21st, and has been confirmed as the short being paired with Incredibles 2 this June. The Tribeca Film Festival site has provided us with the following synopsis, which has completely piqued our interest:

An empty-nesting Chinese mom gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life. But she must come to terms with the bittersweet revelation that nothing stays cute and small forever.

There is so much encouragement to be taken away from this one 8-minute-long short (which, for the record, will be the longest Pixar short yet). It’s tackling a very real and common experience that is not often spoken about, it’s contributing towards a more diverse representation of different cultures and ethnicities in mainstream media, it’s featuring a female protagonist, and it’s the first Pixar short to be directed by a woman. And a dumpling springing to life has definitely added to our interest in ‘Bao‘ too.

Domee Shi at Pixar Animation Studios, 2015. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

March is Women’s History Month, highlighting and celebrating women’s contributions to our society, both past and present. What better month to receive the news that the next Pixar short will be directed by Domee Shi? Shi has worked as a story artist on Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Toy Story 4, and has been nominated for an Annie Award for her work as a storyboard artist on Inside Out. We cannot wait to see what story she has to tell when we see Incredibles 2 this summer.

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Pixar’s creative advertising – a Cars 3 messenger bot?!

Cars 3, Pixar, Shorts

Posted by Joanna • October 18, 2017

Along with the release of Cars 3 on Digital on the 24th of this month and on Blu-ray on the 7th of November, we’ll be able to see the new Cars 3 short Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool.

Miss Fritter, the strong and self-assured school bus voiced by Lea DeLaria, will take centre stage in this mini-movie, and Pixar have come up with a characteristically creative way to advertise it: you can talk to Miss Fritter herself on Facebook Messenger!

By following the link in the tweet above, you’ll be directed to Messenger where you can talk to a cleverly programmed ‘Miss Fritter bot’. The opening screen reads:

“Rev your engine and become a world class racer! In this Cars 3 bot, attend Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool and learn to race like the famous Lightning McQueen.”

You’ll then get to do a fun quiz – there are lots of different questions you might get asked – and at the end, you get rewarded with a teaser for the new short!

It’s great to see Pixar trying out some new advertising techniques, and this one was particularly fun to experience. If you have Facebook Messenger yourself, then it’s well worth a quick test-drive – you even get a certificate.

 

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More ‘LOU’ details

Dave Mullins, Lou, Pixar, Short Film

Posted by Joanna • June 2, 2017

Some new details about Pixar’s next short ‘LOU’ have surfaced this week on CinemaBlend in the form of “5 fascinating facts”.

LOU will feature a soundtrack written by Christophe Beck, who composed the memorable scores for Frozen and the Disney short Paperman, so we’re definitely in for a treat. By using a very interesting ‘round’ method, with musicians exhibiting great coordination skills, the soundtrack is sure to sound amazingly unique.

In addition to this, many of us will have already seen the character J.J.’s design: he appears in the background of Inside Out in Riley’s classroom! It’s not unusual for Pixar to recycle previously rendered characters and objects (a certain pizza delivery truck comes to mind).

Perhaps most excitingly, in response to the initial pitch for LOU, John Lasseter is reported to have said:

“This character looks like a pain in the ass to do, let’s make it.”

It’s always inspiring to see Pixar deliberately tackling challenges like this. LOU is a character made up of a mass of lost and found objects, and it’s easy to understand how difficult it must have been to animate him as a single living thing and not a collection of disconnected items. They’ve succeeded in doing this in the past – think of the school of fish in Finding Nemo, or the cute Lego character in Toy Story of Terror, or even the 7 limbs of Hank the septopus in Finding Dory – but animating LOU may just be their most impressive effort yet.

Ever since A Bug’s Life, all Pixar feature-length films have been coupled with original short films. The creation of these shorts is a way of encouraging creativity within the studio, and providing new and upcoming directors with confidence and experience. It’s clearly become a tradition that Pixar are particularly proud of, especially with their new internal short film project. It therefore comes as no surprise that the short film preceding the main feature is often equally as magical and compelling. Cars 3 is being released in North American theatres in just a fortnight, but the simultaneous release of LOU is just as exciting! ­

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Pixar’s New Short Film “Lou” Will Tug At Your Heart Strings

Cars 3, Dave Mullins, Lou, Short Film

Posted by Nia • April 28, 2017

During a press event at Pixar last month, the studio showed some new footage from Cars 3 and Lou, the short film that will accompany the feature this June. A few months prior to the press day, Pixar released only a brief synopsis of the film and a still that showcased the box of toys that will play a pivotal role in the films story.

Lou

Lou is directed by animator Dave Mullins and will focus on a monster, aptly named Lou, who lives in a lost and found box at an elementary school. The monster is a unique design composed strictly of all the items placed in the box, such as a red hoodie, a baseball, a shoe, some buttons, a slinky, and even a handheld video game. It’s certainly interesting to see in the footage and the images released how much Lou was personified – after all, he’s composed of a plethora of inanimate objects. It’s clear that Pixar’s challenge with technology this time around was bringing this character to life and making him just as convincing as the toys in Toy Story or even the umbrellas and the city in The Blue Umbrella. The items that make the monster aren’t threatening at all, which make him even more lovable and less like a monster – just a mythical creature composed from children’s lost toys. At the end of recess every day, Lou collects all the lost items that are found in the playground and takes them back to the box for safe keeping. It’s then that he notices a bully who has been snatching his classmates personal items, so Lou takes it upon himself to handle the situation (in a perfectly Pixar fashion).

Dave Mullins initially came up with the idea of Lou based on his childhood. As a child, he moved around quite a lot and often felt overlooked when it came to making new friends in each location. “It made him feel invisible, and it gave him this idea for some kind of character who felt invisible and desired to be accepted by other kids. That’s when he came up with the concept of a character who looked like a pile of stolen toys, but was actually a little kid underneath.” He was also inspired by John Lasseter and his set of story guidelines, which, “once explained were the ingredients that a Pixar movie should have. They include heart, meaning there should be a main character who is flawed and experiences personal growth; entertainment, meaning a story that is unpredictable and funny; a unique setting that transports viewers to a place that is exciting and new; and the film must call for being animated and use the full potential of the medium.”

Based on the above images and the information we’ve learned in the last few weeks, we’re excited for you all to see Lou during Cars 3 this summer. It’s a refreshing short film that pushes the boundaries of storytelling, has a boat load of super fun animation, and shares a fantastic message about learning how to be compassionate.

Don’t forget to catch both Cars 3 and Lou on the big screen this June, 16th.

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Here’s Your First Look at Lou – The Short to Play in Front of Cars 3

Cars 3, Dave Mullins, Lou, Short Film

Posted by Nia • February 2, 2017

LOU_Pixar

Since last year we’ve known that Lou was a new short being developed by Pixar, but we didn’t know when it would be premiering or much about the story – aside from the fact it focused on a lost-and-found box and would be directed by Dave Mullins.

Yesterday the studio released more information regarding the short and that it will be playing in front of this year’s film, Cars 3.

The short, in the usual Pixar fashion, will be centered on Lou, a hidden creature in a lost-and-found box at a school. The creature, created from mismatched baseballs and a beaten red hoodie, watches the school children play and secretly protects them against the local bully, J.J.

From a USA Today interview, Mullins discussed that the inspiration for this short was his childhood and the fact he never spent much of his time in one place as a kid.

“You either feel invisible because you don’t know the other kids or you’re embarrassed and you want to be invisible. I thought it’d be really cool to have a character who could hide in plain sight.”

Since Lou’s main motivation is to protect the other children in the school and give back to those who need it the most, he felt J.J. being a bully would help push the story forward while making it relatable to everyone.

“They’re usually just acting out because they’re awkward or young and don’t have their moral compass set. In a weird way, the bullies sometimes feel invisible, too. If you can find out what their motivations are, maybe you can solve some things. That’s what I like about Lou: True happiness comes from giving, He gets J.J. to understand that and through that, what J.J. wants really is to be accepted by the other kids.”

You can catch Lou on the big screen this summer in front of Cars 3.

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