The best of Pixar's shorts1 December, 2011 11:48am
Proving you don’t need much dialogue to tell a good story, the magical Pixar Shorts have always been a welcome addition to any cinema visit. Such simple, charming stories mean they’re almost impossible to dislike. Starting as a showcase for John Lasseter in the 80’s, they’ve gone on to dominate the Best Animated Short category at the Oscars, year after year. We at Virgin Media Shorts love a bit of Pixar, so we’ve picked out ten of our favourites...
The Adventures of Andre and Wally B (1984)
Back when Pixar was little more than John Lasseter working alone in a dark room at Lucasfilm, this was his first foray into three dimensional animation - groundbreaking at the time. A short story about a pesky bumblebee, this got the Pixar ball rolling. Released in December 1984, it was, strangely, shown before Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
Luxo Jr. (1986)
The first film officially produced under the Pixar Animation Studios title was inspired by the lamp on John Lasseter’s desk. Nominated for a Best Animated Short Oscar in 1986, this is the story of a baby lamp, his lamp father, and a ball. After Luxo Jr. plays with the ball too much, it bursts - he’s sad, and Lamp Sr. thinks he’ll finally get some peace. Unfortunately, Jr. finds an even bigger ball to play with. So now you know where the iconic logo comes from!
Tin Toy (1988)
A bit of a precursor to Toy Story, John Lasseter’s third Pixar short is about Tinny, a mechanical one man band who, scared he’s going to get broken by a baby, takes cover under the sofa only to discover other toys as scared as he is. But when the baby starts to cry, he decides he does want to be played with after all. Unfortunately, the baby’s attention has moved onto the box Tinny came in. Marking the first time Pixar made a human, Tin Toy went on to win the Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 1988.
Pixar boss John Lasseter with Toy Story score composer Randy Newman, Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
Geri’s Game (1997)
Larry David look-alike Geri plays a game of chess with himself in the park, moving to the other side of the board and switching personalities with each turn. When he starts to beat himself, he fakes a heart attack, spins the board round and wins, reclaiming his dentures back from himself. Geri's Game is a sweet film about an elderly man, still young at heart, having a bit of fun with himself. The first Pixar film made after the huge success of Toy Story, this was shown cinematically before A Bug's Life and went on to claim another Best Animated Short Oscar for Pixar in 1998.
For The Birds (2000)
John Lasseter took a back seat with this film, taking on the Executive Producer role while Ralph Eggleson wrote and directed it. For the Birds is a simple story about getting the last laugh. One by one, a flock of small birds take rest on a telephone line - when a bigger gormless bird comes and sits with them in an attempt to make friends, he instead becomes the subject of ridicule. The third Pixar short to win an Academy Award, this is deceptively simple, with each individual feather on each individual bird moving as they would in real life. Clever stuff.
One Man Band (2005)
Shown before Cars, the musical score is the film’s biggest character, as two Italian street performers try to out-do each other’s one man band show in an effort to impress a small girl with a big shiny coin. With the music and the story developed simultaneously, the musical battle is a result of the directors Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews collaborating with composer Michael Giacchino at every point.
Directed by the seven-time Oscar-winning sound editor and mixer, Gary Rydstrom, it’s fair to say Lifted has some weight behind it, going for the Close Encounters angle. Under the watchful eye of his examiner, young alien Stu must attempt to abduct a human. But faced with thousands of identical switches, abduction is actually quite tricky and requires a fine touch, something Stu doesn’t possess as he gets more and more frustrated. Meanwhile, his abductee is being tossed around his bedroom with Stu’s every wrong move.
This is Pixar’s homage to classic cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and the Looney Tunes. Presto, directed by veteran Pixar animator Doug Sweetland, is the story of a turn-of-the-20th-century magician hungry for fame and fortune, and his uncooperative rabbit. who just wants his carrot. Using both modern and classic techniques, Sweetland drew much inspiration from older cartoons as well as the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. Even Alec the rabbit looks like Bugs Bunny. It goes without saying this marked another Academy Award nomination for Pixar.
Partly Cloudy (2009)
Putting to bed the awkward question, ‘where do babies come from?’, babies, puppies and kittens emerge from the sky in this short, where they’re created by the cloud people and given to storks for delivery. However, lonely dark cloud Gus makes less than cute babies - crocodiles, sharks, porcupines. Fed up with being bitten and attacked, his loyal stork Peck leaves him, making Gus miserable. But it’s OK, he later comes back kitted out in all manner of protective gear. Working out how to make characters from clouds was the trickiest aspect for director Peter Sohn and his crew. Shown before Up, Partly Cloudy has a more serious tone about it compared to previous shorts.
Day and Night (2010)
The first Pixar short to combine both classic, hand-drawn 2D animation and modern 3D, the characters act as windows into a 3D world. Day portrays a bright and sunny daytime scene while Night goes about his business after dark. When they meet, they’re unsurprisingly sceptical and end up fighting, quickly becoming envious of each other’s exciting lives – day wanting to enjoy the stars, night fancying a stroll on a sunny beach. Once they work out how to work together, they soon become friends. Carrying the strong message that the unknown can be mysterious and wonderful rather than something to fear, Day and Night is is easily one of the most effective shorts Pixar have made, 2D acting as a window into a gorgeous 3D world. Of course, it bagged the company another Oscar nod earlier this year, being pipped to the post by The Lost Thing.
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