On Tuesday, Disney will release the Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2, and while you won't see quite the evolution of technology you witnessed in Volume 1, you will get a dozen entertaining tales, because the one constant in any Pixar creation is story. Even when computer animation was limited to anthropomorphic desk lamps, unicycles and windup toys, it's always been Pixar's gift to inject a good deal of heart, humor and humanity into its characters.
Tops among the Volume 2 entries is Day & Night (2010), director Teddy Newton's incredibly clever look at what happens when the keepers of light and darkness meet. First, they're overcome with suspicion and jealousy, but with time they learn to appreciate each other's differences with a sense of adventure, fun and common purpose.
Also notable are La Luna (2011), a gentle, dreamy fable about a boy who learns the business of tending to moonlight and falling stars from his father and grandfather, and Presto (2008), the story of a magician who learns there are repercussions when you don't properly feed the rabbit in your hat. I particularly enjoyed Presto for its frenetic silliness reminiscent of 1940s-era Warner Bros. cartoons. The gags come fast and furious as Alec the bunny uses his boss's magic against him to acquire the tasty carrot he craves.
For Toy Story fans, the Volume 2 collection also includes the "Toy Story Toon" shorts Hawaiian Vacation and Small Fry.
|John Lasseter accepts his 1979 Student|
Academy Award from actress Quinn
Cummings for Lady and the Lamp.
My favorite of the student films is Stanton's Somewhere in the Arctic, a simply animated (Stanton acknowledges he was one of the weaker animators in his group at CalArts) bit of silliness about a savvy polar bear who outwits a trio of high-strung hunters. Like Presto, it has a Warner Bros. sensibility to it with its use of random, non-sequitur jokes (where does a polar bear find a boombox anyway?). It's fun to watch and, as Stanton points out in his introduction, it's a reminder of how an audience will let a film maker get away with shortcuts in animation as long as there's a good story.
For all of Pixar's technological accomplishments in animation, the greatest strength of its creative people has always been their ability to tell a story. As the Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 demonstrates, even before they ventured beyond the walls of CalArts, Lasseter, Stanton and Docter had that gift.