Watching the latest Pixar movie is always a treat but sometimes we get a special bonus of a new Pixar short. I loved the latest Incredibles 2 film and will post my review of that sometime this week, but I thought I would talk about the short that played before it: the delightful Bao.
Much has been talked about Bao being the first Pixar short directed by a woman, Domee Shi. While I think that is great, I worry that it may give the appearance of praise based on the sex of the director rather than the actual quality of the short. Shi is not only a trailblazer but did a tremendous job creating a short that is sweet and heartfelt that any parent (or child for that matter) will be able to relate with.
Bao is an allegorical tale about a woman who struggles with her son growing up and misses the love he used to show her. One day she is making dumplings and to her shock one of the dumplings smiles at her and becomes a type of child to her that grows and makes friends. This dumpling boy is adorable.
As Boa Boy grows the Mother must deal with her own feelings of loneliness and ultimate rejection. Of course, this story is an allegory of her struggles with her actual son (who looks hilariously like Bao Boy). But I don’t think you have to be a parent to relate to her feelings. What person hasn’t struggled with change or felt rejected by a loved one? Everyone goes through tough times and the ending with her and her son was pitch-perfect and very truthful.
Plus, if I was Disney I would have a whole Bao themed restaurant in Disneyland because all of the food looked so delicious. I love bao buns with roasted pork and vegetables in them. Yum! I also love the sweet rolls that become a symbol of forgiveness at the end of the short. They are so good!
I don’t think Bao is one of my all time favorite Pixar shorts but it was definitely in the higher portion. I really enjoyed the watercolor-influenced backgrounds, the adorable character design and the score by Toby Chu.
Bao was sweet and lovely short and in many ways reminded me of Sanjay’s Super Teamwith its focus on a parent and child relationship. Both are great, and I hope Disney puts a new volume of Pixar shorts out soon so we can watch all of these more recent entries together.
What did you think of Bao? How does it rank for you amongst all the Pixar shorts?
In some ways something like Pixar’s latest short Piper is hard to talk about because it is deceptively simple. On the surface it is a cute little short about a baby bird at the beach but the more I thought about the more there was to it. Piper is a real Pixar gem and one of their best shorts in years.
Let’s start off with the animation. I think you can tell from the above photo that Piper is incredibly realistic. Most of the short if you hadn’t told me it was animated I would not have known. Everything from Piper’s feathers to her little legs looks so real. There is a little hermit crab that looks animated but the ocean and the water looks amazing. Little details like the way the water reflects Piper and the look of the sand are perfect. You can really see what they learned from the Good Dinosaur and took it into Piper and it makes me excited for future Pixar properties.
Like I said, Piper is a simple story. It’s about a baby bird who must learn to conquer its fears of the ocean. The thing that is great is it’s a valid fear. She (or he?) gets hit pretty hard with a wave and so naturally shrinks from it, not wanting to go near the tide. Unfortunately, she is hungry and finally her stomach rules the day, so she ventures back. With each new wave she is more scared until she looks under the water and see’s the world underneath. This new vision of the world excites her and helps Piper to overcome her fears.
Composer Adrian Belew does a great job with the music in Piper and the whole thing is just completely adorable. I liked it so much I could see an entire Piper movie! Look at the detail in the above shot- the coarseness of the sand, the fluffiness of her feathers. Amazing! And it is winning without being too saccharine or sweet.
What did you think of Piper? Where does it rank for you in the Pixar shorts? It will be pretty high for me although I love all of the Pixar shorts so it is tough.
Overall Grade- A+
I posted my spoiler free review of Finding Dory on my youtube channel last night. I will post a detailed review here after I’ve seen it again, but just know it’s wonderful. I highly recommend checking out Finding Dory and Piper! If you guys could give this a thumbs up if you like that would be awesome. Thanks!
This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at Film Experience has given us a different task. Instead of our normal film watching and picking a great shot, we are asked to look at 2 short films and pick shots. Both shorts are scifi films and I think they are both fine but not my favorite.
This 6 minute short is by Stephan Zlotescu and it has recently been picked up as a series for Amazon and I can see why. It feels like a pitch or pilot for a TV series rather than a stand alone film.
True Skin is about a future society where augmenting our bodies is the norm and only beggars and outsiders have their natural bodies. Our main character has journeyed to Bangkok to get a chip in his eyes and when it is installed he realizes he is going to die. But in the world of this movie it is actually a good thing because he can take the step ‘to live forever’ as a robot.
It does look very impressive and is an intriguing premise but to me that’s all it was is a premise. That leaves me feeling slightly unfulfilled but I’m sure the upcoming series will fill in all the holes and tell the actual story.
For what it is, it’s pretty creative and I’m glad I watched it. I thought this was a pretty cool shot of the lead character just after he installs the new eyes.
World of Tomorrow-
I’ve talked about World of Tomorrow a little bit in my reviews of 2015 animated shorts but never given it a complete review. The truth is I never did because I kept waiting to understand why it is as brilliant as I keep hearing. It seems like kind of similar to Watership Down- a book and movie I didn’t get at first but eventually it finally clicked. It could happen with World of Tomorrow but as of my 10th viewing I must be honest- I don’t really get it?
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow, still seems like a lot of science fiction mumbo-jumbo that is more trying to appear smart rather than actually being smart.
Basically the story is a little girl meets a clone of her future self. She finds out about the new world of cloning and is shown 3 memories from her upcoming life.
The first memory is Emily visiting an exhibit in a museum displaying a male clone named David.
The second memory is of Emily’s first job programming robots. Emily falls in love with a rock and is fired. Then the third memory she falls in love with a clone of David named Simon. This is after falling in love with a fuel pump.
Emily is hoping to get a memory that only Emily Prime has and warn her about appreciating life because there are only 60 days left on earth.
I don’t know. I guess World of Tomorrow is just smarter than me because I don’t get it. Yes, appreciate the moments of life- how profound…I can learn that from a Hallmark card. I don’t see why this is so brilliant?
If you want to watch something great about memories watch Hirokazu Koreeda’s film After Life or Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life. Those have much more nuance and subtlety about life, memories and living well. Even Inside Out was much more insightful on this topic with the memory balls and core memories. None of those films are trying so hard to be important like World of Tomorrow is. They are just good stories with characters we get to know, so we care about their memories, the world building and what is happening to them.
I really have tried to love World of Tomorrow. I don’ t hate it but I fail to see what makes it as special as other people seem to think it is. I’ll let you know if on subsequent rewatches it finally clicks for me but for now that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, for my best shot I have the scene where Emily falls in love with the fuel pump just because I thought it was weird.
I’ve been wanting to do this post for some time but I had a hard time finding 2 of the nominated animated shorts for this years Oscars. I finally was able to watch them all and thought I would give you my thoughts.
Coming out of Chili by director Gabriel Osorio Vargas Bear Story is about a bear who builds diorama’s kind of like what we saw in Hugo. He is a lonely bear and tells the story of that loneliness through the diorama. The animation is beautiful with a heavy steampunk feel to it.
Basically the story is the bear is taken from his family to perform in the circus. You get that sadness mixed in with the fun of the circus. Each scene is layered with movement and details. It is extremely charming.
Overall Grade B+
Animator Richard Williams vision of ancient warfare is definitely a unique nominee. It is done using a pencil, hand drawn style and the animation is quite striking. When it focuses on a characters eyes or face it reminded me of a lithograph or an etching.
However, this film is ADULTS ONLY! I am not being quaint or hesitant when I say that. It is extremely bloody and the nudity is graphic and repeated. For a short that is just over 5 minutes it is kind of astonishing how R rated it could be!
Evidently it is accurate to ancient warriors for them to fight naked (who knew?) but there really isn’t any story here that I could see at least. It is people brutally killing each other and then at the end a girl stands in shock over the blood. I guess that is a message about war but not particularly inventive or thought provoking in my opinion.
Maybe we will learn more in future episodes? It is called Prologue after all
Overall Grade- C-
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is out of Russia and directed and written by Konstantin Bronzit. It may not have the most stunning animation but the story makes up for any failings in that department.
It is 2D animation in the style of TV animation like The Simpsons, and tells the story of 2 best friends who dream of becoming cosmonauts. It starts with them in training and they joyously complete every task. At one point they even leap off of their beds trying to get a feeling of zero gravity.
I don’t want to spoil it for you but suffice it to say I love stories of friendship and this one had my heart. It is very sweet and lovely.
Overall Grade- A
World of Tomorrow
Oh boy…how do I explain World of Tomorrow? To be honest Don Hertzfeldt’s sci-fi study of human nature makes me feel kind of dumb. I’ve seen it a lot and I still don’t really get it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but did it need to be quite so obtuse? I guess for Don’s artistic vision it did.
Basically it is about a little girl named Emily who receives a video transmission of a clone version of herself from the future. This clone takes Little Emily into her current world where they have a land called ‘the Outernet’.
Clone Emily then takes Little Emily through different memories and then tells her that the earth will be destroyed by a meteoroid. Then Clone Emily reveals she came to see Little Emily to retrieve a memory she had forgotten. She hopes this memory will be comforting for the end of the world.
So there you have it. The main message is we should focus on the important stuff. That when the end comes the trivial will dissolve and only the most special memories will remain. Technology obscures the hear and now and makes us focus only on the fluff.
Clone Emily says
“Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”
The animation is brilliant and different in World of Tomorrow and I think it will win, and it is probably deserved. On one hand I like it is layered and tricky to decipher it’s meaning, but I think it goes a little too far in that department, to the point of ostracizing me a bit as a viewer. It’s great but I still don’t love it like some people do.
That said Overall Grade- A
Sanjay’s Super Team
I have already done a whole blog post on Sanjay’s Super Team. This is Pixar’s offering (Lava was actually submitted in 2014). Everyone seems to think it is shoe-in for Sanjay to win this category but I did some research and Pixar actually doesn’t have a great track record here. They haven’t won since 2001! Even something like La Luna (my favorite Pixar short) was beat by Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore which is completely charming so I get it. The academy seems to like to reward smaller studios in animated short category.
Anyway, Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is inspired by his childhood growing up as an American boy with Hindu observant parents. The story is little Sanjay is watching his favorite superhero show when his father is praying and meditating. His father insists he join him and Sanjay starts out bored but imagines the Hindu Gods as superheroes.
It is a beautiful film about how a meeting of the minds can occur and generations can understand each other better. The animation is bright and colorful, some of Pixar’s best, and the lesson Sanjay learns is very sweet. He see’s that maybe his Dad’s crazy ideas aren’t so bad after all.
Overall Grade- A+
My thoughts on all 5. Prologue is too R rated for me and lacks a good story so it is my least favorite. The other 4 I like a lot, even if World of Tomorrow makes my head hurt. I would probably order them
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow
Have you had a chance to see the animated shorts? I would love your thoughts. Which do you like the best? Do you think World of Tomorrow will win or are you pulling for another choice?
Hi guys! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. This week I am going to be sharing my ranking for the 2015 animated films but before that I wanted to talk animated shorts! I love animated shorts and 2015 was actually a really terrific year for the medium. I haven’t seen all of them as they aren’t all available but I watched a lot and I came up with my top 11. I worked really hard on this video and would love if you gave it a watch.
But if you don’t want to watch the video I will give the list here. I did include shorts from anthology films like The Prophet and Extraordinary Tales because I feel they stand on their own as shorts without needing the framing device. In fact, they are much better without it.
Yep, this die hard Frozen fan puts Frozen Fever at 11 because it is sweet and pleasant but not as artistically ambitious as the others on this list. Frozen fans like myself will really enjoy seeing Anna and Elsa’s relationship grow and the new song is very enjoyable but it isn’t spectacular or anything. Just really enjoyable for fans and there is nothing wrong with that.
10. A Bear’s Story
This animated short from Gabriel Osorio and it has a bit of a steampunk feel (shorts are the best place for steampunk IMO) about a bear that makes pictograph machines with a mechanical version of his family. It reminded me a lot of Hugo and was very sweet and beautiful.
I’m sure you guys are shocked this isn’t higher but when it came down to it the 8 shorts were more artistically ambitious than Lava. I love Lava! I love the music. The song I have been singing all year and nearly anything with Hawaii has my heart but I just couldn’t get it higher. It’s a delightful, sweet short.
8. An Object at Rest
Similar to Lava, An Object at Rest tells the story of a mountain, that becomes a boulder, that becomes a stone, and continues on. It is animated by Seth Boyden and it has a sketchy sweet style like Ernest and Celestine.
7. Le Gouffre
This short was a big surprise for me but it is beautiful. It is about 2 adventurers that have to cross a chasm and build a bridge to get to the other side. It sounds mundane but it is exciting and striking with great character designs. It is from a studio out of Montreal called Lightning Bay Studio and it makes me very curious to see what the studio will do next.
6. On Eating and Drinking
This short is from The Prophet by amazing animator Bill Plympton who does all his artwork by hand and I love his sketchy style. (Check out this year’s Cheatin’ to see more of his style). This is a poem about eating and drinking and the imagery and flow with the poem are beautiful.
5. The Tell-Tale Heart
From the Edgar Allen Poe anthology film Extraordinary Tales we get the depiction of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. The art design with the black and white contrasting is really striking and Bella Legosi narrating gave great ambiance and immersed me in the story.
4. World of Tomorrow
I wouldn’t be surprised if after watching it a dozen more times World of Tomorrow is at the top of my list. It’s very obtuse and out there but I was intrigued by it. Created by animated Don Hertzfeldt it is basically the animated sci-fi musings of a leader and a little girl. It’s trippy and weird and different but I liked it for those reasons.
3. On Work
This short from The Prophet reminded me of a Van Gogh painting with the harvesters collecting the wheat from the field. The poem was beautiful and the animation fit it perfectly. It is bright and vivid and I loved it.
2. Sanjay’s Super TeamI loved this story from Pixar about a little boy and a father trying to reconcile their differing views of the world. You have little Sanjay who loves superheroes and his Dad who worships and prays to the Hindi Gods. It’s not about polytheism or superheroes but about how we can take the best of the old and new and make something unique and great. The animation is bright, colorful and very creative.
1. On Love
If you haven’t caught on I am kind of obsessed with Tomm Moore. His animation is so beautiful. I loved Song of the Sea- one of my favorite animated films of all time and I think Secret of the Kells is wonderful. Naturally, his short in The Prophet was my favorite of the group and of the year. It is called On Love and is of course about love. We get joy, passion, rejection, and belonging perfectly animated with the Khalil Gibran poem accompanying the stirring images.
So that is my ranking. What do you think about my picks and what are your favorite animated shorts from the year? I hopefully introduced you to a few you haven’t heard of and I would encourage you to check them out.
I know there are many I missed so please put in the comments section. Thanks!
Hi from California guys! I am going to try and write my reviews of Creed and Good Dinosaur in the next few days but I have to fit it in with spending time with my nieces, which of course takes first priority (and taking them to see Good Dinosaur tomorrow!).
In meantime, let’s talk about the newest Pixar Short, Sanjay’s Super Team. It is a delightful short and unlike anything Pixar has really done with their shorts. It’s brighter, it explores culture and is one that isn’t based around a gag or joke.
Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is based on his childhood growing up with traditional Indian immigrant parents. As a young American kid Sanjay loved superheroes, Looney Tunes and other shows and was often bored with the Hindu rituals and traditions of his parents. He said “”Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”
You really get this sense of conflict in the short. Young Sanjay wants to watch his superhero show but he has to be quiet while his father prays and performs the Hindu rituals to the Gods (sorry I don’t know the specific names).
His father gets more annoyed with the TV and turns it off forcing Sanjay to come and pray with him. It’s then that Sanjay starts to daydream about the Gods becoming the superheroes from his show.
This combination of modern pop culture and traditional beliefs was really great to see, and I really liked how Sanjay learns to appreciate his father’s point of view while also developing his own ideas. I think this is great for kids to see.
It’s also refreshing to see an animated Indian, darker skinned little boy and honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this father and son. They were very sweet and relatable.
As someone who was raised and still practices a rather traditional faith I really thought they got the tone right on the struggle kids like Sanjay experience as they try to figure out what they believe. It’s easy to want to throw off the old as archaic when really there is a merging of both new and old that can happen.
I think you can probably tell from the images in this post the animation is stunning in Sanjay’s Super Team. It is bright and colorful and I really enjoyed the character design of Sanjay and his father. I liked how the backdrops sparkled and looked like embossing more than paint.
I like they didn’t feel a need to explain the Gods or culture because those details don’t matter. It’s a story about generational conflict and so the source of that conflict is largely incidental although certainly beautiful here.
I loved Lava but I think Sanjay’s Super Team is even better. Let me know what you think when you see it before Good Dinosaur.
The new film released by Gkids, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, is a tough film for me to review. It has great stuff wrapped in a not-so great packaging. There is a side of me that wants to give it a free pass because it is made with such love and devotion, it is in 2D animation and the parts that are good are really good. But for long segments the The Prophet feels like a Sunday School lesson and so I am torn on it.
The Prophet is based on Kahlil Gibran’s book of poetry called The Prophet, which is a popular book of spiritual affirmations and positive thoughts. Evidently it was a passion project for Salma Hayek who produced the film.
To set up for the poetry they have a framing device of a man named Mustafa (voiced by Liam Neeson) who has been on house arrest for stirring up the people and giving them hope. He is a prophet of some kind, a very Messianic like character. There is a little girl named Almitra (voiced by Quenzhane Wallis) who has refused to talk for 2 years because of the death of her father.
These sections reminded me of the old Living Scriptures animated movies we used to watch in Sunday School but even those had an actual story (Daniel and the Lions Den, David and Goliath etc). This is just a lot of Almitra getting into trouble, authorities moving them around and then Mustafa proselytizing to the people for long segments.
There are 8 shorts within the framing device directed by some of the great artists and animators of our time and those are wonderful but it’s all the other stuff that is tough to sit through. I’m surprised Lion King director Roger Allers wasn’t able to wring more drama out of it. They were just too long and boring. Perhaps they should have just done it Fantasia style with a concert and shorts approach? That would have been much better because you would have gotten right to the cream filling!
Anyway, the 8 shorts are
animated by Michal Socha, Sound designer Bartek Baranowski. A beautiful segment with birds and wires symbolizing both being caged and released.
Animated by Nina Paley, Music by Damien Rice. From the creator of Sita Sings the Blues a beautiful short
Directed and Designed by Joann Sfar a tango of sorts that was a very strong effort.
Directed, designed and animated by Joan Gratz (this one was a particular favorite of mine. It reminded me of Van Gogh painting)
On Eating and Drinking-
Directed, designed, animated by Bill Plympton (another favorite)
Directed by Tomm Moore. This one really had a strong narrative and I kind of wish it was a feature not just a short.
On Good and Evil-
Directed by Mohammed Saeed Harib
I found this segment available online. It will give you a feel for the picture.
Directed, designed, animated by Paul Brizzi, Gaetan Brizzi. It reminded me of the same animators efforts on Fantasia 2000. Beautiful.
The voice cast is all fine. Liam Neeson is of course good as Mustafa and Salma Hayek is endaring as Kamila. Even now I’m finding myself saying ‘it was pretty good’ but I’m telling you while I was watching those framing segments were really hard to sit through.
My advice on this film get it on dvd and go to the shorts. Watching it that way you would have an argument for one of the best of the year. In a way it is a little bit of a shame they are all together because what a great race we’d have for Best Animated Short with all these greats contributing!
It’s tough to give a grade to a film that is so up and down. A film that tries so hard even in the sections that don’t work…I love the shorts so overall I’m inclined to be generous towards it I suppose.
Overall Grade- B-
No content problems that I saw. PG and even Bill Plympton keeps it clean 🙂
So I finished reviewing all the Pixar shorts and had a blast. Honestly there isn’t any that I dislike and I think the lowest score I gave is a B.
That said, them all being so great in a way made the task of ranking them a little bit tricky. What is especially tough is how to do you gauge something that is a huge technical achievement like Luxo Jr against a visual storytelling delight like La Luna? They are special in different ways.
I normally hate rubrics for scoring movies because I feel they can force you to give you grades or scores to things that don’t jive with your actual views and feelings. Other people like them but I couldn’t feel right about giving something a grade I don’t think it deserves. Plus, I also don’t like that with a rubric there is no way to give a perfect score. I feel like the focus can become what are the problems instead of the overall great experience I had at a top-tier film. For other people it works but not for me.
However, in this case where I like them all but for different reasons, it seemed like the best way to go. So, here’s what I came up with. Each short had the potential of 20 points- 5 for Technical Achievement, 5 for Story, 5 for Artistry and 5 for Overall Enjoyment. You can see how each film worked out below points-wise.
These are also only the original shorts. I only reviewed 2 of the spin-off shorts based on or including characters from their feature films but I did not include either of them in my ranking.
All that said, here’s how I rank the shorts. (You can find reviews of all these shorts here)
16. Adventures of Andre and Wally B15. Blue Umbrella14. One Man Band13. Luxo
12. Knick Knack
11. For the Birds
9. Day and Night
7. Partly Cloudy
6. Tin Toy
4. Red’s Dream
2. Geri’s Game
1. La Luna
But like I said they are all great so thanks to Pixar for such lovely works of art!
Well guys I did it! With this review of The Blue Umbrella I will have seen and reviewed all the original Pixar shorts (that is until Sanjay’s Super Team comes out in November). I hope you have enjoyed these reviews as shorts are too often ignored or forgotten by the average filmgoers. I will post a ranking later this week of all the Pixar shorts but start thinking about what your favorites are and share in the comments below.
Anyway, back to the Blue Umbrella. This is one of the Pixar shorts I would put in the ‘technology advancing’ category. Like Luxo Jr or some of the early shorts the story is pretty simple but it is the animation which makes it stand out. I think it is pretty safe to say it is the most realistic looking animation I’ve ever seen.This photorealism was a result of a new rendering system called Global Illumination and I think it could be very exciting for the future of CG animation. I particularly wonder if they’ve used the technology in the new Jungle Book movie which I’ve heard from more than one source the trailer had the most realistic CG animals they’ve ever seen.
The Blue Umbrella is a simple story of a red and blue umbrella who fall in love and get separated on a rainy day in a big city. That’s all there is to it.
The music by Jon Brion with Sarah Jaffe vocals adds a lot to the story because like most Pixar shorts there is no dialogue.
In many ways it is a lot like the hat short in Make Mine Music. In my review of that I said “The whole thing is strange. I can feel for ducks, mice, parrots but hats…”. The same thing goes for umbrellas. I guess I just don’t have that great of an imagination to get into umbrellas falling in love (or hats).
But I do think the music in The Blue Umbrella is much better than the Andrews Sisters (they are fun but kind of corny).
That said, the animation is what is really special in this short. It’s really quite stunning. Here is a little clip of it to give you a feel:
What do you think of The Blue Umbrella? What is your favorite Pixar short?