Ranking the Pixar Shorts

pixar shorts collage2

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.

pixar shorts

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 Badventures of wally315. Blue UmbrellaTHE BLUE UMBRELLA14. One Man Bandone man band213. Luxo

luxo12. Knick Knack

knick knack211. For the Birds

for the birds210. Lava

lava9. Day and Night

day and night38. Lifted

LIFTED7. Partly Cloudy

partly cloudy76. Tin Toy

tin toy5. Boundin’

boundin74. Red’s Dream

reds dream3. Presto

presto32. Geri’s Game

geris-game1. La Luna

la luna6But like I said they are all great so thanks to Pixar for such lovely works of art!

Pixar Review 32: The Blue Umbrella

blue umbrella3Well 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.blue umbrella4This 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 UMBRELLAThe 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).

blue umbrella2But 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?

Overall Grade- B

Pixar Review 28: La Luna

la lunaIf you can believe it we are in the home stretch of my Pixar reviews.  Only 5 left till Good Dinosaur and Sanjay’s Super Team. I’ve been reviewing the Pixar films since April and it has been a real treat and challenging because it’s hard to write about movies you really love and have it not just be hyperbole.  At least it is for me.

Well, today we have a very special animated short to talk about.  One of my favorites- La Luna.  It is directed and written by Enrico Casarosa and was based on the Italian fairytales his Grandpa would tell him. He also used Italian cartoonist Osvaldo Cavandoli who was famous for his line sketch style animation as inspiration.

la luna6La Luna is about a little boy or Bambino who sails with his Grandpa and Father to a spot where they climb a latter to the moon and set about their work of scraping the stars from off the moon.  (Doesn’t that description just sound lovely?).

la luna3In the audio commentary Enrico says he picked a Grandpa and Father for the boy because he grew up in a house with his maternal grandfather and his Dad and I guess the two didn’t get along very well.  You can see that dynamic in the short with the 2 men snipping at each other in a sweet kind of way.

But really the greatness of this short is in the animation.  The stars and the light is so beautiful. In many ways it feels like a bedtime story, like Goodnight Moon or something like that.  It’s lovely to think about someone sweeping stars off of the moon.

la luna7Michael Giacchino gets back to his Italian roots with a lovely score that reminds me of the great Ennio Morricone.

There are moments where it looks like watercolor and where the characters look more 2D than CG.  There are no other words to describe it but BEAUTIFUL!

EXR 1920x803, 4 channel image (A B G R)

I love the way the stars look like little light bulbs and clank together.  In many ways they reminded me of the memories in Inside Out in sound and appearance.  You can feel the sense of wonder from Bambino as he looks at each glowing star.

la luna15

This is just a stunning image.

la luna13It’s not the most complex as far as story.  It’s basically a Grandpa and Father showing a little boy how to do a job but that job is so magical and special that it doesn’t need anything more.  It’s like if someone’s job was to bathe an angel.  Yes it’s ordinary but it’s an angel!  I mean wow!

la luna2As I’ve rewatched the Pixar shorts I can put them into several groups.  There are the jokes (Presto, For the Birds, Knick Knack), technology advancing (Adventures of Wally, Tin Toy, Geri’s Game, Day & Night), and great artistry (Boundin, Partly Cloudy, Red’s Dream).  To me La Luna is the greatest of that latter group.  It is an artistic joy to watch and I love it.  Definitely in my top 5 of the Pixar shorts.

2011 was also a very good year for animated shorts.  All 4 nominees were completely lovely and the winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore is wonderful.  In fact, I wish it was a feature film.  It’s 15 minutes as a short and there’s enough there for more. So the fact La Luna didn’t win that year I am ok with.  It certainly was a much better year in shorts than feature films with Rango winning which I did not care for.

la luna12What do you think of La Luna?  If you haven’t seen it there are versions of it online but none that I could download.  I believe it is on the Brave DVD so you can see it there.  I wanted to do another short before the Brave review called The Legend of Mor’du to go with Brave so that’s why I reviewed this one here.  Next up is the much maligned Cars 2.  I just watched it and honestly guys it’s not that bad.  In fact, I enjoyed it! So you will hopefully enjoy that review as I am sure it will be a perspective you don’t get every day.

But nearly everyone I know agrees, La Luna is one of the best.

Pixar Review 26: Day and Night

Day_&_Night_posterI hope you guys enjoyed my review of Up, my favorite movie.  It was difficult to write but I did my best.  Now for a nice breath of fresh air let’s appreciate Pixar’s delightful animated short Day & Night.

In many ways this short feels like some of the early shorts because it is more special because of the methods they used than the short itself, although the short is charming.  It’s more like a Red’s Dream or Tin Toy where they were clearly stretching their artistic and technical capabilities and trying something new.

The new experiment was not just a hybrid of 2D and CG but telling stories with both mediums in the same shot.  It’s really quite brilliant.  2 years later we would get the  hybrid film Paperman but that’s more of a meshing of the 2 instead of them existing separately within the same story.  For people that are down and depressed about the loss of 2D animation (I know many of you readers are) you should take heart at things like Day and Night.  It’s sign that while we may not see the 2D film from Disney anytime soon a hybrid using both techniques is certainly possible and I think quite likely.

Anyway, Day and Night is directed by Teddy Newton and it stars 2 creatures, one is Day, one is night.  We know this because we can see the world in their bodies from their unique perspectives.

day and night2At first they are kind of fascinated by what’s going on in the others world.  Then they become envious and frustrated, even angry at the things they don’t have.

day and night 13They are also very boastful of the things they have especially Day.

day and night3 But they also learn they can work together and both enjoy experiences like when Night allows Day to enjoy a drive in movie.  The movie on screen is the cowboy scene the puppies are watching in 101 Dalmatians.

day and night4The sound design and mixing by Barney Jones and Tom Myers is first rate in Day and Night.  What’s really neat is the way the 2D and 3D worlds are connected.  For instance, when Night is punching Day each punch is coordinated perfectly with a logger chopping down a tree with an ax. Then when the tree is toppled Day falls to the ground along with the tree.

day and night14What’s so lovely is the creatures go from envy, to teamwork, to seeing life from the other’s perspective and that I think is the true message of Day and Night.  In fact, Dr Wayne Dyer appears as a voice from a radio tower ending with the thought:

“You know, to me, the most beautiful things in all the universe are the most mysterious.”

day and night12I like the message and it’s not as heavy-handed as you might think because it is split up into small bits.  And I like the idea of walking in another’s shoes before judging them.  It’s so important especially in this day and age.

And it looks so lovely.  One of my favorite sequences is them battling out Las Vegas which of course looks better at night!

day and night5I guess if I was to nitpick the oogling over the bikini clad women I Could do without, but it’s not a huge problem for me.

Michael Giacchino did a great job with the music and having just enough of it to be effective without getting in the way of the sound effects.

Is it my favorite Pixar short?  Probably not but I really do like Day and Night.  Definitely worth seeing and I hope we see even more hybrid and 2D elements in future Pixar shorts and films.

Overall Grade- B+

Pixar Review 24: Partly Cloudy

partly cloudy7Next up in our Pixar short reviews is called Partly Cloudy. It’s kind of like the beginning of Dumbo but with a funny twist.

If you don’t remember the beginning of Dumbo we see the storks getting their bundles and delivering them to the anxious mothers of the circus.  This is all accompanied by the song “Look out for Mr Stork” .  I think it might have been fun to use that song in this Pixar feature as kind of an homage but the music they have is fine.

partly cloudy4What we don’t see in Dumbo is where the storks get the bundles.  In Partly Cloudy we learn the clouds make the babies and give them to the storks.

This is a clever concept but then they take it a step further.  What about those less than pleasant animals like porcupines and crocodiles?  What poor stork has to deliver those? And what kind of cloud makes such creatures?

partly cloudy6Well one lonely dark storm cloud is given that job and a stork is assigned the rather painful task of delivering his bundles.  We see him kicked by a bighorn sheep, pricked by a porcupine and finally when he is given a shark he puts on protective headgear and body armor!

partly cloudyDirected by Peter Sohn who is the voice of Emile in Ratatouille it is a charming Pixar short.   He is directing the upcoming Good Dinosaur which watching this short kind of makes me excited for that film.  (So many of these Pixar greats including John Lasseter got their feet wet in these shorts).  There is a gentleness to Partly Cloudy which I have a hunch will work well with Good Dinosaur.

partly cloudyI also really like the music by Michael Giacchino and the fluffy feel of the clouds looks like piles of pillows.  In a lot of ways it reminds of Lava which is also very textured and gentle.

I wouldn’t say it is one of my favorite of the shorts but that’s only because the other’s are so great it makes for tough competition.  It’s lovely and a joy to watch.

Overall Grade- A-

Next up in the Pixar reviews is Up! Although I am slightly intimidated.  How do you adequately write about your favorite movie? I will give it a go!

Pixar Review 22: Presto

presto6I’m watching Wall-e tonight but before I post about that masterpiece let’s talk about the  great animated short Presto.  If you haven’t seen it I think it is one of Pixar’s funniest shorts with some terrific character design.

As most of the shorts are this is pretty simple and it does repeat the same gag over again but each time it gets bigger and more humorous.  It has the feel of an old Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry short.

It’s about a magician named Presto and his hungry and rather grumpy rabbit named Alec Azam.  The design of the rabbit feels particularly old school and I think it is very charming.

presto5So basically the story is Presto has a real ‘magic trick’ where 2 hats are connected.  Whatever you put in one comes out the other.  This gif kind of shows how it works.

presto4At the beginning the rabbit, Alec, is in a cage and he wants the carrots but in his rush Presto  forgets and rushes to the perform.  This makes Alec very upset. presto7

prestoAlec tries to tell Presto that he needs the carrot in order to participate in the magic show but he refuses making Alec angry and out for revenge.

presto9Alec even worries he is going to lose the carrot for good! I love this expression!

presto3That’s when instead of jumping in the hat like he is supposed to Alec uses the hat’s magic to send things out of the other hat to strike Presto.  It is very funny with everything from a piano to eggs hitting the magician.

presto2Meanwhile the crowd is thrilled with the crazy trick Presto is doing.  I mean wouldn’t you be if you saw such things flying out of a hat! They give Presto and Alec a huge round of applause and even though he is weary Presto is thrilled with the response (as any performer would be).  And of course in the end Alec gets his carrot.

presto8Like I said, this short feels very old school like something you would see in Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry and I like that.  It escalates the madcap antics just enough to produce a laugh at each level (you couldn’t go from a mousetrap to electric shocks.  It needs to be gradual).  I also love the design of Alec, the rabbit.  He is so cute and expressive with his eyes and face!

presto11Presto is also bright, colorful, with great music that fits the old fashioned feel by Scot Blackwell Stafford.  It was veteran Pixar man Doug Sweetland’s directorial debut and he used Tex Avery cartoons as his guide and you can feel that influence .

All in all it is one of my favorite comedic Pixar shorts.

Overall Grade A+

Pixar Review 20: Lifted

liftedWe’ve made it to Pixar review 20! Can you believe it?  I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am enjoying watching/writing about them.  I have particularly enjoyed the animated shorts as they can be unjustly ignored when people look at the Pixar legacy.  Today we are talking about a very special comedic short called Lifted.  It is one of the longer shorts and it gets some of the biggest laughs (and looks great too).

Lifted is a simple story about aliens- one alien to be exact.  His name is Stu and he is in training to man the control board.  He is being watched over by ‘Mr B’ who has a clipboard and seems to be giving him some kind of test.  It reminds me of someone getting a test from the DMV.

Pixar's short film LIFTED, directed by Gary Rydstrom, shows what happens when an over confident teen alien gets behind the controls of a spaceship.  He must attempt to abduct a slumbering farmer under the watchful eye of a critical instructor.  But abducting humans requires precision and a gentle touch, and within a few missteps it's painfully clear whey more humans don't go missing every year.

I love the expression on Stu’s face as he knows he is failing in his test.  Poor thing!  The test is to get a human into the ship using the light beam.  This was a clever twist on the classic sci-fi scenario because not only does he struggle to get zapped up but we actually want him to be abducted.  Normally an alien taking a human would be scary but in this case we want Stu to succeed and get the guy from his bed!

lifted7It’s also funny how the human never wakes up despite all the abuse going on to him and his house.  He’s certainly no light sleeper that’s for sure!

lifted8

I love how incredibly massive the control board is.  How many features does this beam have?

lifted10The final joke as Stu is allowed to commandeer the ship back home is a great laugh.

lifted5Here’s the full short if you haven’t seen it.

All the shorts are very simple but Lifted is one of my favorites.  It’s bright, colorful and very funny.  Plus, I like Stu and his efforts to pass his test.  When he cries it’s a very sweet moment. Let’s be honest- we’ve all been there trying desperately to pass a test or make an audition.  We’ve all wanted to something so bad and yet all we do is screw it up.

I also really like the way Mr B and Stu move and look.  It is bright but also translucent and very fluid.  I read they came up with a new program called jiggle to create this look.  “The animator can control how far out to resonate body movement, such as only within a limb, or stay away from specific parts of the body such as the face”.  In the strong tradition of Pixar shorts creating new technology Lifted is no exception!

lifted4

Lifted was first film directed by Gary Rydstrom who did the sound mixing and editing for most of the Pixar movies going all the way back to Luxo Jr.  Naturally the sound design in Lifted is great with little details like the alarm and human reactions at the ending.

Have you seen Lifted? What do you think of it?

Overall Grade- A+

Pixar Review 17: Lava

lava2Today I got the chance to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out and I was not in the least disappointed.  You’ll hear more about that in the next post.  But let’s not let my enthusiasm for Inside Out allow me to forget the delightful little short they had before the feature film called Lava.

Directed by James Ford Murphy Lava is a simple short that is a love letter to Hawaii and Hawaiian music (you know I will love that!).   The artwork in Lava is gorgeous.  We get wide swooping shots of both the Hawaiian mountains and the beautiful ocean.  We see whales jumping up out of the water and everything sounds so peaceful and serene.

lava3As we dive in closer we see that the volcano has a face and we learn he is singing a  Hawaiian song.  The volcano named Uku is voiced by Kuana Torres Kahele and the song he sings is a sweet plea to the Island Gods to allow him to find the love he see’s all around him.  I love Hawaiian music so that was great!

lavaI like that the volcano looks like a jolly old soul but he kind of reminds me of Jabba from Return of the Jedi!

Luckily his song is heard by another volcano but it is buried deep in the ocean. The female volcano is named Lele and she begins singing her own song to Uku. It’s a peaceful lovely duet.

lava4Like I said this isn’t one of their more groundbreaking shorts but I did enjoy it.  Anytime I can look at Hawaii, hear Hawaii, think about Hawaii I’m a fan.  It’s a sweet little love story.  Can’t go wrong with that.

Overall Grade- B

Pixar Review 10: For the Birds

for the birds5We come to the next of our delightful Pixar shorts, For the Birds.  This short was done entirely so they could work on feathers for the technology of Sully’s fur in Monsters Inc.  Indeed the texture they were able to achieve on the birds is really quite remarkable. They were also able to get different personalities on each of the cute birds.  That’s pretty good considering all they do is chirp!

for the birds6A big bird comes to spoil the party and the little birds think he is a real nerd.  They don’t like having him around one bit but he just wants to hang out.  Like all the Pixar shorts For the Birds is basically a silent movie bit. I love how happy the big bird is.  He’s having the time of his life.

for the birds2On the audio commentary they talk about the feathers as “pringles” and that it was the first time they could move such details around and manipulate them.   It really is quite remarkable when you look at the big bird and all those layers of feathers.

for the birds3The pay off at the end is very funny and the music by country band Riders in the Sky is just right (same band who does Woody’s Roundup theme).

for the birds7For the Birds won Pixar another Best Animated Short Oscar in 2000  which was well deserved.  It’s so likable, colorful and sweet. Check it out.  I don’t have any criticisms on this one.

Overall Grade- A+ (I told you guys there would be a lot of those if I reviewed Pixar)