Sparking the Conversation


Kids are sure to fall in love with any character that they can dress as for halloween, or belt songs in the car after a new character’s outstanding vocal performance. One thing that always flies under the radar with animated films, at list from a child’s viewpoint, is the story; and there is no production company that has a greater track record with animated films than Pixar has over the course of the past 24 years.

I can speak directly to this, as I grew up with Pixar in peak childhood form. I was mesmerized by the bright colors of Monsters, Inc., the fun characters of the Toy Story franchise, and the idea of traveling across the ocean through the eyes of an anthropomorphic clown fish. To me, Pixar could do no wrong.

Then came 2008 and the release of WALL•E. It opened to glowing reviews from fans and critics alike, so I thought for sure I was going to feel the same way.

I remember walking out of the theater being heartbroken, and not in a way that I now come to expect from my favorite animation studio. I walked out of the theater hating the film. And when I say hating, I disliked it so much from the first viewing that it turned me off from going to see another Pixar film in theaters for quite some time. (Boy did I miss out…)

Looking back on it now, I couldn’t have been more clueless.

Until I am proven otherwise, I truly believe that WALL•E is the single greatest film that Pixar has ever produced. I say film because the first 15 minutes of UP! may be the most perfect, and heartbreakingly beautiful, sequence in animation history.

Why I love WALL•E so much now is because the film uses hardly any dialogue for a good portion of the first half, and the writers still managed to tell an extremely compelling story with lovable characters through external techniques.

No other studio would even dare to experiment that way. And honestly that’s why I love Pixar so much.

They aren’t afraid to take risks, and don’t stick with what has been successful in the past. Sure, some franchises have run their course and sucked money from the wallets of their viewers, but that’s what marketing to children encompasses. I won’t knock them for trying to sell more merchandise.

Anyways, when Pixar released their new short film, Purl, earlier this year to promote a new series of original shorts debuting on Disney+, called Pixar Sparkshorts, my interest had instantly peaked. It was like that feeling of being launched from 0-60 on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It If you listened to Episode 24 of the podcast, you are already aware of what is to come when Disney+ is released, and how excited we are for its release.

I watched Purl and I was in awe. These Sparkshorts are going to be the real deal, I thought to myself. People have this unwarranted notion that Pixar is a company that makes children’s movies. Let me be the first to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong.

Pixar puts so much humor and clever story telling techniques into every single piece that they create, and the older I get, the more appreciation I have for that. I was watching a trailer for the Sparkshorts and I found it extremely interesting what was said about the new short films.

Sparkshorts is Indie filmmaking inside of Pixar.
— Kristen Lester, Writer & Director, Purl

To me, this is such a compelling approach, as Pixar is allowing pretty much anyone a chance to direct their own short film and tell an awesome story. And that’s what it’s all about - The Story. The early Sparkshort releases make me so insanely excited for what Pixar has in store for both Disney+ and the next decade theatrically. If these shorts are any indication, we have a boatload of original content coming our way.

Much like WALL•E, two out of the three Sparkshorts that have already been released on YouTube, Kitbull and Smash & Grab, use no dialogue at all, and this risk pays off so well! The story can be told through the beautiful animation, whilst they are seamlessly guided along with a wonderful musical score.

The emotion that has been poured into each one of these projects is apparent, and the content is nothing short of relatable to topics in today’s society. They are funny, emotional, and most importantly, visually stunning!

The characters make you feel their emotions not by telling but rather by showing. For these Sparkshorts being products of amateur filmmakers, that is a spectacular feat in my opinion.

But when you create a compelling and heartwarming story, as Pixar so often does; there’s no need for conversation.

Matt MerlinoComment