When we see a Pixar film released to the general public, it is readily apparent that the film has gone through a refining process because what regularly emerges is an incredibly polished piece of work. The concept art and storyboards that is revealed is only a glimpse from within the production process. We usually don’t get an extended look at the raw and experimental material that often pushes the limits of the story. SparkShorts is a new Pixar initiative that spotlights a series of shorts that were not developed to be seen by the public. It may be our first true look at what the modern-day Pixar can accomplish by providing its creative employees with a broader canvas upon which to draw.
The first in the series of SparkShorts, Purl, was unveiled today on YouTube. If you have not seen it yet, please take the approximate eight minutes and watch it now (above).
At first glance, it seems like a Pixar short that you would see playing before Incredibles 2 or Coco. You may find the animation beautiful and the texture of the yarn breathtaking – it really is! The yarn has split ends and strands curve and get tangled together. The texture looks like it is soft to the touch – this is a breakthrough in 3D animation and no-doubt took a ridiculous amount of work to accomplish. It is a sight to behold.
The story is wonderful as well. The star is an inanimate-object come to life, providing for an instantly relatable tale of fitting in an environment where you feel like you are the odd one out. We have seen Pixar spin these films out before. Many of the studio’s films star what would usually be inanimate objects – lamps, toys, cars, and more. Purl tells a heartwarming story that has a beautiful message of diversity within it.
There is one line of dialogue in the short, though, that instantly communicates that the public is seeing a different side of Pixar.
… if finance doesn’t like it, they can kiss our ass!
There is just no way that we would hear a character utter these words in a Pixar film released in theaters. I fucking love it. I am not implying that these shorts are simply adding some colorful language or that we need to see “ass” makes its way into the vocabulary of Pixar films bound for the big screen – the language is a symbol of a larger process at work. Step back and think about the short again and you start to get the sense that we are likely seeing something that is closer to the raw idea that director Kristen Lester had in mind. She, along with producer Gillian Libbert-Duncan, and the rest of the crew capture an entirely different voice than we are used to seeing from the animation powerhouse.
We are looking to see more diversity in the talent and films that are released today and I think SparkShorts represents a fantastic step in that direction. I strongly believe that allowing for more experimentation and setting fewer expectations in storytelling not only allows creators to be more bold and ambitious but it also may also spark interest in those who have not taken the lead in storytelling before. SparkShorts’ mission is to provide an avenue for new voices and, with Purl, it has hit the ground running.
There are two more SparkShorts making their debut online in the next two weeks – Smash and Grab (2/11) and Kitbull (2/18). I really cannot wait to see them.