Pixar, the Oscar-winning animation studio that once wore Hollywood’s animation crown, is in a bit of a creative transition following John Lasseter’s exit from the company. As they begin to establish their identity under new leadership, they’re looking for fresh directorial voices – and they’re finding them thanks to the SparkShorts program, an experimental storytelling initiative that serves as a sort of developmental league for filmmakers.
The first short from this program, entitled Purl, hit the Internet last week, and now they’ve released Smash and Grab, a new sci-fi short about two robots who break free from their laborious jobs and try to take control of their own lives. Check it out below.
Smash and Grab
Smash and Grab comes from director Brian Larsen and producer David Lally, and like all of the SparkShorts, this low-budget project was created in just six months. The comparisons to Wall*E are probably inevitable thanks to the robotic protagonists, but whereas that feature was a wistful romance, Smash and Grab strikes me as a more immediate piece of storytelling from its creators. The idea of two robots who are tasked with doing the same thing over and over again but who dream of a more fulfilling life seems to be a pretty easy analogue for two Pixar employees who aspire to direct features but haven’t been given that opportunity yet. (Larsen confirmed this read on the story in this “meet the filmmakers” video.)
I’m not sure there’s the potential to translate this particular story into a full feature, but from the outside looking in, Smash and Grab does exactly what this program was intended to do: showcased the talent of people inside the company and resulted in a personal vision that could possibly be a springboard to bigger and better things. I’d love to see dozens of these types of videos and for the studio to use them as a way to prioritize voices who may have otherwise not been given the chance to flourish.
Pixar also released this cool behind the scenes video, which talks about the design of this futuristic sci-fi world and shows how the production team utilized performance capture techniques to bring these lovable robots to life:
Here’s a bit more information about the SparkShorts program:
A new SparkShorts entry, titled Kitbull, will debut on February 18, 2019.
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