Pixar is a giant in modern children’s movies; movies like “Up,” “Inside Out,” “The Incredibles,” and “Toy Story” are classics as soon as they come out. Pixar may be a massive corporate filmmaking business, but their movies are works of art that can mess with your emotions long after you leave the theater.
But I don’t just want to talk about the feature films that Pixar makes; one of the hallmarks that Pixar has mastered is the art of the short film. Almost every Pixar film features a 3-5 minute short film, unrelated to the movie (with the exception of the Toy Story franchise). These can range from goofy to emotional, and sometimes tell a better story than the entire movie… In only 3 minutes or so. Here are a few of the best Pixar animated short films! Take notes… They can teach you how to tell an amazing story without words and in just a few minutes!
Geri’s Game, 1997 (A Bug’s Life)
This short is one of the most underrated Pixar shorts of them all. This short film features an old man playing chess against himself in the park. There is no dialogue; the old man simply moves from one side of the chessboard to the other. The interesting thing about this short is that Geri seems to become two players; each side of the board has a different personality. You feel a bit sad for this old man who has no one to play with; you wonder about his background and his life. This wins the prize for the most emotion packed into a small moment.
Lifted, 2006 (Ratatouille)
This is one of Pixar’s most humorous short films; it is about a novice alien who is trying to abduct a sleeping farmer. The alien realizes that the controls are massive in a mothership, and cannot find a way to manipulate all the controls to do what he needs to do. He abducts the cat, he throws the furniture around by accident… Everything except for the farmer! The other alien, the older and wiser one, has the agility of a Ninja, taking the controls and competently driving the ship. This short film kicked off the tradition of less emotional, more humorous Pixar shorts.
Day and Night, 2012 (Toy Story 3)
Day and Night is a very ethereal and odd Pixar short. It draws more from surrealist art and filmmaking than it does from traditional children’s movies. Day and Night is set against a black background and features mostly 2D animation, mixed with some 3D. Day and Night compete against each other, showing each other visions of different scenes. They compete to show which one is the best before realizing they actually complement each other very well.
Pixar short films are a masterful work of art. They show that you don’t need to beat viewers over the head with a lot of narrative, like boxing gloves from Goodbye Ninja. Some of the best stories ever told are minimal, but masterful.