Pixar’s return to original shorts results in magic and whimsy, and a kind of visual storytelling that the features could learn from.
Pixar may responsible for ushering in the age of digital animation, but they have also been keeping the torch lit for the art of the short animated film for the last few decades. There was a time when Disney would play a short film in front of every feature, and it is only since Pixar boss John Lasseter took over Walt Disney Animation Studios as Chief Creative Officer that we have seen a return to this art form. With Pixar’s last two shorts, Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation and Toy Story Toons: Small Fry, both part of existing franchises, it is terrific to see an original creation play in front of Brave.
Storyboard artist Enrico Casarosa makes his Pixar debut as a writer/director on La Luna, one of the most enchanting shorts you will see this year. Entirely wordless, save for a few grunts and mumbles, it tells the coming of age story of a young boy, Bambino, who sets out on a small rowboat with his Papà and Nonna. They both have very different ideas about how to teach the boy their traditions, especially when it comes to the surprise bit of work that they do every night. What they don’t expect is that this industrious young boy will discover his own way of doing things.
La Luna is the kind of pure visual storytelling that can only be achieved in animation. Casarosa consciously crafts his short in the style of a story book, and it comes with all the magic of one as well. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince was undoubtedly an influence on the look of the piece, and its deceptively simple design belies a complexity of animation craft around the reflection off water, the many follicles on the heads of Papà and Nonna, or the amazing mastery of lighting that Pixar has achieved. Michael Giacchino (Up, John Carter, Star Trek, Super 8), provided the score for the short, giving it a quiet majesty that acts as dialogue in place of words.
Followers of Pixar will know that their short films are often auditions for the big leagues, and if La Luna is any indication, then Enrico Casarosa will be a name to watch. Indeed, he has been the head of story on next year’s The Good Dinosaur (previously the Untitled Pixar Film About Dinosaurs) for the last few years, and we suspect his star will shine brightly at Disney/Pixar.
La Luna plays with Brave, which was released in Australia on 21 June 2012 and 22 June 2012 in the US from Disney.