No one tells a story better than Disney. It is an art that is continually perfected and has been since the very first story told in 1927. While the most popular Disney tales are its feature-length films, the magic of Disney could not happen without its animated shorts. In celebration of Disney’s latest home release, Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection, I sat down with several of the filmmakers and animators from the shorts collection at the D23 Expo to talk about their work on the short films.
Disney has always used shorts as a way to test new techniques in animation. In the early days short films were the first to experiment with sound and technicolor. After the success in shorts, those techniques became universally used for all films. That tradition continues today in shorts like Paperman, which was given a line art feel in black in white highlighted only by Meg’s red lipstick.
“There is a lot less risk with a short so there is a lot more artistic freedom to try something new, ” said Mark Henn director of John Henry.
Attention to Detail
Like with full-length Disney films the attention to detail in short films is perfection. My favorite story relating to the attention to detail from the short films panel was from Dorothy McKim, the director of a number of short films including Get a Horse. McKim told us that when they sat down with John Lasseter to screen a first look at Get a Horse they told him that Mickey Mouse was voiced by Walt Disney pieced together from archived tracks of him speaking.
After the screening John Lasseter (known for his attention to detail) said, “There was one word in the film not by Walt Disney, the word ‘red.'” And he was correct, the team had been unable to find the word red in any of the archived recordings. Instead of letting it go, the sound team formed the word red from the sounds “r” “e” “d” found in the recordings. They spliced those sounds together perfectly, and now every word spoken by Mickey Mouse is Walt Disney’s.
Of course, the most remarkable traits of a short film is the ability to tell an entire story — a story that moves audiences — in less than 10 minutes. Typically seven – eight minutes long, short films are so masterfully told that they have the ability to audiences and pull at their heartstrings. From short films that make us laugh and continue a story we already know like Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After to shorts like Feast and Paperman that bring tears to our eyes as we relate to a completely unknown character.
A good idea can come from anywhere, and one of the things that make Disney short films unique is that anyone, anyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios can pitch an idea for a short film. They are not all big ideas from top people in the company, rather short films can come from any one. When I met with Feast director Patrick Osborne last fall I was amazed to learn that he left his role as co-head of animator on Big Hero 6 when John Lasseter green-lighted his short film.
We Disney fans love finding Easter Eggs within Disney films, and short films are often filled with references to other films and pop culture. In fact during the panel we learned that each of the members of the panel have all appeared in full-length animated films as background characters. You can find Peter Del Vecho in The Princess and the Frog, Mark Henn in Finding Nemo, Dorothy McKim in Beauty and the Beast and Mike Gabriel in Oliver and Company.
We inquired about Easter Eggs hidden within the short films in the collection, and were reminded about a few most of us had noticed such as Oswald in Get a Horse and the appearance of Baymx in the reflection of one of the Snowgies in Frozen Fever. But the biggest tease of them all was from Peter Del Vecho when he told us that there is an Easter Egg hidden in Frozen Fever that has yet to be found by anyone. WHAT? I don’t know about you, but I am dying to find it now.
For these reasons and many others the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection is a treasure for any Disney fan’s film collection. Perhaps the best reason of all is that the short films are enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection includes:
- Frozen Fever (2015)
- Feast (2014)
- Get A Horse! (2013)
- Paperman (2012)
- Tangled Ever After (2012)
- The Ballad of Nessie (2011)
- Tick Tock Tale (2010)
- Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010)
- How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007)
- The Little Matchgirl (2006)
- Lorenzo (2004)
- John Henry (2000)
Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection is available August 18 on Blu-Ray and DVD.