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Are Pixar’s Beloved Shorts No More?

The era of Disney+ has brought hundreds of Disney and Pixar movies, shows, and documentaries to us with the wave of a magic wand.

No longer are we rushing to the store for the newest Blu-ray/DVD. No longer are we pining for nostalgic Disney Channel series. The library of Disney+ is truly more impressive than any other streaming service to date, at least for Disney fans!

With this convenience, the Walt Disney Company has had the option to release movies in theaters and via streaming simultaneously. This came in handy during the height of the pandemic.

On the other hand, when Disney movies were primarily released on Disney+, it denied fans the opportunity of a movie-going experience. Specifically, the last three Pixar films including Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and Turning Red (2022), all bypassed the movie theater and the box office. This has caused fans to raise the question, “Does Pixar still make short films?” The lack of Pixar short films via streaming wasn’t as apparent, but would this have startled theatergoers?

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Credit: Pixar

For years, Pixar short films had been an industry standard and appeared before many Pixar box office hits such as Finding Nemo (2003) and Inside Out (2015). They were so popular, Disney started to release Pixar Short Films Collection on special DVDs. Many fans still can’t help but smile when recalling the short films La Luna (2011), Geri’s Game (1997), or the infamous Luxo Jr (1986). This San Francisco-based animation studio has brought so much joy.

The fact is though, even before the pandemic and its challenges, Pixar Animation Studios had already decided to move its short films to streaming releases. The feature film Toy Story 4 (2019) was infamously released in theaters with no Pixar short film of its own.

Their new focus on shorts had moved to a program dubbed Pixar SparkShorts and they debuted with the short film Purl (2019) via the internet. Written by Kristen Lester, this insightful short film starred a feminine ball of yarn trying to fit into a male-dominated workforce. This creation is excellent and SparkShorts has continued creating short films ever since. All of these Pixar short films are available on Disney+ and have been envisioned by great directing minds such as Aphton Corbin, Erica Milsom, and Edwin Chang.

Pixar Purl

Credit: Pixar

If this still breaks your heart, take comfort that SparkShorts has made great efforts to give more filmmakers opportunities, particularly from underrepresented classes. But if you are still longing for the movie-going days, reminisce with us. Here are some of our favorite, heart-warming shorts that debuted on the silver screen.

For the Birds (2001)

Released alongside the Pixar movie Monsters Inc. (2011), the lighthearted feature is both hilarious and humbling. Set in the country, the audience sees a group of tiny bluebirds perched on a telephone wire. All is well with the “in crowd” of birds who look and sound alike. Suddenly, they hear a squawk and see a large, silly-looking bird. He wants to join them on the wire. In return, the other birds tease him for his appearance.

Undeterred, the goofy bird perches on the wire, but his weight makes the wire start to fall. Eventually, the other mocking birdies are flung into the air slingshot style, all losing their feathers. As the feather-less birds flee in a frantic state, the large bird giggles uncontrollably. While not as emotionally impactful as other shorts, For the Birds is a gentle reminder to follow the golden rule.

Pixar Birds

Credit: Pixar

Lou (2017)

A lesser-known gem, Lou provides a more poignant life lesson about the utmost importance of respecting others. This Pixar short is set in an elementary school playground. A mysterious creature named Lou (made up of random items) returns things to the lost and found box when children aren’t looking.

All is going well until Lou notices one child (J.J.) bullying the other kids. After the bully steals from his classmates, Lou appears to J.J. and decides to take his backpack. While wrestling for the backpack, J.J. notices Lou has an old stuffed dog. Ironically, this stuffed dog was stolen from him as a child. Seeing an opportunity to bargain, Lou won’t give the toy back until J.J. returns everything he’s taken.

In a pleasant montage, J.J. returns every stolen belonging and lights up with the warmth of doing good. With sadness, he eventually notices Lou (who was made of the missing items) is disassembled. J.J. grabs the stuffed dog he earned, but more importantly, starts playing nicely with the other kids. Only Pixar could make us shed a tear for a pile of baseballs and scarves, right?

lou pixar

Credit: Pixar

The Blue Umbrella (2013)

This achingly sweet choice features everything that makes Pixar films unique – attachments to unexpected characters. Premiering before Monsters University (2013) The Blue Umbrella stars (you guessed it!) a blue umbrella and the beautiful world he inhabits. Being carried by his owner in a rainstorm, the setting is photo-realistic except for his cartoony-smiling face. The rest of the environment, from the sewer drains to the streetlights, are subtlety human and seem to cheer on the hero from a distance.

Featuring a catchy score by Jon Brion, the optimistic main character notices a lovely red umbrella and desperately tries to get her attention. Audiences collectively gasped when he was blown away by the wind and nearly run over. Thankfully, the blue umbrella is rescued by its owner. The film ends with a shot of the blue umbrella’s owner talking to the red umbrella’s owner. The lovelorn umbrellas snuggle close and make us ask yet again, do objects have feelings?

blue umbrella pixar

Credit: Pixar

Piper (2016)

An instant classic upon its release, Piper shines in terms of computer animation, expert storytelling, and sheer adorableness. (It also won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.) Piper, a young sandpiper, finds herself on the beach with her mother and their flock. Accustomed to being fed, Piper is confused when her mother starts teaching her to forage. While looking for food at the shoreline, precious little Piper is hit with a huge wave and becomes terrified of the water.

Encouraged by her mother to try again, most of us can probably relate to Piper’s fear of failure. Tentative as ever, she wants to cling to childhood but realizes it’s time to grow up. The sweet little bird perseveres and eventually befriends a tiny sand crab. Then her new friend helps her find an alternative solution to her problem. Before long, Piper is gleefully running to the shoreline and gathering huge piles of food. Her mother looks on with heart-melting pride, along with the audience.

Piper Pixar

Credit: Pixar

While theatrical releases of Pixar films may be no more, these classics (and so many others) are still here to make us laugh, cry, and appreciate life.

In the meantime, don’t forget about SparkShorts creations on Disney+. Whether in theaters or living rooms, Pixar storytelling mastery is still alive and well.

 

About Rebekah Sedwick

A lifelong fanatic, Rebekah can't remember a time when she wasn't obsessed with Disney. When she's not planning her next trip, you can find her reading, dancing, spoiling her puppy, and always clicking 'Jump to Recipe' on food blogs. Rebekah resides in Pittsburgh with her husband, who has converted to the "dark side".