What do Disney and sister company Pixar have in common? They're both powerhouses at producing exceptional mini-stories. Pixar has wowed moviegoers with its memorable animated shorts since the late '80s, and Disney has recently produced inventive shorts of its own. In celebration of these groundbreaking mini-stories, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the most feel-good Disney/Pixar shorts… starting with "Paperman." Released in 2012, this romantic animated short is often credited with sparking Disney's short film renaissance. After meeting the woman of his dreams on a subway platform, an office worker creates paper planes to get her attention after seeing her again in the window of a skyscraper. In 2012, "Paperman" director John Kahrs told Collider of the inspiration behind this idea: "I got to thinking about, 'What if two people that were perfect for each other met and then lost each other? How would the fates conspire to bring these two people back together again?'" Combining traditional 2D animation with CG, "Paperman" has been praised for revolutionizing the field of animation. It won an Academy Award for best animated short film in 2013. Keep reading for more…
Food, dogs and love — what more could you ask for? Seen through the eyes of his best friend, Boston terrier Winston, 2014's "Feast" explores one man's romantic journey and how it affects his dog's diet. Director Patrick Osborne's inspiration for the mini-movie? An app. "I've been using this app called 'One Second of Your Day,' where you record your life in one-second clips, and I've been doing it for about two years," he told Collider in 2014. "I did one of my life and I did one of meals. There was something interesting about the dinner one, and I thought it might be cool to see if I could use it in animation to tell a story through food and through dinners."
Of one thing we're certain: "Lava" is a true delight. Featuring the vocals of Kuana Torres Kahele and Nāpua Greig, it's the kind of short that'll leave you with a cheesy smile on your face. While it might not necessarily be everyone's cup of tea, there's no denying the artistry that went into creating this 2014 musical love story featuring volcanoes.
"Sanjay's Super Team" tells the story of a son and his religious father. Inspired by director Sanjay Patel's own upbringing, the short follows a young Indian boy who bonds with his father by imagining Hindu gods as superheroes inspired by his favorite cartoon characters. Exploring Hindu mythology in a way that could reach large audiences was really important to Sanjay. "The idea that I could collaborate with Pixar and Disney meant it could go way beyond this community, to somehow make it normal, so my nieces or nephews didn't have to feel different. It would just be out there in the culture. It felt really important to me to have America see this, and have Pixar and Disney say it's normal," he told The Verge in 2015. Deeply moving and visually stunning, "Sanjay's Super Team" went on to earn an Academy Award nomination in 2016.
"La Luna" focuses on three generation of a family that cleans shooting stars off the surface of the moon. According to director Enrico Casarosa, the short was inspired by the strained relationship between his father and grandfather. "I thought there was something interesting there for a nice coming-of-age story about a boy finding his voice between two bigger voices," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. From its breathtaking imagery to its dreamy score, it's no surprise that critics loved "La Luna." In 2012, it was up for best animated short film at the Academy Awards.
If there's one animated short that should be played at male-dominated offices around the globe, it would be 2018's "Purl." When a pink ball of yarn named Purl lands a job at a male-dominated workplace, she changes who she is in order to fit in with the guys — but soon comes to realize that staying true to herself is far more important. Written and directed by Kristen Lester, the idea for the story was actually inspired by Kristen's own experiences in the field of animation.
Written by Chinese-Canadian storyboard artist Domee Shi, "Bao" is a story about a Chinese mother's longing for her grown-up son. Inspired by Domee's own upbringing as a child of immigrants, the short's specifically Asian story is what sets it apart from the rest. "Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. "I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they've always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds." In addition to winning an Academy Award for best animated short film in 2019, "Bao" made history: Domee is the first woman to ever direct a Pixar short.
"Kitbull" tells the story of the unlikely friendship between an abused pit bull and a stray kitten. It's a beautiful exploration of the great things that can come from stepping outside your comfort zone and letting others in. "Kitbull" earned an Oscar nod for best animated short film in 2020.
"Float" focuses on a young boy with a unique ability to float and his father's efforts to keep this power hidden from the rest of the world. The 2019 short was inspired by writer-director Bobby Alcid Rubio's relationship with own son, who is on the autism spectrum. At its core, it's a story that beautifully articulates a father's journey to accepting his son's differences and the eventual realization that what makes him different is also what makes him special. The 2019 short is Pixar's first animated short to feature Filipino-American characters.
Pixar shorts have a unique ability to exist in a space that is equal parts heartwarming and heart-wrenching, and 2009's "Partly Cloudy" is certainly no exception. Directed by "The Good Dinosaur" filmmaker Peter Sohn, it tells a story about friendship, insecurity and the barriers of communication. Filled with its fair share of poignant moments, it's the kind of mini-movie that will leave you with a greater appreciation for the loyal friends in your life.
There's always one short film that stays with you, and for many, it's "Geri's Game," a 1997 mini-movie centered on Geri, an elderly man who plays chess against himself. "Geri's Game" was a pivotal project for Pixar: It was the production company's first film to feature a human as its main character. It went on to win an Oscar for best animated short film in 1998.
"Wind" tells the story of a grandmother who builds a rocket ship with her grandson in an effort to escape to a better life. Written and directed by Edwin Chang, it's a beautifully executed story about immigration and the realities of having to leave the ones you love to improve your circumstances. Touching, beautifully animated and delicately scored, 2019's "Wind" is a must-see for all audiences.
"Inner Workings" focuses on the all-too-familiar feeling of perpetual monotony and the desire (but inability) to break free from it. The 2013 Pixar short was inspired by director Leo Matsuda's heritage: "I'm Japanese [and] Brazilian, so I have a Japanese side that is very disciplined and logical, but I also have a Brazilian side that likes parties and Carnival, so I have this tug of war in my life. I think a lot of people can relate to that on some level. Everyone came from a different culture, at some point, and I think even in their own lives, there's always something going on inwards," he told Deadline in 2013. "Inner Workings" offers a creative spin on understanding one man's dreary routine and the importance of practicing self-care.
"Get A Horse!" is special in that it combines hand-drawn animation with CG to make a beautifully dynamic short. Utilizing elements both old and new, the 2013 mini-movie masterfully envisions Mickey Mouse in a classic-meets-modern setting. "Get A Horse!" is a short worthy of rewatch after rewatch so you can really take in just how visually astounding it is.