Last week, Disney-Pixar launched the first of their SparkShorts series, beginning with Purl, directed by Kristen Lester, and their second installment, Smash and Grab, directed by David Lally. The SparkShorts series is an independent collection of shorts that are created by Pixar’s in-house animators, storyboard artists, and designers, who have come up with story ideas of their own, and are now leading those projects into fully-realized short films as part of this series. This wonderful idea allows for Pixar artists to explore new mediums, new animation techniques, and story ideas without having to tie those ideas to the main Pixar brand. Pixar was built on the idea of innovation done through their initial short films, but SparkShorts gives the opportunity to artists around the company like never before.
With only two short films at the time of this writing, SparkShorts is already a clever new idea to showcase talent from within the company and allow aspiring directors/storytellers to develop their skills for future projects. At Pixar, many directors of the largest Pixar theatrical tentpole movies have begun as storyboard artists or general animators, but quite frequently, those artists will have the opportunity to tell their ideas in a short film. These shorts, that play before Pixar theatrical films, are often the chance for Pixar employees to test new ideas without committing to a full movie, and it also gives those employees the chance to try leading a team through the collaborative storytelling process, perhaps leading those animators to one day direct a feature film at Pixar.
Pixar short films rarely turn a profit for the studio, essentially acting as a form of experimentation in many ways, including last year’s Bao, which preceded Incredibles 2 and is now nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. However, what separates SparkShorts from the traditional Pixar short format is its allowance of further experimentation without the concern for being Pixar-branded. These are indie shorts, funded by Pixar, for their animators to explore new ideas. That allows the storytellers to try things that would be too dangerous for Pixar (including some brief language in Purl) but works incredibly well as an art-form.
With the idea of SparkShorts in full swing, we recently learned that the entire series will be on Disney+, and once the initial shorts have debuted on YouTube, Disney-Pixar will continue to create new SparkShorts exclusively for Disney+, the upcoming Disney streaming platform that will debut later this year. We’ve speculated much about what could be included on the upcoming platform, but we finally have our first glimpse at what that content on this platform will include. We’re thrilled that Disney+ will be home to so much creativity and innovative ideas, and that Pixar will continue to allow its independent animators to innovate and tell their stories for this platform.
From this series, we’ve already seen complex topics tackled, such as workplace toxicity and acceptance of diversity in Purl, and an upcoming short titled Float, that will feature Pixar’s first Filipino-American characters. SparkShorts gives the company the opportunity to explore wonderful ideas that you couldn’t do with only one tentpole film, or one major short film a year, giving new animators a chance to showcase their talents. We are so excited for this wonderful new series and can’t wait to see what SparkShorts and Disney+ will bring us next.