I’ve been waiting for this DVD release all summer! Yes, just last week, Walt Disney Animation Studios released a compilation of 12 short films, running the gamut from musical to comedy to drama to CGI to hand-drawn. Before each short plays, the people who worked on it provide some creative background and a brief introduction. Some of these were just as cool as the films themselves! I’d bought the DVD rather quickly for a good price ($22, plus you get bonus features and commentary) and expected that I would be delighted. And indeed I was. Below, I’ll share my thoughts on all the notches of this collection, with one exception: Tick Tock Tale. I had to get dressed while that one was on…sorry!
John Henry. Based on the folklore, this short wound up being one of my favorites! The “John Henry” theme that played throughout was ridiculously catchy, and the animation style was beautifully reminiscent of the American West. It was ultimately a sad story, but it ended on a very satisfying and hopeful note. It was such a good film, in fact, that it made me wish that Disney would’ve explored it as a full-length feature.
Lorenzo. This short had no dialogue, but the story was told so expertly through visuals and music that you knew exactly what was going on. It centers on Lorenzo, a cruelly pampered cat whose tail is cursed with a mind of its own. I really liked this one, but I was taken aback at just how dark it was. How so, you ask? Well, as Lorenzo is tormented by his cognizant tail, he attempts to drown it, and is later faced with the prospect of chopping it off. Creepy!
The Little Matchgirl. Oh boy. Let me preface this by saying that the original tale was one of my least favorite stories as a child, because it would always make me cry. But I was sort of glad that Disney’s take on it, which also had no dialogue, stayed true to the original’s sadness. The music and settings of this short painted a beautiful portrait of Russia, and they really drove home the point of class differences. Really makes you think.
How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. On the total opposite end of the spectrum, the “How-to” Goofy shorts that would air periodically on the Disney Channel were always a favorite of mine as a kid. I always found them to be hilarious, and this one was no exception. As Goofy tries to put together a state-of-the-art television, he encounters all kinds of screwball problems, exacerbated by his typical ineptitude.
Prep and Landing- Operation Secret Santa. I knew nothing about the PL franchise going into this and was pleasantly surprised by this short. It was all at once funny and heartwarming, and did I mention that Betty White does the voice of Mrs. Claus? Yes indeed! It’s a beautiful thing.
The Ballad of Nessie. This cute short with a really lovely animation style debunks the rumors of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster. Narrated by a cheery Scot, we find out how Nessie came to live in her lake, and even how the lake itself came into being. I only wish it could’ve explored how Nessie came to be known as a “monster.”
Tangled Ever After. This one is quite well-known to the general public, as its original movie has a large following and the mini-sequel here spawned all sorts of merchandise. While Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi reprise their roles as Rapunzel and Eugene, the focus of the short is on their sidekicks, Pascal and Maximus. They get into a little trouble with the wedding rings on the big day, and chaos ensues. It’s great chaos, though, with a lot of laughs and plenty of clever nods to the events of the feature film!
Paperman. This Oscar winner was considered pretty groundbreaking when it was originally shown in cinemas alongside Wreck-It Ralph. In fact, I saw it in the theater. I like how the short captures that intense feeling of instant love, and what crazy things it can propel us to do. The animation style is quite unique, reminiscent of a film noir, with little pops of color on certain elements.
Get a Horse. This short accompanied Frozen, and so I also saw it in the cinema. What I love about this one is how it seamlessly blends traditional animation and CGI to create a very special hybrid of classic Mickey Mouse cartoons and the newer way he is portrayed. Beware: somebody might fall through your screen!
Feast. This was another Oscar-winning short that played in the cinemas with Big Hero 6. It has minimal dialogue, unless you consider a dog’s barks to be speech. And indeed, the central character is an adorable French bulldog named Winston, who watches his owner grow and change via the food he throws to him. It’s incredible how the filmmakers were able to show the progression of the owner’s life through the eyes of his dog. It gets a little sad in the middle- but don’t feel too bad for hungry little Winston- it all works out for him in the end!
Frozen Fever. Shown in theaters with the live-action rendition of Cinderella, this followup to the highest-grossing animated feature of all time is as wonderful as Elsa’s ice palace. It boasts a new song by the Oscar-winning Lopez couple, “Making Today a Perfect Day,” and it follows Elsa as she plans the best birthday party ever for her sister. All your favorite characters from the original movie make an appearance- even Prince Hans. The song is a lot of fun, and Elsa and Anna get new clothes too- it’s about time!