We take in a Hollywood screening and presentation from another Pixar short from the Wall-E DVD
We've taken a look into the upcoming Wall-E DVD, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on November 18, with a trip to Pixar Studios in the Bay Area and a nifty virtual junket where we saw one of the new Pixar short films on the DVD's special features, Burn-E, and got to talk to the director, Angus MacLane as well. They say that three times is the charm, so we have one last glimpse into this highly-anticipated DVD, with a look at one of the other animated shorts on the disc, Presto.
This is a wonderful five-minute short that was featured during Wall-E's theatrical run. This is the directorial debut from long-time Pixar animator Doug Sweetland, whose tenure with the company goes all the way back to the company's first theatrical feature, Toy Story, where he served as an animator. This is quite a hilarious little short and, much like practically all of Pixar's short's throughout the years, they feature no dialogue whatsoever, relying on slick animation and succinctly entertaining stories. That tradition stays intact with Presto, the story of cocky magician Presto DiGiotagione and his rabbit Alec Azazm, which, yes, he pulls out of a hat. They show a nifty way of performing this feat, though, with a second Merlin-like hat that he puts on the rabbit, which serves as a portal to the top hat, enabling him to pull him out of a hat. The problem here is, the rabbit is starving and wants a carrot, which Presto won't give him until after the trick. The rabbit must be from a union family or something, because when Presto first tries to pull him out of a hat, he sees that Alec has moved the hat, and won't perform the feat until he gets his beloved carrot. What follows is a few minutes of hilarious back-and-forth between Presto and Alec, culminating in a wonderful finale and happy ending for all. This is another classic Pixar short that upholds and extends the legacy of the animation studio's magnificent short films.
After the film, we were treated to a nifty demonstration from Sweetland, where he described the arduous process of putting this short together, along with some early concept art, animation sequences all within a slick Powerpoint presentation. He started off by explaining that the story process wasn't quite as easy as he thought it'd be.
"I had been animating at Pixar since the Toy Story days, like 13, 14 years, before I had decided to make a short. I thought that all that experience would be a huge help in story. I have been on the scene while they were making these great stories, so that must have, surely by osmosis, rubbed off on me. That turned out to not be the case."
He went on to describe the process of animating something and the process, that he found out by trial and numerous errors, of creating a story for a short film. It was also interesting to find out that the story that Pixar bought and greenlit from Sweetland was a far cry from what ended up being the short.
"Here's what I pitched. A sympathetic magician gets dumped by his stage rabbit and uses a rabbit off the street in his act. The new rabbit has stage fright, being off the street, and he ruins the act. The magician leaves the stage. The rabbit feels bad, he has ruined his hero's act, so he overcomes his stage fright and goes on stage. He tries to pull the magician out of the rabbit's hat to save the act. The angry magician tries to stop the rabbit, accidentally endangering himself. The rabbit saves the magician and pulls him out of his own hat, saving the act. The magician then forgives the rabbit and now they are a team. This is the story that was greenlit. So they bought this, right? Right. This is not how it turns out. Well, it turns out, I got one note. 'It's too long for a short.'"
He goes through how that one simple note, and the suggestion that the magician not leave the stage, turned into a logistical nightmare for the story process, which went through 10 pitch sessions with Pixar's "Brain Trust," who consist of all the wonderful feature directors at Pixar like Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird and others. He goes through this whole frustrating process for Sweetland, which is quite hilarious at times, going through all of these different scenarios of how the story could play out... all of which were shot down heartily by the Brain Trust. After a particularly unfunny segment, which got not a peep out of the assembled audience, Sweetland offered, "Now you are in the Brain Trust spirit, my friends. No reaction whatsoever." Hilarity. What's even funnier is the last-ditch effort that they came up with and ended up being the short, they thought would fail, after thinking that the 9 sessions before were right on the money.
"I went in to our last Brain Trust review and, for the first time, I thought, this is going to bomb. Either they put whatever we have into production or they just might can it altogether."
He then showed us the original pencil-drawn animation that they showed the Brain Trust and was approved, which, essentially, was pretty damn close to this hilarious, finished short. Not to take pleasure in someone else's misery or anything, but Sweetland's tales of woe in thinking this will be an easy story to tell and figuring otherwise is rife with entertainment value in and of itself. Of course, the end of his own story does have a very happy ending in how much he learned through the process and the end result of this wonderful short that is marvelously funny and, with its vaudeville setting and 40s Disney-esque opening credit sequence in the short, is a terrific blend of the old and the new school of animation and just a ton of condensed fun.
That about wraps up my night in Hollywood at the screening and presentation for the super little short, Presto. You can watch Presto and the other excellent new animated short, Burn-E, on the special features of the new Wall-E or Blu-ray when it hits the shelves on November 18. Peace in. Gallagher out!