I’m going to be real, here—2004 was not a great year for Disney. The Incredibles, yes, I grant you. But you may have noticed that I don’t do Pixar here. And the only theatrical release Disney animated feature of 2004 is the only one I’ve never seen simply because it looked too dire to bother with. Not out of any love of its source material; it isn’t based on any. It just looked too dull to bother with. And I saw Valiant in the theatre.
“Lorenzo,” however, is an absolutely beautiful short which debuted that year, half a century after the initial concept was created by Official Disney Legend Joe Grant. Lorenzo is a vain cat who enjoys showing up cats less fortunate than he. One night, he makes a poor choice—he teases a black cat with only a stub of a tail about how much less it is than Lorenzo’s beautiful, luxurious tail. So the black cat curses him, making the tail come to life—and also pretty much hate Lorenzo.
It really is an exquisite short. I don’t know if it would’ve held up as a feature—though probably better than Home on the Range—but at bare minimum it would’ve been one of those ones where everyone said, “Well, at least it’s pretty.” The backgrounds are done in tempera paints on black construction paper, and the animation—hand-drawn animation—is done in a style that resembles it. It’s definitely one of those films that shows the creativity possible in animation, if you alter the medium a little. It’s the sort of thing that really would’ve worked if they’d done another Fantasia, which is why it was considered for it when they were considering another Fantasia.
Because of course there’s also no dialogue. Just the music; famously, Mike Gabriel just went ahead and bought out the tango section of a Virgin Megastore, spending well over $300 on forty tango discs before going with the first song on the first CD, “Bordoneo y 900,” by Juan José Mosalini and Big Tango Orchestra. I couldn’t say that it’s the best tango on those forty discs, but I will say that it works beautifully with the animation. Gabriel even brought in Mosalini and orchestra to record a new version of the song just for the short. Lorenzo and his tail dance in the exquisite masochism that Tom Lehrer spoke of so eloquently.
I have long lamented that we don’t bother with shorts as much anymore. I mean, Disney is the only studio doing them at all. But this wasn’t even before Home on the Range. It aired before Raising Helen and then wasn’t put on the film’s DVD release. It is, however, on the first Disney shorts collection, which is one of those things still on Netflix because of having its rights there before Disney+ was thought of. Do yourself the favour and check this one out; it’s absolutely beautiful.
Don’t be selfish like Lorenzo; contribute to your local charity trying to improve lives for underserved populations.