Closing out Pride Month with an offering from a little boutique shop called Pixar.
Out (2020) dir. Steven Clay Hunter
Disney’s troubled past with LGBT issues has been documented elsewhere here, so rather than relitigate in this space – or, in the other direction, attempt to keep our applause from going sarcastic as we celebrate the company foregrounding openly gay characters in one (1) non-theatrical short – let’s take a look at the larger program.
SparkShorts was started as an outlet for new Pixar artists and experiments with the animation workflow. Even before Disney+ apparently relieved Pixar of its box office performance burden, it’s a way for the studio to foster new talent and play with the boundaries of its animation brand without the expectation of return on investment. “Out” joins one of the most exciting aspect of the recent Pixar repertoire, an exploration of the way texture can contribute to storytelling. Here the style has an appealing smeary paint quality, giving the expressions a simplicity but allowing for the range of motion found in more realistic humanoid animation, like a picture book illustration come alive. It makes everything heightened enough that a magical dog and cat duo can arrive on a rainbow, without abstracting the people at the heart of the story.
SparkShorts enjoys a reputation as taking on more mature material than the Pixar films in the mainline, foregrounding issues like adulting (“Twenty Something”) and gender inequality (“Purl”) – an issue Pixar has had firsthand experience with. Of course, since mainline Pixar has encompassed topics like depression (Inside Out), puberty (Turning Red) and existentialism (Soul – which like “Out” explores its topic with an animal body-swap twist), Pixar knows the idea of a “mature topic” is relative, and young’uns can handle an experience whether or not it matches their own.