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Short Circuit [tv]

Entry updated 21 February 2022. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2020-2021). Walt Disney Animation Studios. Nineteen 3-5 minute episodes, Colour.

A Television Anthology Series for which Walt Disney Animation Studios' (see Disney on Television) staff were invited to pitch ideas, to "take risks, surface new and diverse storytelling voices at the Studio and experiment with new technical innovation in the film-making process". Most of the resulting shorts, which use a variety of animation styles, were sf, Fantasy or otherwise of genre interest. They all open with an interview with the director (named in brackets below):

The first season included Puddles (Zach Parrish), in which a child notices the puddles in his street are portals to another Dimension – where ocean life swims in the air – but his older sister is too absorbed in texting to pay attention, until he throws her phone into a puddle. Exchange Student (Natalie Nourigat): a young Earth girl is an exchange student at an Alien school but has difficulty making friends, until it is discovered that her scream scares the local aggressive foliage, enabling the students to recover their toys – balls, kites etc. – that had fallen into it; unusually the alien school contains only one species (apart from the human) rather than the variety that is the Cliché. Just a Thought (Brian F Menz): Comic-strip thought bubbles are real and can be seen by all, much to the embarrassment of a schoolboy who has a crush on a classmate. Lightning in a Bottle (Virgilio John Aquino): a boy catches lightning in a jar, intending to show it at a science fair, but – in a scene where time slows down (see Time Distortion) – discovers it is a living creature, and so releases it. Downtown (Kendra Vander Vliet): a commuter, late for work, runs through a drab urban setting until a colourful mural comes to life, permeating the city and taking him on a thrilling journey through its landscape. Zenith (Jennifer Stratton): an illuminated stag wanders in space, creating the constellations (see Stars) and, inadvertently, a Black Hole; the latter is dispersed by the stag charging into it, and being transformed into a stag-shaped galaxy. Fetch (Mitchell Counsell): a child, waving a stick and calling for her pet, Oliver, is seemingly stalked and swallowed by a Monster ... but it is Oliver (the girl is unharmed). Jing Hua (vt Flower in the Mirror) (Jerry Huynh): a woman expresses her grief at the death of her martial arts teacher through kung-fu exercises, creating a water-colour landscape around her (see Arts). Cycles (Jeff Gipson): a life is seen backwards (see Time in Reverse). Aside from one about a lost baby elephant, the first season's other shorts are fantasy: the life-cycle of a sentient raindrop; wig-making leprechauns; a grim reaper (see Eschatology) having second thoughts; and a child, reluctantly taken for her first haircut, imagining a martial arts battle against a barber and his ninjas.

The five episodes of season two include Crosswalk (Ryan Green), which presumably involves an AI when a man is confronted by a sadistic Walk/Don't Walk sign. Songs to Sing in the Dark (Riannon Delanoy): two creatures in a cave try to intimidate each other through aggressive song, which shapes how they perceive each other (see Perception); they unite to combat a common enemy. Dinosaur Barbarian (Kim Hazel): a slovenly Dinosaur-riding barbarian discovers he needs to clean up his act. The other two shorts are non-genre.

Their brevity means the films usually present either an interesting animation exercise or single conceit (such as thought bubbles being real; or – in one of the non-genre pieces – ageing means loved ones die, but we also form new relationships). Though there are a few minor pieces, none are poor. Standouts are Downtown, Jing Hua (both visually fascinating) and Just a Thought (which is charming); whilst Puddles, Fetch, Songs to Sing in the Dark, Lightning in a Bottle and the non-genre No. 2 to Kettering (Liza Rhea) are also noteworthy. Pixar produced a similar anthology series, SparkShorts (2019-2021), which were longer and thematically more serious than the Short Circuit segments – though the latter have their own strengths, particularly visually. [SP]


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