The amount of creativity that goes into telling a meaningful story with little to no dialogue in less than ten minutes is what fascinates me most about Disney’s animated shorts. After just two minutes of watching one, there’s always some sort of character or creature that I’ve already fallen in love with. Whether it’s a smiling umbrella, a dancing silhouette or a grumpy cloud, there is something so innately human about the way each character acts, thinks and moves that keeps me coming back for more.
After letting hours pass by, trapped in the “Shorts” section of Disney+, I decided to write about a few of my favorites that I feel are deserving of appreciation for either their creativity, deeper meaning, use of animation or a combination of these factors. I’m a sucker for cute and smiley inanimate objects, so narrowing it down to a selection was a tough task. But if you’re looking for a quick reminder of how magical storytelling can be, these shorts will do just the trick.
In a schoolyard full of elementary-aged children, there sits a chest full of lost items. From clothes to baseballs to lunch boxes, the lost-and-found chest is a cluttered mess. When recess ends and the kids disappear into the building, the items in the chest become magnetic, transforming into a singular figure with baseballs as eyes, mitts as hands and a red sweatshirt for a body. The lost-and-found monster collects all that was left behind and then slithers back into its chest for safety.
“LOU” doesn’t just creatively personify these lost items in the form of one cohesive figure. The short continuously transforms the monster with each obstacle it faces. If the figure jumps, the items lose their magnetism while in the air. But every time the items fall back toward the ground, they connect, forming another version of the lost-and-found monster. The endless combinations of configurations are mesmerizing. When you only have six minutes to create meaning, you’re going to need to use all the tricks in the book. “LOU” uses animation the way it should be used — to maximize storytelling creativity.
“Day & Night”
When Day meets Night, the two become curious about what goes on while the other is out of sight. Both characters are transparent outlines of dwarf-shaped bodies. As Day walks, we see what he encompasses: the sunrise, pool parties and active joggers. When Night awakes, we see the nightlife of Las Vegas, the constellations and the crescent moon. The rest of the screen is black, forcing us to rely on the movement of Day and Night’s transparent figures for sources of color and meaning within the film.
What makes “Day & Night” so captivating is the way the two silhouettes overlap. When sunrise and sunset align, the two figures become one pinkish-orangish blurb of life. They stand next to each other, and we can see one half of the sun through each of their bodies. They hug until Day’s sun must rise and Night’s moon must set, once again changing their colors and distinguishing them from each other.
Day and Night are like two friends who seemingly have nothing in common, but when they take a walk in each other’s shoes (or bodies in this case), they see each other with a new level of clarity. If two outwardly different people could find even just one similarity to bring them together, they may discover that they aren’t so different after all. That’s the message “Day & Night” portrays, and it does so using everyday concepts everyone can relate to. There’s something inspiring about direct opposites like Day and Night learning to love each other’s differences.
Trapped in what seems like a deep underground chasm, a grandmother and her grandson work on creating a rocket ship that might one day take them out of the abyss. The area they’re trapped in is dark and full of debris, and the two use whatever scraps and resources they can find to build the contraption. The grandson drives the rocket, hitting obstacles on the way out, but he ultimately lands in a much brighter place. The grandmother stays in the chasm, leaving the grandson to live his new life on his own.
This journey is reminiscent of the immigration process. The two characters start by using whatever resources they’re able to find to escape their past lives. But, by the time they build the rocket, only the grandson is able to make it out. “Wind” brings light to generations of struggle, and the fact that an eight-minute animated short without dialogue can kickstart an emotional conversation about immigration is impressive and moving. “Wind” offers a symbolic and compact telling of an age-old struggle that deserves to be recognized.
Daily Arts Writer Laura Millar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.