How the Second Season of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Short Circuit Films Revived Traditional Styles While Staying State-of-the-Art



Five new animated short films from Walt Disney Animation StudiosShort circuit experimental films program are now being broadcast on Disney + and I had the pleasure of speaking with the five directors and production manager Jennifer Newfield. Dinosaur Barbarian, Coming Home, Crosswalk, Songs to Sing in the Dark and N ° 2 in Kettering are stylistically and tonally very different. If you didn’t know better, you might think they were made by completely different studios.


“I would say that what we do in the studio normally is quite different from how Short circuit‘s run,’ shared Jennifer Newfield, who oversaw each of these projects as production manager. “I think this is part of the introductory educational part for anyone entering Short circuit holds hands to agree that we’re going to be doing something different both visually, stylistically, and in terms of workflow. For me, that keeps me on my toes every time I say, “How do we accomplish what you’re trying to build in a condensed period of time and condensed screen runtime, essentially?” How can I best recoup my skills, reflect on all of my pipeline experience, and do my best to support directors in the way their specific shorts need? “

In the casting of Kim Hazel Barbarian dinosaur, what the short needed was a step back in time, not just in the tone of the ’80s TV intro, but a return to hand-drawn animation as well. “Barbarian dinosaur is actually a mixture of 2D hand-drawn animation on paper and 2D animation done digitally on a computer, ”Kim revealed when asked about the style of her short film, which also appears to have been painted on cellophane. rather than using the CAPS system. “This celluloid look was easy to achieve with both. It’s a digital effect that we did, but I think it’s really successful. It was really important for me to have something that reflects both the 2D cartoons of the 80s, but also my favorite era of the Disney movies, which is the Xerox era, like 101 Dalmatians and The jungle Book. And I really wanted those two things together to be the final look.

Digging even deeper into the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios, claymation hasn’t really been done in-house since the 1980s, when Tim Burton was allowed to create his own experimental shorts that predate the existence of Short circuit. And while no clay was harmed during the making of this wave of films, two shorts in this series appear to have been made by Rankin / Bass or Laika. “Appearance was basically an evolution,” Ryan Green explained of Crosswalk, for which he personally animated the hand-drawn intro. “I explained that it was like a little editorial cartoon, a little dose of social commentary. And so, when I kept saying miniature, the team started saying, “Well, how about a stop motion style? a close up on something that has super oversized textures, it’s a little different experience. So we really had to try to work with that, with the technology that we had and make it right, so it was a bit of a challenge which was kind of fun.

that of Liza Rhéa N ° 2 in Kettering is based on her own childhood taking public transport to school, but as an environmental modeler making all of the characters look hand-molded was a personal choice. “I really wanted to make bulky bolts and have that very oversized feel when it comes to the environment versus the characters,” Liza revealed. “And that also for the textures. We use a lot of oversized textures and that’s mostly because it’s taken from a true story that I lived. So I wanted the textures and the environment to be very tactile, like you could just reach for it and touch it.

The other two shorts in this collection are unmistakably computer-animated, but they also have their own unique flair. It may not be obvious at first, but Songs to sing in the dark is actually a mix of computer animation and hand drawn animation. “I was really inspired by the images of the ultrasounds, the grain, it’s actually like a lack of resolution in a sound image like that,” explained director Riannon Delanoy. “I wanted to convey that in the short film and also help to marry 3D and 2D. So the 3D has some post-processing to make it a bit grainy, but then the drawing itself is rendered with a chalky line… Also, the drawing itself is transformed into a light-emitting object, so it illuminates also the 3D environment. So we tried to get them to marry in the same space, even though they are different mediums.

For Jacob Frey, who tells a personal story of the changes every time he visits his hometown in Germany, the only way to realize his vision was through computer animation. “There were definitely a lot of challenges due to the time frame at the start,” he shared, adding that the scope of his project required visual compromises. “To get there, we were actually trying to strategize a bit, if we could make the look of the movie a bit simpler. So, because I wanted it to look very realistic, and because I’m very inspired by live action movies, we just got a small team together to really strategize. And to find that look a bit more painterly with simpler textures that allowed us to really sprinkle that same texture on every building, change the color, and make it look like an entire city. There was a whole R&D process before embarking on this project.

As the second season of Short circuit, these five new shorts will live alongside the intro wave that debuted last year on Disney +. But for Jennifer Newfield, who has played a role in all of the shorts, it’s getting more and more exciting. “I think there are so many aspects that all of these filmmakers bring to the table,” she shared. “What’s so exciting about Short circuit as a program is that we are always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. All of these new directors can bring something different to the table. Also, I think what’s so beautiful about the program, over time … is that the directors can influence each other. They have to pay for it almost out of their shorts the next season, and support each other and help each other to bring different creative visions to the screen. I think they’re all very excited to explore new mediums, or at least new ways of working with the tools we have in our studio. That encouragement ends with something unique on screen every time a short scrolls. I really enjoyed seeing everything evolve and everyone supporting each other during the different phases of Short circuit. “

Walt Disney Animation Studios Season 2 ‘ Short circuit is now broadcast on Disney +.

Want to know more about these directors and Jennifer Newfield? Check out our video interviews below.



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