One of my favorite parts of going to see a new Pixar movie at the theater is the short film that accompanies the feature. One Man Band and Presto are among my personal favorites, and the ridiculously cute Piper was a real crowd pleaser. Without fail, each and every Pixar short film has been beautifully lighthearted and chock–full of fun.
In this latest animated short, titled Borrowed Time, Pixar animators Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj broke formula; they opted to go down a more mature and dramatic route with their independent production. The result is one of the most powerful and emotionally stirring narratives I've ever seen unfold. Take a look:
In an interview with the two directors, Cartoon Brew noted that Borrowed Time — an indie project that took five years to complete — was made possible via Pixar’s co-op Program. Pixar employees can apply to the program and if they are accepted, they're then allowed to use the Pixar "pipeline" (I'm assuming that means their render farms and other production assets) for any would-be passion projects. Borrowed Time was the first CG film to be accepted in the program.
I have to say, if the magical minds over at Pixar were to make a feature length animated film in the same tone of Borrowed Time, I'd be into it. After all, there have been many animated films that were more mature and have been wildly successful. None more so evident in the anime genre with the likes of critically acclaimed films such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell.
I found it really refreshing to see Pixar's talent explore darker themes, all while still capturing an immense amount of heart that Pixar movies are known for. The rugged aesthetic of the short also feels both like a departure from the norm, but is still wholly Pixar in style at the same time. It's such a brilliant pairing.
In their press release for the #shortfilm, Coats wrote:
In America, animation has largely become synonymous with kids’ films, whereas elsewhere around the world it’s celebrated as a medium that can be used to tell any story. We feel this cultural difference limits the potential audience and range of themes in American #animation, and is a large part of why we chose to make 'Borrowed Time.'
Having worked on family films with a lot of heart and comedy, we wanted to do something outside of our comfort zone: a serious, action drama. We knew this would be a huge challenge for us.
I'm glad they accepted that challenge head on, because in just shy of 7 minutes, their short film manages to send a message so humanly relatable and profound that it gives me chills every time I watch it. The sheriff gaining that sense of closure at the end was just so riveting and visceral; I could really feel the catharsis. The efforts of Coats and Hamou-Lhadj's five-year endeavor will surely go on to captivate animation fans for years to come.
Borrowed Time has already garnered a handful of awards, including Best Animated Short at the St. Louis Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival, and Best in Show at Siggraph. Is it safe to say that this will win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film? For me, it's a definitive yes. What do you think?