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The status of Disney’s new animated shorts program

It’s been a couple years since Disney restarted its short film program under John Lasseter’s guidance and I was scanning the Interwebs for news on the status on some of the upcoming shorts, so I’m collecting it all here too. As with Pixar, the shorts program is designed as a way to develop and train future animation talent before tackling feature films. For example, an animator might get the chance to direct a short, potentially proving he/she could perform the job on a larger scale. Four shorts were initially announced alongside the program back in late 2006:

How to Hook Up Your Home Theater

How to Hook Up Your Home Theater

1) How to Hook Up Your Home Theater – A traditionally animated short using the old formula of Goofy humorously failing while a narrator instructs him and the audience on how to do something, like play a sport or perform a job. This time around it’s wrangling the wires behind a a fancy new home theater system. Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton directed, and the short preceded theatrical screenings of National Treasure: Books of Secrets at the end of 2007. Thankfully it eventually also wound up on iTunes for purchase because the piece is full of hilarity as Goofy flails about in piles of electronics.

Glago's Guest

Glago's Guest

2) Glago’s Guest – Chris Williams directed this short tale about a Russian soldier’s encounter with an extraterrestrial while guarding an isolated Siberian outpost. This CG and stereoscopic short played a few festivals and was originally planned to precede Bolt but that was scrapped and the film has languished in the Disney vaults up until now. Hopefully it shows up on iTunes or a DVD release or anywhere sooner rather than later.

3) The Ballad of Nessie – This is the second traditionally animated short of the bunch, also directed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton. It’s about the origins of the mythical Loch Ness Monster. Supposedly this one has been, or was, put on the back burner for a bit as all of the 2D animation talent is required to keep the production of The Princess and the Frog on schedule. That surely means this won’t appear until 2010. Maybe it’ll be in front of Rapunzel?

4) Prep and Landing – I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the original plan, but Prep and Landing is now set to be a half hour special aired on ABC during the 2009 holidays. The story involves a pair of inept elves prepping Santa’s sleigh and the consequences of their follies. Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton are directing from an idea originated by Chris Williams. I assume this is CGI because of talent restraints.

I also recently came across a reveal that a fifth short is coming.

5) Tic Tock – As far as I can tell nothing is publicly known about this one besides that it’s a CGI short and is currently aimed for the preceding spot before the theatrical release of The Princess and the Frog. Tic Tock replaces The Ballad of Nessie due to the aforementioned necessity for all available traditional animators to focus on the feature release.

I was pretty annoyed with how How to Hook Up Your Home Theater was put in front of a live-action film I had zero interest in seeing, but it seems like Disney’s looking to replicate the Pixar pattern and package their animated films with a short. I’d consider that good news for animation fans. Still, I wish there was some sign that Glago’s Guest will be seen by the public. It’s such a waste for these shorts to not be packaged with appropriate films or even released on DVD. At least things seem better than the early 2000s that produced a few shorts that were thrown in front of incredibly random live-action films or still haven’t appeared to this day. Maybe, someday, the oft-announced and oft-delayed DVD collection of those 2000s shorts will actually be released.

*A couple of recent details about these shorts were garnered from this summary of a February visit to Disney.

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