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Rhett Wickham: The Art of Pixar Short Films Review
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In Praise of Brevity
Rhett Wickham Reviews
Amid Amidi's New Book
The Art of Pixar Short Films
All of the magic we know as Disney grew out of a fairly simple little entertainment - a cartoon animated short that preceded the featured attraction in movie theatres. Walt Disney’s clever and original Steamboat Willie, with all its fairly reductive charm, proved more exciting, more delightful, and more compelling to audiences than the films that followed in its footsteps (can you name them? Didn’t think so.) Thus was born an empire.
So it is that the mighty Pixar Animation Studio owes its success to Luxo Jr., a single film from which was born a generation of animators who traded curvature of the spine for carpal tunnel syndrome. The late Joe Grant is frequently quoted for his observation that short films are where animation is best put to use, and where it rises to its greatest potential. How true, and how nice to see a book like The Art of Pixar Short Films, where feature length animation’s industry goliath takes a temporary back-seat to the work this writer believes is superior to anything twelve times as long.
An always astute Amid Amidi has partnered with Chronicle Books to write a concise but fairly thorough and very smart monograph hidden in an “art of” that, frankly, looks like every other “art of” book Chronicle has ever produced. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a good book, or something you shouldn’t add to your personal library, because it is a very nice collection of rarely seen works, and well worth owning. It’s just that Amidi is a writer who is sometimes too smart for his publisher’s own good, and it’s made obvious by the decision not to integrate a very good text with some very exciting art. Instead, the essays are up front where they’re unlikely to get read and the art is in the back, where a deeper understanding of it will pass by the majority of readers who will leaf swiftly to page 44 and morph into the average museum visitor, gazing at the pretty pictures and taking very little time to digest the didactics that open them up. Amidi provides some excellent historical information and carefully measured editorial observations in a smart, easy to read take on the development of Pixar via the amuse-bouche of animation.