Have you ever felt like an outsider before? That’s the feeling that inspired a new short from Walt Disney Animation Studios called Exchange Student, part of the “Short Circuit” program. Like Pixar’s “Spark Shorts” series, “Short Circuit” gives talented artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios the chance to create and direct their own short animated film.
Exchange Student introduces us to a girl who has just arrived at a new school in a culture entirely different than the one she knows… because it’s on another planet! Her classmates are globular beings who speak an unknown language and are able to do things she can’t, like turn invisible. But when a ball goes over the fence during gym class, she shows them that she has skills and abilities they lack, opening the door to make new friends.
Told entirely through pantomime, Exchange Student is guaranteed to resonate with any viewer. It’s full of humorous bits of action as the girl and audience learn more about her new classmates together. There are some genuinely funny moments in a story about learning how to fit in.
The animation style instantly grabs your attention. At first glance, you recognize the backgrounds as watercolors in the style of films like Dumbo and Lilo & Stitch. But upon closer look, you’ll notice that even the color and shading of the characters have the same esthetic, with the bumps in the paper visible under the paint. It’s all a digital trick, but it makes it look like each frame was painted on a new sheet of paper rather than cels being placed over a background.
Exchange Student is a perfect way to introduce yourself to WDAS Short Circuits, this one directed by Natalie Nourigat. She’s no stranger to crafting a story as a Storyboard Artist, most recently on Ralph Breaks the Internet. At the D23 Expo where the short debuted, she shared that she was inspired by a summer art camp her mother enrolled her in as a child where the teachers and students only spoke French.
I give Exchange Student 4 out of 5 flesh-eating plants.
You can watch Exchange Student when it premieres exclusively on Disney+
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.