As Toy Story 3 racks up some of the best reviews of the year, I’m pleased that so many critics have taken time to make note of the innovative short-subject that accompanies it. Day & Night—which is so clever it’s almost impossible to describe—is the work of an up-and-coming talent named Teddy Newton whom the folks at Pixar have earmarked for big things.
John Lasseter and his Pixar colleagues know that while there is no real monetary return to be derived from the production of shorts, they serve as a fertile training ground for animation directors, artists, and storytellers. What’s more, audiences enjoy them. Lasseter and Cartoon Brew’s Amid Amidi even collaborated on a hardcover volume called The Art of Pixar Short Films, which Chronicle Books published last year. (Lasseter also green-lit a hilarious short made at Disney called How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, which was designed to look and—
Director Lee Unkrich says that when he embarked on this film he watched every movie he could find with a “3” in its title, hoping to find a good one he could use as a role model. He came up empty-handed. Perhaps that’s one reason he and his colleagues at Pixar put so much effort into this sequel—to validate its existence. It’s that work ethic, along with creativity and seemingly boundless imagination, that makes Toy Story 3 so good.
The late, great Disney artist and story man Joe Grant—who remained a potent creative force until the day he died at age 96—had a mantra about the movies he worked on: “What are you giving the audience to take home?” Far too many contemporary cartoon features are like fast food, easily...
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