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Short Film Review: The Blue Umbrella


Last year, the other animation group that John Lasseter runs at Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) put out an instant classic in Paperman. It eventually won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Paperman was presented to movie-goers as a gift for paying to watch Wreck-It Ralph. This year, Lasseter’s Academy Award-winning animation stables in Emeryville are releasing the next surefire winner in the same category. The Blue Umbrella is the latest from Pixar Animation Studios…and it may be its greatest.  This 6-minute gem opens for Pixar’s latest full-length animated film – Monsters University.

Presentation: A+

The art direction for The Blue Umbrella is very photorealistic.  In fact, you could easily mistake this animated short for a live action film in the opening minute.  Pixar’s new rendering techniques are mind blowing.  As a matter of fact, I was so impressed that I needed time to soak it all in before I could focus on the story. The backdrop is an urban cityscape where it has just started to rain.  The familiar traffic control devices and architectural features in the environment are on display…and are impressively worn and detailed. At first, there’s a familiar feeling of using varied sounds of raindrops on different surfaces in city streets as music. Immediately, my mind went in to “seen it before” mode.  Thankfully, I would regret these thoughts as Pixar puts on a 6-minute animation and story-telling clinic.

Writing: A+

Once Pixar stopped showing off their unparalleled new rendering techniques, we realize that there’s a popular theme being played out here – love at first sight. Much like Paperman, no spoken dialogue…no problem. The film’s screenwriter and director, Saschka Unseld, brilliantly realized that we needed time to be introduced to photorealistic urban world and allotted us a short period of visual acceptance of the technical brilliance being displayed. Unseld and his team then decided to introduce the diverse supporting characters first before we meet our objects of affection. The result is a very well-executed and paced story of a chance encounter and the juxtaposition of the great lengths and challenges we undertake to prolong love it.

Character Study Progression: A+

As the story moves forward, our story’s protagonist is put through dangerous challenges.  The main character’s progression in this 6-minute epic doesn’t just focus on the attraction between attractor and the attracted, but the supporting characters to allow for this attraction to grow.  The journey of our love-driven character takes a turn for the worst.  The familiar imagery of a broken and abandoned umbrella in the city streets comes to mind…seemingly defeated by the elements.  Yet, in that captured metaphor of true loneliness and sadness, sometimes love finds a way.  The closing scene in Blue Umbrella is understatedly memorable.

Overall Rating: A+

The Blue Umbrella reminds us why Pixar is a cut above the rest in animation studios in the film industry and why their films are taken just as seriously as live action dramas. The 6 minutes of this film is well worth the money you paid to watch Monsters University…and may end up being the best 6 minutes of film ever, not just from a technical standpoint, but an artistically storytelling one. Bravo Pixar. Bravo.




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