Disney+Guest Posting

Disney’s “Short Circuit”: Directors Roundtables

“Short Circuit” is coming to Disney+ on Friday, January 24.  It is a series of 14 animated shorts created through an experimental program within Walt Disney Animation Studios. Earlier this month, I was invited to view the shorts during at the studio, and speak with the directors about the pitching process, the production and the way they view the short now.

Anyone within Walt Disney Animation Studios is able to submit an idea for a short film. Directors of the 14 shorts include lighters, animators and production assistants. A few of the directors spoke on the submission process for pitching their short film.

L to R: John Aquino, Jennifer Stratton, Jeff Gipson

Jennifer Stratton, Director of “Zenith”: There really aren’t specific guidelines. You never know what will attract the attention of those who are deciding… I tried to concentrate on what would make my short unique, and help it stand out and be different. I also tried to show how it would maybe help the studio by being a testing ground for certain tools…. I think the fact that we all submitted something different, shows that it really does come down to the idea.

John Aquino, Director of “Lightning in a Bottle”: I submitted just a paragraph of what my idea was, and I had artwork. We are encouraged to submit artwork, and I tried to send my artwork, but it failed. So, I literally just had a paragraph that they looked at, and they liked the idea so much that they decided to go with my short.

Jeff Gipson, Director of “Cycles”: I pitched mine as VR [virtual reality] so I tried to lean on the emotional side that’s about family, but also the experimentation and allowing us to do something for the first time at the studio. But I also had some artwork as well, so I think it varies per project. 

Each short was made over a four month production process where directors brought together members of teams across the studio to work on their film. They discussed how being in the director role changed their outlook.

Trent Correy (Left) and Kendra Vander Vilet (Right)

Trent Correy, Director of “Drop”: We work on such big teams on the features, which is great, but the small teams were just so collaborative, it felt like a student film. I haven’t felt like that since college. Having these people, five people in a room that don’t usually come together to solve a problem–that is something that now I’m trying to take to my experience in the feature, knowing that these good ideas can come from anywhere.

Kendra Vander Vilet, Director of “Downtown”: The biggest thing I learned was that it was okay to say that you don’t know exactly what you want, maybe you just have an idea, and then to lean on the people that might be inspired by that particular thing and they can bring a lot to the table. And it’s great to see people who might be more quiet … have this great idea … to really contribute to this short film in a way that might be difficult if you go into a room that might have like a hundred people in it.

The films debuting as part of “Short Circuit” were made at different points over past several years. For the directors, this is the first opportunity they have had to share their film with friends and family, and, for several, their first opportunity to see the short since they developed it years ago. They talked about what it was like to revisit this project.

Zach Parrish (Left) and Nikki Mull (Right)

Nikki Mull, Director of “Lucky Toupee”: I feel like when I first finished mine, because of the time constraint there were lots of things that I wanted to finish and I feel like I have enough distance from it now that I’m okay with it, I’m at peace with it and I want to move on to the next project.

Zach Parrish, Director of “Puddles”: I think any artist is going to want to fix and change and plus, but I too feel generally happy with the way it turned out given the general constraints of the program. It forces you to think differently from how we normally do things, and I think given those constraints I’m actually very satisfied with the quality bar we managed to achieve in such a small amount of time with such a small team. I think it is one of those distance makes the heart grow fonder things where I actually do like it more now than I may have when it was initially completed.

All 14 animated shorts of “Short Circuit” will stream on Disney+ starting January 24.

Maggie Sharpe

Maggie is a high school math teacher in South Los Angeles. She is a huge fan of comic books, Star Wars and all things Disney.

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