Short Circuit Season 2 is now streaming on Disney Plus. After a successful first season of 14 short films, 5 new short films from Disney's Short Circuit program are now available on Disney +. Where will Disney's Short Circuit Experimental Films lead this time?
Short Circuit Experimental Films
Since 2016, Disney's Short Circuit program has allowed all Disney Animation employees to really expand their creativity and individuality through the program. Disney's Short Circuit program allows any and all Disney Animation employees to submit a proposal for a short film, similar to the shorts created from the Pixar sister series SparkShorts such as “Burrow” ahead of Soul, or where short films are shown ahead of a theatrical release, such as “Riley's First Date” ahead of Inside Out.
A proposal is anonymous, so the Short Circuit committee only evaluates the idea and its potential. The authors of the selected proposals are then assigned a tight budget and a team of talents to bring a short film of about 90 seconds to the screen.
I had the opportunity to interview the creatives behind “Short Circut” Season 2 and loved the behind-the-scenes processes they shared!
Meet the Creatives Behind “Short Circuit” Season 2
Production manager Jennifer Newfield glues the pieces all together. Jennifer has served as production manager on feature films and other animated projects. Most recently, on Disney Animation, long-form animated series, Iwájú, coming to Disney+ in 2023.
“Short Circuit Season 2”
The following are the 5 Short Circuit Experimental Films for each of the 5 episodes of Short Circuit Season 2.
Directed by Kim Hazel
Battling evil is all in a day's work for Dinosaur Barbarian, but what about taking out the trash? Sometimes even a superhero needs to clean up his act.
Kim is an animator who has worked on films such as Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2, and Raya and the Last Dragon.
Directed by Jacob Frey
A story about growing up and the meaning of home, in which a young adult repeatedly visits his hometown, but with every new arrival he starts to face the inevitable: change.
Jacob is an animator who has worked on films such as Zootopia, Moana, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2, and Raya and the Last Dragon. Jacob was also an animator on Short Circuit, Season 1 films, Cycles and Puddles.
Directed by Ryan Green
A law-abiding citizen must find his inner strength to cross the street at a light that won't change.
Ryan is a story artist who has worked on films such as Zootopia, Moana, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Encanto. He was also story lead on the short film Us Again, which they viewed earlier this year.
“Songs to Sing in the Dark”
Directed by Riannon Delanoy
Two creatures living in the depths of a dark cave engage in a battle of acoustic one-upmanship. As things escalate, they come to realize that they are stronger together.
Riannon is an animator whose credits include the Oscar-winning films, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia, as well as the Oscar-nominated, Moana, in addition to Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon in the upcoming Disney Animation feature, Encanto.
“No. 2 to Kettering”
Directed by Liza Rhea
On a dreary, ordinary morning, a girl learns how the power of laughter can lift even the most sullen among her fellow bus riders along their journey to Kettering.
Liza is an environment modeler, helping build the worlds of Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Encanto.
Where did the idea for “Songs to Sing in the Dark” come from?
Riannon Delanoy's parents are both research scientists. Before “Short Circuit,” even before she was an animator, Delanoy spent a lot of time reading and going down information rabbit holes, “because that's what my family does for fun, I guess,” Delanoy said in our interview. “As pertains to this short, some animals like bats, they're very advanced with their use of sound. They use echolocation navigate, but a few animals use sound for even more than that.”
Did you know that Tiger moths can use interference patterns to jam echolocation? Sperm whales can blast sounds like a shotgun to stun prey. Dolphins appear to have a pictographic language where they send images to one another, and it's all encoded in sound.
“What if you took those abilities to their logical extreme? What would happen if you took a group of echolocating animals, and let them evolve for millions of years in this totally dark cave, in this massive evolutionary feedback loop?”
“Maybe sound could become weapons, and armor, and camouflage, and these big threat displays. Maybe you could reinvent your appearance altogether in that kind of environment and project any image you wanted into the mind of your observer. That blue sky possibility for visuals and sound really appealed to me,” Delanoy explained.
What challenges did the shifting seasons in Going Home have for the crew?
Because “Going Home” is set across multiple seasons, the animators required several sets of background assets in order to populate a whole city before they could start animating the shorts.
“It definitely added another layer of complexity to the shot, especially from an asset level where we needed different variations of foliage trees for autumn, winter, and spring, but it also added complexity for editing because we need to lock down those cuts fairly early before we started animating,” Frey explained. “It was definitely more work than just having one season.”
“Crosswalk” was inspired by a very specific experience many Disney Animation employees have had
“There's a light right outside of Disney Animation building, and I think all of us have waited there many times. You can see way down the street in both directions, there's very little traffic and the light takes forever, Green said. “I just remember standing there one day just waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I just pictured my ancestors showing up next to me just be like, ‘Hey, what are you doing? We wanted to make a better life for ourselves, so we got on a boat and crossed the Atlantic. We didn't wait for a robot to tell us to do it. Why are you just standing here? You can see, you can cross the street'.” That just basically became the seed of the idea.”
Finding the Confidence to Present Your Idea for Dinosaur Barbarian?
“It was actually Riannon who encouraged me to submit my idea to the program,” Hazel shared with the group. “I probably wouldn't have done it without her encouragement. She was really Dinosaur Barbarian‘s number one fan from day one.”
Is there really a Number 2 bus that goes to Kettering?
“When I told my mom the title of my film, her response was, ‘But the Number 2 doesn't go to Kettering.' I was like, ‘Hang on a minute, we have to settle this,” Rhea said.
“We know a lot of bus drivers; my mom used to work in the bus station.” When I went to visit her last time, we met with her friend, and we were like, “We have to settle a bet here, does a number two still go to Kettering?”
Turns out the Number 2 no longer goes to Kettering but it did in the 90s.
What makes Short Circuits Season 2 unique and exciting?
“There are so many aspects that all these filmmakers bring to the table. What's just thrilling about Short Circuit as a program overall is that we're always looking for new and innovative ideas. All these brand new directors get to bring something different to the table,” Newfield said. “Plus, I think what's so lovely about the program, as it goes over time is exactly what you have been hearing today so far is that the directors get to influence each other. They get to pay it forward almost from their shorts to the next season and get to bolster each other up and help each other have different creative visions come to the screen.”
Newfield went on to explain that the animators are all excited about exploring new mediums, or at a minimum, new ways of working with the tools that they already have in the studio.
“That encouragement just ends up with something unique on-screen every time a short rolls through. I really enjoyed seeing everything evolve and everybody supporting each other as we go through the different rounds of Short Circuit.
In “Going Home,” did the animation or the soundtrack come first?
The animation came first with “Going Home.” Frey said he always I always envisioned the soundtrack to be a very somber piano track and that, “working with Jake Monaco was a super cool experience because he absolutely captured that vibe perfectly in his first version, really, and that point, it was just fine tweaking, but we made most of the adjustments in animation, and even the editing, prior before the music systems…I was so excited about the result he did on this. It adds such another level to it, and really draws you into that.”
Returning Talent and Collaboration
Most of the creatives involved in “Short Circuits Season 2” were also involved in Season 1. Frey worked on a couple of titles and Hazel animated “Light in a Bottle.” Delanoy contributed to “Zenith,” “Lucky Toupée,” “Just a Thought,” and “Downtown.” Green did character design on “Songs.” Newfield was the production manager for Season 1.
The creatives help support each other with their films.
Green shared he did some designs for Delanoy on her “Songs to Sing in the Dark.” “It was crazy fun to do Kim's storyboards,” Green said. “She had the song, and I just got to at it with all the visuals. She had all these crazy ideas, and I was like, ‘Let's see if we can transition to this,' and it was really fun.”
Newfield discussed how when she curated the Short Circuits program, she tries to build it in a way people have the support for each other. “We had the ability in different departments, as a modeler and the animator, to actually sit together in the same office and collaborate as they were embarking on their shorts, which went in different directions and they had their own crews set up,” Newfield said.
Newfield expressed how that was really helpful, especially with them being in different areas of the pipeline in the studios' normal process, being directors together at the same time.
As a modeler, Rhea says it's really helpful when she was able to sit with Frey. Her pipeline functions differently, so being able to see how the directing flow worked was very beneficial for her to translate that into her animation pipeline. Frey felt the same from working so closely with her, too.
The Use of Color in “No. 2 to Kettering”
Rhea explained how the idea for “No. 2 to Kettering” came to her in the middle of a work meeting.
“I use color as a tool to communicate emotion. I know it's been used many times, but I think what makes my film unique is what kind of emotion I'm trying to convey and how?” Rhea said. “I really wanted to think like, ‘Okay, what if there's a girl full of vibrant color, and she's living in a world that's maybe bogged down with the weight of the world, and she's just getting a bus. Everyone's going about their day, but you have a lot going on. She's all full of energy and bubbles.' That, I wanted to translate using color.”
“As she interacts with a lot of people on the bus, sometimes that color can be drained, and some times, it can go the other way, and she can infuse color into someone else by lifting their energy and joy. That was something that I had to be like, ‘How do I approach this? As a modeler, how do I go about this?' Thankfully, Jen [Newfield] is amazing and Dale Mayeda, my VFX sup, was able to figure out, actually, this is a really good tool that effects can handle,” Rhea said. “Figuring out, okay, this is something that they can deal with, we can sort, how many different iterations we can do to see if this works, and they nailed it. It was a really fun journey.”
What did you learn being in the Director's Chair?
Delanoy learned to be calm. She said when you're calm and centered, the whole production runs smoother. “The more centered you are, everything else just becomes more calm and collected, and then you get to really have fun.”
Hazel realized just how incredibly creative and talented everybody at Disney Animation is; they all have really, really good ideas. “I really appreciated the enthusiasm, creativity, and ideas that the whole Dinosaur Barbarian crew brought to the table. Letting people just run with something that they're really excited about yields really great results,” Hazel said. The enthusiasm was infectious. “When we were doing reviews for Dinosaur Barbarian at work, sometimes there would be a crowd of people that would gather to just observe what was happening because it was just silly and fun.”
Frey said as someone who's usually doing the work himself, it was challenging to delegate the work to others and trust them to do it as he is now directing. He was surprised by how much they add of their own ideas to every shot.
“I think that was a great experience for me,” Frey said, “but then also being a director, as someone who supports them and does the tasks that other peoples weren't like super excited about. That was really my goal at that short, to really set everyone up for success as best as I could.”
Rhea said she was similar to Frey in that being able to trust a team was a learning curve for her. “I've made films before, short films, but it's all been me. Relinquishing that control and being able to say, ‘I know you are an expert in your field, so I'm not going to pretend that I am because I don't know as much as you do about this area.' Being able to go, ‘Oh my God, you made this so much better than I can even imagine making it.' It was just phenomenal because the talent at Disney blows me away in general, and so seeing someone bring your ideas to life with their exceptional skillset was just a dream come true.”
“Over the whole course of the piece, I learned that the director's job is just to guide the conversation, and the director has to keep in mind the clarity of the theme, and just the consistency of the style, and just let the artist flourish,” Green said.
Green was in the same camp of being blown away by how incredible the teams at Disney were. “I remember starting, and just freaking out a little bit because I just thought I had to have all the details, and I was scrambling to find things. Then the first couple of meetings, just realizing that I can talk to these people that are experts, and they've done this for years, and they know their craft and their specific part of the pipeline so well.”
Check Out “Short Circuit Experimental Films” Season 2 Trailer
“Short Circuit,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ innovative and experimental short film program where anyone at the Studio can pitch an idea and potentially be selected to create their own short, marks the 5th anniversary of the program’s inception with the debut of 5 new shorts exclusively on Disney+. This new selection of short films by a group of filmmakers hailing from various departments throughout Disney Animation explores 5 unique visual and storytelling styles.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Short Circuit Experimental Films” streams August 4 on Disney+.