Today on Disney+, along with Episode 3 of WandaVision, a series of short subjects starring Pixar characters from across the studio’s 25-year history appeared. Ten shorts around two to three minutes in length taking place in the worlds of Toy Story, The Incredibles, Cars and even Soul, which add up to 22 minutes if you pick the “watch at once” option. It’s fine enough, but why does it exist, besides the “Disney+ needs content” reason?
The answer: the pandemic did it. It’s actually kind of a fascinating story since it’s unlikely to ever happen again.
Back in March 2020 the animators were suddenly sealed up in their homes, and needed something to do while the studio heads figured out how to rework the production schedule under the new conditions. So executive producer Andy Bell asked those animators, who numbered more than a hundred, if they’d like to try making some quick shorts.
The time window for the Pixar Popcorn project was only around two months — that’s how long it would take for the studio to sort out the COVID restrictions and resume production on its regular schedule. That meant due to the time crunch, a lot of traditional steps had to be thrown out. There was no script, no storyboard…everything started with animation.
Also due to the constraints, animators could only use pre-existing sets and rigs, which is why the short scenes take place exclusively within the Parr home or Radiator Springs’ main street. There wasn’t much time to record new dialogue either, or get Tom Hanks or Craig T. Nelson in front of a microphone, so the shorts had to be mostly silent action.
But because of this impromptu project, a lot of those animators got a chance they might otherwise not have had. It was the first directing gig for both Alan Barillaro and Jae Hyung Kim, who previously animated for the Incredibles films.
You can find out more in Polygon’s interview with producer Maureen Giblin, who previously worked on Forky Asks A Question and oversaw the Pixar Popcorn project. The shorts are viewable now on Disney+.