Disney short films keep us dreaming

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Cartoons don’t get the respect they deserve. If you’re eight or eighty you’ve probably got a favourite Disney animated short film. Mine were always the How To Goofy cartoons.

Since Mickey Mouse’s debut in 1928’s Steamboat Willie to last year’s gorgeously-rendered Piper, Disney (and Pixar) has been responsible for leading the way in animated short films. With 18 Best Short Film Oscars on the shelf, Walt Disney would surely be happy that quintessential Disney hallmarks – inventive visuals, positive messages and masterful craft – are retained to this day in popular Disney shorts that inspire us all to keep dreaming.

Here’s three of the best Disney shorts available online:

Get a Horse!

This Oscar-nominated animation played before mega-hit Frozen, and instantly took me back to the old-school Disney shorts I watched as a kid. With a mix of hand-drawn black-and-white and colour CGI animation, it’s an imaginative 3-D frame-breaking throwback to Disney shorts like Steamboat Willie. No wonder, as director Lauren MacMullan – the first woman to direct a Disney animated film – is a big fan of the early Mickey shorts for their simplicity and freshness. She includes all the classic characters – including an appearance of Mickey’s precursor Oswald the Rabbit – and even utilised archival recordings of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse voice.

Feast

Modern Disney short films (like Paperman in our October Screening Room post) can melt your heart in a matter of minutes, and Feast does just that. It makes your tummy rubble too. First time director Patrick Osborne (previously an animator – Wreck-It Ralph, Bolt) picked up an Oscar for this gorgeous hand-drawn and computer-animated short that played before the Disney feature film Big Hero 6. Patrick utilised an app called 1 Second Everyday to help with the narrative of this mostly montage and silent short, and also produces some inspired visual edits to make the flow work brilliantly. Keep an eye through the cute-as-hell credits for a nod to the classic scene from The Lady and the Tramp.

The Band Concert

The Band Concert is Mickey Mouse’s first outing in gorgeous technicolour (in 1935) and it’s a real hootenanny. Old Walt loved bringing classical music back to the masses (just see Fantasia), and always put the music first in his Silly Symphonies (only Donald Duck has any dialogue in this). With poor Mickey struggling to conduct his band through Rossini’s William Tell overture, this short film is a visually hilarious and inventive slapstick short that is a joy to watch. Directed by Disney mainstay Wilfred Jackson (who directed segments of Fantasia and co-directed classics from Dumbo through to The Lady and the Tramp), it’s become one of most highly acclaimed Disney shorts and was voted third greatest cartoon of all time in 1994.