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The arrival of a new Pixar film also means the debut of the animation studio’s latest short. And this time, the feature film has more in common with its short-film tradition.
“WALL-E,” which opens in theaters Friday, is accompanied by “Presto,” the latest 5-minute slice of animated heaven to arrive in tandem with a Pixar long-player.
While short, pre-feature films have mostly gone the way of the drive-in, Pixar is keeping the tradition alive with brilliant little stories, most of which you can re-watch here: www.pixar.com/shorts. These shorts are central to Pixar’s identity; the bouncing lamp in its logo is taken from its first film, the 1986 short “Luxo Jr.”
Always free of dialogue, the shorts have with Buster Keaton-like skill told stories about a snowman trying to break free of his globe (“Knick Knack”), a dopey bird who just wants to fit in on the wire (“For the Birds”) and a little girl who has one coin to give to two dueling street musicians (“One Man Band”).
“WALL-E,” the tale of robot love that’s almost without dialogue, itself feels like a Pixar short grown long, with “Presto” as a delightful and cartoonish appetizer.
Written and directed by Doug Sweetland, “Presto” is about an elegant magician and his bunny, whose task, naturally, is to come out of a top hat at the appropriate time. We begin backstage with the bunny, whose name, Alec, is labeled on his small cage. With his floppy ears slung over, he’s frustrated that a carrot lies just out of reach.
Before he can grab it, Alec is rushed to the stage by Presto, but while Alec waits behind the curtain, he realizes the key to the magician’s trick lies beside him: When Presto reaches into to his top hat, it’s a portal through to another, Merlin-styled hat.
While Presto performs in front of a giant opera house, Alec mimes that he won’t jump through until he gets his carrot. Instead, Alec sends up a mouse trap, a charged circuit board and a never-ending ladder.
“Presto” clearly references Bugs Bunny’s man-outwitting wabbit, but with a Pixar twist: in the end, both are placated: the magician ends up with an jaw-dropping trick and the bunny gets his carrot. And the crowd goes wild.