Pixar artists new short film shows what animation can really do

By Emily Wissemes, Editor in Chief

Pixar is known for their bold, powerful animated storytelling. Whether it be a life montage at the beginning of “Up,” toys facing a dictatorship in “Toy Story 3,” or the tear-jerking emotions in “Inside Out,” they all depict the underlying joy the characters feel about life. But the latest Pixar project could be the darkest story of them all.

Not dark in an unsettling manner, but the fact that this new short film depicts life in its true sense and it’s not just for children. Every once in awhile, a film comes out that shakes the audience’s emotional core.

“Borrowed Time,” was made by Pixar animators Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj and released Oct. 14. In only 6 short minutes, the film depicts anguish, loss, heartache, and forgiveness.

It is obviously geared towards an older audience but it packs a powerful punch and is appropriate for all ages.

This short film is set in the wild wild west, vintage-esque era. It shows a sheriff’s emotional return to a painful past. There is a lot to unpack: the weight of carrying the past and the inability to be super-human when the unthinkable happens.

When the film first begins, the audience gets a sense of sorrow. The sky is overcast with a gloomy hue of silver and grey. Ominous black clouds cover the sky.

The first close-up of the film’s main protagonist, is incredibly detailed. One can see the stains and stitching on his old shirt, and the rough fabric on his vest. His sunken in, rawboned face gives the impression that he is exhausted and depressed.

He begins limping across the cliffside reliving dreadful memories. As the flashback begins, his father – the sheriff at the time – and his son are on a wagon in the middle of nowhere.

It seems quite peaceful at first. His father plays around, shining a light from his pocket watch at his son’s eye and throwing it at him while also placing the over-sized hat on his head.

All of a sudden the background music picks up its pace. They are being attacked by a bandit. His father hands him the reins to the wagon as it rapidly whisks through the canyons.

“You can do this,” his father said. When they hit a huge rock, the boy goes flying and  the stagecoach tips its rickety wheels into the air, the horses crashing toward the edge of the cliff, the sheriff is then thrown from the wagon over the side of the cliff.

When the boy finally gets back up, the detailing in his bruises and gashes are astonishing. This is the scene of the utmost suspense, as his father dangles over the side of the cliff.

His father takes his shot gun from the holster and throws it up to him. (I think you know where I’m going with this.) As his son tries to pull him up, he slips back. The boy grabs his father’s shirt to pull him over while simultaneously letting his hand slip to the trigger… you can hear his father gasp. The pocket watch flies from his shirt settling in a bed of rocks with blood. The film spans back to the boy’s face covered and dripping with blood.

Flash forward to the present, he stands up with the clouds even darker than before. After revealing that he was the one that accidentally caused his own father’s untimely death, it’s a mistake that then sits on the sheriff’s shoulders for the rest of his days. So much so that he contemplates taking his own life in the exact same spot where his own father died.

But a little peak of light shines through at his eye. It is then that he realizes what he is doing and he catches the side, pulling himself back up. The light unsurprisingly shined off the old pocket watch which is still sitting in the same spot. This is the iconic Pixar moment that provides hope with a ray of sunshine.

Not many movies can make me cry. Actually, I cry at almost nothing. That’s not to say I am a heartless wench. But the fact that this short little film can make me, out of anyone, cry; now that’s saying something.

Granted, I think the authors have set up what feels like the beginning to a magnificent story and one that could have been composed into one big movie, the authors make their point in only 6 short minutes. Not many writers and animators can do that. They clearly prove the quote, “Life doesn’t always give you the people you want, and sometimes it takes away the people you need the most.”