Shurer explains that the stakes are lower and the staffs are smaller on the shorts. "Supervising a crew of five people is a great opportunity to learn how to do that with a big crew on a full-fledged feature like Cars
. She cites Doug Sweetland, who was supervising animator on Boundin'
, the short that accompanied The Incredibles
, and moved onto to the same position on Cars
"Not that Doug needed to be trained in animation, he's one of the top computer animators in the industry. It's that he had the opportunity to lead a crew, which is very different. You're looking to make a whole crew animate at something resembling your level, which is a pretty high bar in Doug's case. You're learning how to do bidding [estimating the time it will take to animate a shot] and balancing a production quota with the excellence you're looking for. If you're Doug it's going to take you a lot less time than one of the junior animators on your team. You have to learn how to work with that and help them along." Pixar's shorts program serves as R&D for the studio and a way to develop talent. Doug Sweetland first supervised the animation on the short, Boundin' (above), before moving onto the same job on Cars. © 2003 Pixar.
Pixar's shorts program has opened the door to some fascinating career moves for their creative staff. Lifted
, the studio's newest short is directed by longtime sound designer Gary Rydstrom and will accompany Ratatouille
into theaters next summer. "Gary had no directing experience before Lifted
, but he had 13 Oscar nominations for sound design," says Shurer. "He's collaborated with us for many, many years on every Pixar film from Luxo Jr.
up to Finding Nemo
. Now he's moved onto directing side and will be doing a feature for us down the road."
Beyond the opportunity to deepen Pixar's own talent pool, Shurer considers shorts as a fundamental part of the animation medium. "It's something worthy of protecting," she says. "They're an opportunity for animators, independent animators, people who love the medium to express themselves. That's how we started, so we have a deep tradition of it here. We transitioned from a software/hardware company into an animation studio through short films."