During lockdown earlier this year, Disney launched its successful streaming site Disney+ and with that, our childhoods were unlocked. Every single Disney film, with the additions of the Star Wars and Marvel franchises all at the click of a button. But while all these films are brilliant, Disney also added an extensive range of short films which are truly wonderful.
Short films are undoubtedly the hidden gems of cinema. Every film has a moral or lesson that is taught in a few minutes, something you can struggle to find in a film that’s two hours long. The films are bitesize and just brilliant, easy to process without being boring and unique without being weird.
They’re fantastic at normalising taboo issues within children’s films such as autism, sexism, mental health and LGBTQ+ representation. It’s something many of us would have benefited from as a child. Growing up, you’re never taught about what autism is, how to understand depression and films with characters from different religions or cultures were virtually non-existent. By streaming these films and normalising the issues they surround, children are taught from an early age that people come in all shapes, sizes and races and some people have mental health issues or suffer from disabilities. Most importantly, they’re taught that this is all okay.
Our society is filled with people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds and the short film Sanjay’s Super Team gives us a glimpse of one. It features a Hindu family and involves a father trying to pray with his young son to the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The plot follows Sanjay discovering the significance of the Hindu Trinity and bonding with his father through prayer. It teaches the importance of prayer within religious families. This is something I personally only ever learned about during Religious Studies at school or from the values taught to me by my parents.
In another film, Pixar and Disney made history by featuring its first openly gay character in short films. Released earlier this year, Out surrounds interracial couple Greg and Manuel and their journey as Greg struggles to come out to his parents. Greg’s coming out story is filled with emotion and anxiety and is sure to resonate with many people from the LGBTQ+ community. It’s first gay character and plotline sees Pixar enter a modern era of film that teach children that some families may be different, but they’re still normal families.
Another film that I think deserves a mention, is Loop. Loop gives an autistic character who struggles to communicate a big voice and a platform that raises awareness for autism. The film follows Renee and Marcus as they go canoeing. Renee is Pixar’s first non-verbal character and focuses some scenes from her point of view, how the world she sees differentiates from the world that Marcus sees. The film is powerful and highlights how autistic people can be overwhelmed by sudden changes in routine or sensory overloads. I highly encourage any parents or guardians to watch this film and gain an insight into life with autism.
Although some films may not have a deep and meaningful moral to it, some are just independent enjoyable films that are just as good. Don’t forget, they are films meant for children so they will always be wholesome. Lamp Life or Lava are two little delights that will leave a massive smile on your face. Lamp Life is the ideal short follow-on from the iconic Toy Story 4. It shines a spotlight on Bo Peep as she explains how she grew to like her new lifestyle. Lava is a larger-than-life love story that will (excuse the pun), melt your heart.
Time and time again, short films provide the morals that leave the most significant impacts. They’re perfect to fit in on breaks at work or university and are always incredible. They have educated me as a young adult and the knowledge I gained will stay with me. I only regret that I didn’t have access to these films as a child. So next time you’re aimlessly scrolling through Disney+ wondering what to watch, give short films a chance. I promise you will not regret it.
Words by Laura Williams