While on our recent set visit to Pixar Animation Studios, we were treated to a special screening of director Saschka Unseld’s animated short film, The Blue Umbrella. This short will run in front of Pixar’s Monsters University on June 21st. Like previous Pixar shorts, The Blue Umbrella is absent of dialogue and long on the use of visual and musical cues to elicit an emotional response. This particular meet cute centers on two boldy-colored umbrellas in the middle of a rainstorm in the city. If you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes work on The Blue Umbrella, be sure to read up on our interviews with Unseld. Hit the jump for my review and to find out why The Blue Umbrella is unlike any Pixar short you’ve seen before.
The unique quality that sets The Blue Umbrella apart from previous Pixar shorts is apparent right from the outset. As the short begins to roll, it’s not quite clear whether what we’re seeing is live-action footage from a busy city street during rush hour or cutting-edge photo-realistic animation. Turns out it’s the latter, which is impressive to say the least. The magic really comes when it starts to rain and the grumbling, shambling masses of citizens huddled together on the sidewalk raise their umbrellas. Not only do the raindrops reveal the hidden characters within the city (faces hidden away within a utility access panel on the sidewalk, a rusted drainspout and a flashing “Don’t Walk” sign, as examples) but they also bring two particularly special umbrellas to life.
The title character, as you may have guessed, is a bright blue umbrella with a bold cartoonish expression that is more animated (literally) and more innocent than the jaded and faded umbrellas around him. The blue umbrella is our tour guide throughout the overlooked areas of the city and through him we find that faces and characters are all around us as the city comes to life. Before long, the blue umbrella sets his sights on a lovely red umbrella just a few people away and the rest, as they say, is history.
Without ruining the rest of the story, I’ll just say that The Blue Umbrella is an enjoyable little short at six minutes and change. It’s a nice boy-meets-girl tale that introduces a number of memorable and original characters in the city that, upon viewing it, will have you smiling and seeing faces everywhere you go. It’s clever, cute and quirky, and a fitting opener for Pixar’s Monsters University.