By Zach Johnson
The paw-some pals at the center of Kitbull, a newly released Pixar SparkShort from director Rosana Sullivan and producer Kathryn Hendrickson, forge a friendship you won’t soon fur-get. Set in San Francisco’s Mission District, the story begins when a stray kitten finds shelter in a back-alley dumpster, where it encounters a tender pit bull who’s been abused by its owner. Initially wary of each other, they eventually warm to each other and begin a new life together.
Kitbull differs from what Pixar typically does, in that it’s hand-drawn (as opposed to digitally animated). “I’ve always loved the charm of a hand-drawn image,” Sullivan says in a behind-the-scenes video clip. “No two artists will draw the same way, and no two drawings are going to be exactly alike.”
“Every frame is hand-drawn and hand-painted,” adds Sullivan, who watched “endless” cat videos as part of her research. “And while we did draw on computers, everything was directly from the artists’ hands onto the screen.” According to Hendrickson, that “posed a lot of challenges” for the team, who had to take the 2-D project and “fit it back into the normal 3-D process at Pixar.” So, to bring their story to life onscreen, Sullivan boasts, “We created our own pipeline.”
As such, the characters were “not overly detailed,” she says. “The kitten is very cartoony and is almost abstract in some ways. It was just so personally rewarding and fun just to draw the kitten. I think for people who joined the crew later on as animators, they felt the same way.”
Kitbull premiered alongside two other Pixar SparkShorts, Purl and Smash and Grab, at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre last month. All three shorts—part of Pixar’s development program championing new creative voices within the studio—are now streaming on YouTube.