By Zach Johnson
Smash and Grab is, as its title suggests, a total smash.
Pixar Animation Studios’ SparkShorts series continues today with a new entry from director Brian Larsen and producer David Lally. The short, part of an experimental storytelling initiative within the studio, tells the story of two robots who dream of leaving their demanding day jobs behind. Everything changes when Smash (the robot with the hammer arm) sees an opportunity to escape the engine room and lead Grab (the robot with the hands) to freedom. As Lally asks in a behind-the-scenes video, “When those two robots want to do something other than what they’re designed to do, how far are they willing to go to do that—especially for each other?”
To take their concept from script to screen, Larsen and Lally restructured their workflow and began experimenting with motion capture animation much earlier in the process. “We had animators actually in the suits so they could physicalize the characters,” Larsen explains, with Lally noting that team members readily embraced “the scrappy nature” of making an animated short film. “It was just so inspiring for me,” adds Larsen. “All of these people really collaborating and creating a new pipeline—a new way of working. I loved just making that story come to life.”
The YouTube premiere of Smash and Grab arrives a week after the debut of Purl, directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan. Both of these Pixar Animation Studios SparkShorts shorts recently made their big-screen debut at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre, with Kitbull, from director Rosana Sullivan and producer Kathryn Hendrickson, hitting YouTube February 18.
Other SparkShorts (Float, Loop, and Wind) will be available on Disney+, The Walt Disney Company’s upcoming direct-to-consumer streaming service, set to launch in the U.S. later this year.