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'Presto' is latest in Pixar's series of magical short films (WALL-E preview)

'Presto' is the short film accompanying 'WALL-E'
Posted June 20, 2008 at 1:02 PM CDT

By Tim Briscoe

Are you excited for WALL-E yet? You should be.

June 27 marks the release of hit-maker Pixar's ninth animated feature film. The date also means the release of another of Pixar's famous short films. The one playing before WALL-E is titled "Presto."

The tradition of serving an appetizer in advance of the full-length feature started with the short "Geri's Game" before A Bug's Life in 1997. Pixar had made several shorts prior to this date but this was the first to get a wide theatrical release.

Here is the entire list of short films that have played before Pixar movies:

Geri's GameA Bug's Life
Luxo Jr.Toy Story 2
For the BirdsMonsters Inc.
Knick KnackFinding Nemo
Boundin'The Incredibles
One Man BandCars

Four other shorts were produced for the video/DVD release of the feature. Each extends the characters made famous by the movie. They are:

Mike's New CarMonsters Inc.
Jack-Jack AttackThe Incredibles
Mater and the GhostlightCars
Your Friend the RatRatatouille

All of these shorts (minus "Presto" of course) are included in the 2007 DVD/Blu-ray compilation Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1. The set also includes a few other early shorts, including "The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.," made in 1984 when Pixar was still part of Lucasfilm. Each short is also available on the corresponding DVD mentioned above.

Below of is a video preview of the latest short "Presto." It's the story of a snobbish magician and his white rabbit Alec. Hungry little Alec will do anything necessary to get a carrot, even threatening harm to his performing owner. (I'm sorry, at just 30 seconds the video only leaves you wanting more... Kinda like Alec.)

I'm totally burying the lead here but I had the opportunity to see WALL-E and its short film "Presto" at a special screening.

First let me say that I absolutely loved the short. I don't know for certain if director Doug Sweetland meant it as an homage to the early Warner Bros. shorts, but it has to be at least influenced by it.

It very much reminds me of my favorite all-time cartoon short, Tex Avery's "Magical Maestro" from 1952. (Watch it on YouTube.)Instead of having the magician causing the performer's act to fail, it's the magician getting all the abuse from his prop in "Presto."

For me, "Geri's Game" and "Jack-Jack Attack" remain the two best Pixar shorts but this new film ranks right behind.

As for WALL-E, all I can say is go see it. This may be Pixar's first feature film with a social message. In fact, it has several messages. It's cute. It's hilarious. It's heart-wrenching. It may be a tad long for my tastes but it's so thoroughly entertaining you'll hardly notice.

For my money, WALL-E director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) is second only to Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) in terms of storytelling talent. It's simply amazing how they can create such rich works of art.

WALL-E is easily the most important film Pixar has made, perhaps also the most enjoyable. Pack the kids in your space cruiser and zoom to see the movie when it's released on June 27. Don't forget to arrive early for "Presto."

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