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Kitbull

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Kitbull
An image of the Kitbull film poster.
Official poster
Directed byRosana Sullivan
Produced byKathryn Hendrickson
Written byRosana Sullivan
Story byRosana Sullivan
Music byAndrew Jimenez
CinematographyArjun Rihan
(camera)
Edited byKatie Schaefer Bishop
Production
company
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
Running time
9 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Kitbull is a 2019 American traditionally animated short film directed and written by Rosana Sullivan, produced by Kathryn Hendrickson and Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the third film in Pixar's "SparkShorts" program, and focuses on a fiercely independent stray kitten and an abused pit bull, who form an unlikely friendship. The short premiered at El Capitan Theatre on January 18, 2019, before being released on YouTube on February 18, 2019.

Sullivan said that the creation of the short had originated from her enjoyment of viewing cat videos, and Hendrickson stated that the traditional animation had proved to be challenging in the beginning. Critical reception of the short has been generally positive, with critics praising its story, emotional tone, themes, characterization, and animation.

Plot[edit]

A kitten lives in the garbage cans behind a building in San Francisco's Mission District.[1] While foraging for food on the streets, the kitten is offered food by a passerby but runs away, and sleeps in a cardboard box in the garbage. One day, a pit bull is moved to a doghouse behind the building.[2] The kitten is initially very scared of the dog but slowly begins to connect with him by playing with a bottle cap.[3] One night, after the pit bull is taken inside the building, he ends up getting heavily injured in a fight and is thrown back outside.[4]

The pit bull then goes to help the kitten, who gets trapped in plastic pack rings after being scared by a storm, but the frightened kitten attacks the dog upon seeing his fangs. The devastated pit bull retreats to his doghouse, where he is later joined by the regretful kitten.[1] The next day, the two escape the backyard.[5] Some time later, the kitten and the pit bull are playing out on the street when the kitten is found by the passerby, who adopts both of them.[6]

Production[edit]

Kitbull is a short film that lasts approximately nine minutes.[7][8] It is the third short of Pixar's "SparkShorts" program,[9] which consists in Pixar giving employees six months and limited budgets to produce animated short films.[10][11] The short was directed and written by Rosana Sullivan,[12] and produced by Kathryn Hendrickson.[13] Domee Shi, director of the Academy Award-winning short film Bao,[14] Peter Sohn, director of the feature film The Good Dinosaur,[15] and Kristen Lester, director of the short film Purl,[16] were part of Sullivan's story trust on Kitbull.[17] The short was edited by Katie Schaefer Bishop.[17]

Sullivan said that a cat video had initiated the idea behind the short, mentioning that she enjoyed looking at cat videos whenever she felt stressed.[18] She stated that she had "just wanted to draw a little kitten doing something silly and very, very cat-like".[19] She had initially wished to depict something that appealed to her and was enjoyable, but "it evolved into something more personal" to her in the end.[18] Sullivan commented that all frames are hand-drawn and hand-painted, adding that while the creators had used computers when drawing, "everything was directly from the artists' hands onto the screen".[9] She said she had always enjoyed "the charm of a hand-drawn image", mentioning that every artist has their own way of drawing.[20]

Sullivan said that the creators of the short had invented their own "pipeline".[20] Arjun Rihan, who had been the director of photography while working on the short,[17] presented all the shots. When it came to the backgrounds, the creators selected "a mix between impressionistic, kind of loose, fast painting, but also still kind of grungy and gritty".[20] The kitten chooses to be alone and manages to remain unnoticed with the help of background elements such as shadows and road signs.[20] Sullivan said that since she had been very timid and had difficulty in forming friendships during her childhood,[19] she identified with the kitten, who, instead of creating a connection, preferred to remain in his comfort zone where he was not vulnerable;[18] the story centers on this idea.[19]

The characters are not excessively detailed. Sullivan described the kitten as "very cartoony" and "almost abstract in some ways".[20] She said just drawing the kitten had been really satisfying and entertaining to her, and that the animators who had become part of the crew shared her point of view. The most gratifying facet of this process for her was collaborating with others to create something better than what she could have achieved alone. She enjoyed working with trustful people that could amaze her.[20]

Hendrickson said that viewing videos with kittens "just became a real outlet for [Sullivan]".[19] Kitbull is dissimilar to the usual technique of Pixar because it is animated in 2D style. Hendrickson said that since the short was hand-drawn, there were many challenges at the beginning, including "trying to figure out how to tell the story with the resources within the studio, and then taking this 2D project and getting it to fit back into the normal 3D process at Pixar".[20] During the layout phase of the project, the creators had positioned the camera and decided on "the staging and the framing for all of the shots".[20]

Hendrickson said that when Rihan had finished laying out the shots, they "would take those shots and render them all out", after which "those renders became the templates for [their] background painters".[20] The animators drew the characters on "a layer" and "the backgrounds were all painted on a layer";[20] the compositor then had "to stitch those two together".[20] Hendrickson said that the action of Kitbull takes place in the Mission District, San Francisco, which is a very important location for Sullivan, who lived there after moving to San Francisco.[20] Hendrickson enjoyed seeing how every crew member had an influence on the short.[20]

Music[edit]

Andrew Jimenez, who co-directed the Pixar short film One Man Band with Mark Andrews,[21] composed the music for Kitbull.[17] The score was released on April 5, 2019.[22]

Track listing[edit]

All music composed by Andrew Jimenez.

No.TitleLength
1."Mission Opening"0:55
2."Meet Pit"0:22
3."Kitten Play (Alternate Version)"0:42
4."Kitten Play"1:05
5."The Doorway"0:18
6."Save Me"0:46
7."Sad Dog"0:21
8."Trust"1:04
9."Escape (Alternate Version 1)"0:41
10."Escape (Alternate Version 2)"0:35
11."Escape"0:44
12."Mission Overlook"1:06
13."End Credits"1:04
14."Kitbull Music Box"0:47
15."The Evil Dog Master"0:53
16."Kind"1:25
Total length:12:48

Release[edit]

Kitbull was first shown along with the shorts Purl and Smash and Grab on January 18, 2019, during a limited release at the El Capitan Theatre that lasted for a week;[23][24] following this, the short premiered on Pixar's YouTube channel on February 18, 2019.[23][24] The short is also set to be released on Disney+.[23][25]

Reception[edit]

Kitbull has received a largely positive critical response, being regarded as "adorable",[26][27][28] "beautiful",[26][29][30] moving,[31][32][33] "sweet",[34][35] "amazing",[36] "emotionally tantalizing",[37] as well as "a timeless tale of unlikely animal friendships".[38] IndieWire's Zack Sharf said that the short is "going to break your heart in typical Pixar fashion".[39] Chris Pastrick of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote that Kitbull presents a "heartwarming", "tear-jerking storyline".[9] Mashable's Shannon Connellan stated that the short would make viewers become "a puddle of tears".[40] Benjamin Bullard of Syfy Wire commented that Kitbull would "trash your animal-loving heart before the inevitable happy ending comes to the rescue";[41] he described the short as a "wordless gem that unfolds a details-loaded vignette through one heart-wrenching emotional roller coaster of a ride".[41] Bridget Sharkey of Arizona Daily Star said that despite being "less than nine minutes long", Kitbull "packs a seriously powerful emotional punch in that period of time";[4] she stated that the short contains a "sweetly satisfying story" that would "make even the toughest and steeliest watcher eventually tear up", adding that it conveys "a powerful message" and is "an incredible piece of film".[4] PopSugar's Kate Schweitzer mentioned that Pixar had "truly outdone itself by achieving full-scale weeps in a matter of mere minutes" through Kitbull, and she characterized the short as "simple and sweet".[42]

Kitbull's use of traditional animation has been praised by critics. Chris Pastrick said that the short "is special in that [it is] the first entirely hand-drawn feature from the studio known for its cutting-edge digital animation".[9] James White of Empire described Kitbull as "a sweet and beautifully animated piece" that uses "hand-drawn 2D techniques blended with all the computing power that Pixar can muster";[12] he felt that the short "explores a style unlike anything the company has produced".[12] Bridget Sharkey wrote that Kitbull is "exquisitely created via hand-drawing" and consists of "simple, life-like animation that is also compulsively watchable".[4] Jennifer Wolfe of Animation World Network commented that the short is "packed with hand-drawn goodness",[43] and Benjamin Bullard stated that it is "rendered in a super-rich 2D cel-shaded style".[41] Shannon Connellan said that Kitbull being a "2D animated short" is not "the usual realm for Pixar".[40] Paste's Garrett Martin mentioned that seeing the short is "exciting", especially since it was created by "a studio that [is not] known for this style of animation".[26]

The short's focus on the treatment of animals has been commented on. Kate Schweitzer felt that Kitbull "makes a powerful statement about the treatment of animals" with the help of "a few startling scenes";[42] she said that "regardless of whether you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person", Kitbull would "reaffirm your love of all animals and make you hug your own pets a bit tighter tonight".[42] Benjamin Bullard wrote that Kitbull depicts "both the terrible and the magical sides of the ways people interact with animals",[41] and Diana Letizia of Il Secolo XIX also felt that the short presents how humans affect animals both in positive and negative ways.[44] Shannon Connellan commented that while animation rarely "tackles the devastating subject of animal abuse", Kitbull "does with heartbreaking insight".[40]

The possibility of Kitbull initiating discussions regarding the reputation of pit bulls has been mentioned. WSET's Elizabeth Tyree said that Kitbull would "have you weeping within minutes of its start", adding that the short "could spark more conversation about the reputation of pit bulls".[7] Kate Schweitzer also felt that the short "might even open up more meaningful conversations about the reputation of pit bulls being an aggressive and dangerous breed",[42] and Katelynn Sprague of KPEL-FM commented that Kitbull "sheds some light on this particular issue".[45]

The characters' depiction in the short has been praised. Michael Walsh of Nerdist stated that Kitbull presents "a story with fleshed-out characters" that go through "a meaningful arc, one that has us feeling all sorts of emotions";[27] he characterized the kitten as "feisty" and "tough", and the dog as "happy" and "sweet".[27] Benjamin Bullard said that the short provides "an anthropomorphized fantasy of how animals' secret lives can follow poignant beats we might never glimpse".[41] Garrett Martin felt that Kitbull "is a powerful look at an unlikely friendship between a stray kitten and an abused pit bull that has the lifelike quality and emotional heft of the best Pixar and Disney animation";[26] Martin described the short as "gorgeous, capturing not just how animals move but also how they think and relate to one another", and added that Kitbull is "as good" as Lady and the Tramp and One Hundred and One Dalmatians when it comes to "examining the lives and personalities of animals in lifelike detail".[26]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]