It’s always wild to see a Pixar production that isn’t rendered in three-dimensional computer graphics, but I guess that’s kind of the point of the Disney+ showcase entitled SparkShorts. A collection of work from Pixar artists that feels like a venue for unique voices and experimental aesthetics, it’s no surprise that one would find its way onto the nomination list for an Animated Short Oscar. That it comes from a woman shouldn’t be undersold either since the studio is notorious for being slow on both the gender and race parity scales. Therein lies the potential of this platform. Let Rosana Sullivan and others create, watch them excel, and eventually give them the keys to the Porsche for a feature film of their own. Fingers crossed that’s what happens.
Her film Kitbull is about the unlikely friendship between a stray cat (who’s obviously scared and suspicious about any interaction with somebody other than its stuffed elephant) and a mistreated pitbull (who’s recently been chained outside the scrapheap that kitten calls home). The cat sees the dog as a surefire enemy it must vigilantly protect its sparse belongings from. The dog sees the cat as a potential friend with an infectious enthusiasm in its eyes. As the story progresses, however, we see there’s more than meets the eye as far as their emotional and psychological reasoning for thinking the way they do. Under the correct circumstances, they may just end up discovering the companionship they never knew they wanted and the friendship they always craved respectively.
While the short is very cute and gorgeously rendered in soft textures and playful movements thanks to its depictions of both animals in a heightened state of excitement, pet lovers should be warned about its likely ability to prove triggering as a result of obvious abuse inflicted by the dog’s owner. There’s a welcome and well-reasoned message meant to turn the stereotype of all pitbulls being vicious creatures on its head (a notion unfortunately brought to life by horrible owners exactly like the one on-screen), but Sullivan does so by showing the reality of why this breed is so unfairly maligned. It’s crucial to getting these characters where they need to go narratively, but I’d hate for viewers to be blindsided by the trauma inherent to its presence.