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Disney unveils Short Circuit, experimental short film series bound for Disney+

By Don Kaye & Benjamin Bullard

Disney is launching a new experimental short film program called Short Circuit, and the company laid out all the details of its new slate of animated originals, each heading to the Disney+ streaming platform, at 2019's D23 Expo on Sunday.

SYFY WIRE was there for Disney's rollout of the new venture, which will ostensibly give a home to the work of budding filmmakers, while perhaps giving Disney the inside track on potential new creators. One of the people introduced in the program could very well be the next big Marvel or Star Wars director in a few years.

Showcasing a fresh batch of six endearing short films, each from a different Disney artist, Disney gave the green light to a diverse lineup of inaugural short films bound for the small screen once Disney+ launches.

First up in the Short Circuit series is Exchange Student by Natalie Nourigat, a fish-out-of-water tale about a little girl who's an exchange student in a school on an alien planet:

The intrepid star is an outcast among all the alien kids, until one day one of the aliens kicks a ball over the schoolyard fence, and into the forbidding forest beyond. The girl goes to retrieve it — and is almost attacked by some plants. But her shriek causes the plants retreat, a move that turns her into a hero to all the alien kids who'd been keeping her at such a distance.

Next up was Elephant in the Room by Brian Scott, which follows a little boy on a banana plantation, who makes friends with the baby elephant that serves as a laborer at the farm. One day the baby hears its elephant family out in the jungle, and the little boy goes out there, leading the big elephants back to the farm — where the baby is set free to go rejoin them.

Then came Puddles, with Tangled animator Zach Parrish explaining he got the idea for the short film after working as head of animation on Big Hero 6. In Puddles, a little boy tries to get his phone-gazing sister to join him in some splashy fun — especially once he encounters a magical fantasy land after hopping all the way into one. But the only way he can grab her attention is to grab her phone first...and then the both of them dive in to explore the new world he's found.

Fun fact: The puddle world in Puddles is inhabited by fish from Moana — a cool little Easter egg Parrish unwrapped for fans in the room.

After that, artist John Aquino cracked open Lightning in a Bottle, an imaginative short film about a young boy who literally catches lightning in a bottle — only to discover that his new captive also happens to be an intelligent little creature with a mind of its own.

Up next was Just a Thought by Brian F. Menz, a comic strip-style vignette about a little boy in a school where, all of a sudden, everyone can see his thought bubbles about the girl he has a crush on…including her.

Describing getting free rein to make Just a Thought as “the highlight of my career so far,” Menz said the look of the film was inspired by old-school Sunday comics in the newspaper. Menz confessed that his 17 year-old self was just as shy as the thought-bubble boy in the story…and that he’s now married (with seven kids) to the girl who, back in high school, got up the nerve to ask him out. 

Jennifer Stratton’s sky-eyed Zenith came next, a feast of music and imagery that showed off a series of astronomy-inspired creations, all on a guided tour courtesy of a shining luminous stag. Stratton said the idea for Zenith came from childhood memories of climbing a tree at her grandmother’s house so she could spend time gazing at the stars. Other inspiration came from Disney classic Fantasia, which she said "turned me into the artist I am today.”

Disney didn't give a hard premiere date for when the new films will arrive, saying for now only that all of the new shorts in the Short Circuit series will be heading to Disney+ sometime next year. The new streaming platform launches on Nov. 12.