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Pixar’s Kitbull short will leave your animal-loving heart in the junkyard

By Benjamin Bullard
Pixar Kitbull via official YouTube 2019

Pixar’s on a roll with its series of SparkShorts artists’ project short films, and the latest one — an old-school animated tale about a scrappy little alley cat and a fighting pit bull chained together by some truly awful circumstances — will trash your animal-loving heart before the inevitable happy ending comes to the rescue.

Kitbull shows both the terrible and the magical sides of the ways people interact with animals, but perhaps even more than that, it gives us an anthropomorphized fantasy of how animals’ secret lives can follow poignant beats we might never glimpse. Like Pixar's Oscar-nominated Bao before, it’s another wordless gem that unfolds a details-loaded vignette through one heart-wrenching emotional roller coaster of a ride.

Rendered in a super-rich 2D cel-shaded style, there’s our scraggly little kitty hero, homeless and just out of reach of an imprisoned pit bull whose owner clearly has the worst possible motives in mind for keeping a pet in the first place. Tortured in different ways by circumstances they can’t control, it’s hard for them to trust each other at first — but this is Pixar, and trust each other they eventually do:

All’s well that ends well, right? But even the kind-hearted humans who give these pets a new lease on life will never know the bond their new pals forged back when life had tossed them both on a scrap heap, and things were at their worst.

Kitbull comes from Pixar director Rosana Sullivan and producer Kathryn Hendrickson. It began life as a simple cat-video indulgence that took on greater emotional weight, Sullivan says in the accompanying behind-the-scenes clip, as she kept on drawing. Being timid and vulnerable as a child helped Sullivan imbue Kitbull’s feline friend with the same qualities — and then, in the face of a snarling and wounded dog, to overcome them.

In two short days, Kitbull has already racked up more than 2.3 million views on YouTube, and joins the growing ranks of other standout short films in Pixar’s ongoing SparkShorts series. You can check out the full lineup — including Smash and Grab, Purl, and Kitbull, as well as the standalone Bao featurette — over at the Disney•Pixar YouTube channel.