Pixar has been brightening up our movie theaters (and our lives) with their wonderful animations for over 25 years. With box-office smashes like Up (2009) and Toy Story (1995), they have won over the hearts of children and adults alike. They have even done the impossible and made it OK for adults to watch animated movies without ridicule. Previously, cartoons and animations were just something children and computer nerds would watch, while the grownups got on with adulting and other dull things. But now, thanks to Pixar and their wonderful animated creations, we can all relax and escape into a happy, fuzzy world of adventure. And they aren’t all about big budget smashes—Pixar has also created a range of lesser-known features and shorts. Here are 15 that everyone should watch!
15 André and Wally B (1984)
This short film introduces us to André (a brainless android) and Wally B, a large and stereotypically bumbling bee. Set in a forest, this animation follows André as he wakes up, only to be continually bothered by Wally B. Despite André's best attempts at distraction, he is unable to evade the incessantly bumbling insect. In fairness to the poor android, few of us are at our peak when we are woken from our slumber, especially when we haven’t had our morning cup of coffee.
Small in size but grand in achievements, this short was the first use of squash-and-stretch motion within a computer animation. Something that, no doubt, led to the film being given Honourable Mention at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in 1985.
14 Luxo Jr. (1986)
Pixar has become famed for their whimsical creatures and the way they interact with a sense of playfulness and solidarity. Luxo Jr. shows a more avant-garde interpretation of the ‘buddy movie,’ with a pair of table lamps forming a friendship. This short sees a larger lamp watching on as a small lamp playfully interacts with a ball, working to master the ability to handle the toy.
The table lamp must have made an impression on producers at Pixar HQ, because it was able to gain a starring role in Toy Story (1995). The lamp and ball can be seen to Andy’s bedroom, after a bit of a revamp from white to red. Hey, all good actors need a bit of rouge.
13 Red’s Dream (1987)
Red's Dream is yet another short, in which Pixar expertly personified an inanimate object. This animation gives us an insight into the life of Red, a unicycle who has been left propped up at the back of a bicycle store, in the clearance section. Like any unicycle, Red dreams of running away with the circus and entertaining the crowds inside the big top (alongside clowns, acrobats and the ringmaster) and getting involved with some juggling tricks. Back in reality, however, Red is left feeling dejected and hopeless, rolling around the store and looking out at the rain. Despite the despairing feel of this piece, it does give a beautiful feeling of hope and almost encourages the viewer to dream. There is always a place in the world for the dreamers, right?
12 Tin Toy (1988)
Years before Toy Story—and the many large toys it brought to our screens—there was Tin Toy. As the name suggests, this short work of animation explores the life of a tin toy (specifically, a toy that depicts a one-man band). Being a toy means that your life's purpose it to make children happy, but things go awry for Tin Toy when it is stranded with a rather destructive baby. Not wanted to be stranded in the baby’s path of destruction, the tin toy uses all its wound up energy to run away and ends up hiding under the couch. But, when the baby is harmed, it triggers the toy’s inner purpose. But, should the tin toy stay or go? You'll have to watch it to find out!
11 Knick Knack (1989)
Set inside a snow globe, Knick Knack follows a day in the life of a snowman. No one wants to be all alone and that is true, even for snowmen. Life trapped inside a glass prison is taking its toll on a snowman named Knick. He wants, more than anything, to play with the other souvenirs that surround him (having been placed on a shelf with a range of souvenirs from past holidays and adventures).
Determined not to be left alone, Knick tries to escape the globe using a jackhammer, TNT and even his own nose (no, we aren’t sure where he got the TNT from). But, alas, his efforts are futile and he remains alone in the snow.
10 It’s Tough to Be a Bug (1998)
In the '90s, Pixar ventured into the world of 3D animation. Following the successful release of A Bug’s Life (1998), the production company created an additional short film, based upon the characters that we were introduced to in the original film.
This short is introduced by Flik, an ant and the central protagonist in A Bug’s Life. His aim is to educate the viewers about the wonderful qualities insects have to offer the world. He encourages those watching to look at insects as their friends, rather than labeling them as pests. Insects have been often overlooked in popular culture, with the world, in general, looking down on these humble creatures in disgust. It’s nice to see that Pixar stands up for bug (and insect) rights.
9 For the Birds (2000)
You may be wondering if Pixar decided to venture into the macabre and chose to play with the storyline to Hitchcock’s classic thriller The Birds. Nope...this is Pixar—creator of wonderful, fuzzy little creatures. The title is in no way cryptic—this is simply a lovely tale about some birds.
The birds in question are fluffy, little blue birds, who are innocently perching on a telephone wire. But, problems occur when a much larger bird tries to join them. This is one bird that certainly lives up to the phrase ‘bird brained.’ It is not said where in the world these birds are, but we can be sure they aren’t in Dover because—contrary to the famous song lyrics—blue birds do not fly over the white cliffs of Dover.
8 Boundin’ (2003)
This short animation served as an appetizer to the superhero smash, The Incredibles, airing before the feature-length film in theaters across the globe. In sharp contrast to the main event, this animation does what Pixar does best—yes, the fluffy, little creatures are back. It opens with a sheep happily dancing around in the west, until one fateful day, when his wool is sheared off and he is left feeling naked and vulnerable. No longer a happy dancing sheep, he becomes timid and quiet. That is, until a kind jackalope comes to his rescue. The jackalope teaches the sheep to leap and be proud of himself because no one should ever feel ashamed of themselves. See? Even animals like to dance like no one’s watching.
7 Vowellet: An Essay by Sarah Vowell (2005)
In a break from their usual style, Pixar produced the short documentary, Vowellet: An Essay by Sarah Vowell, in 2005. This film gives an insight into the life of Sarah Vowell and the way she embraces her inner superhero within her day-to-day life.
In the animated world, Sarah takes on the role of Violet Parr in The Incredibles, the teenage daughter of two superheroes. Outside of her acting work, Sarah shares her passion for writing—something that is a lot more hardcore than the children’s films she also works on. Her writing focuses of historical political characters. Wow. Sarah is a woman of many talents. Where does she find the time? Maybe she is a superhero…
6 Tokyo Mater (2008)
In 2006, Cars had little boys across the globe dragging their parents along to the nearest movie theater. There was finally a car movie that was suitable for the 'under 12' age group. Following on from the success of this film, Mater (one of the central characters in Cars) has gone on to star in a string of his own short films. Tokyo Mater sees Mater arriving in Tokyo, after completing his days towing. Now in the land of the Tokyo drift, what choice does he have but to join in?
Co-star and pal, Lightning McQueen, arrives to help Mater get modified for the race, in which Mater has to fight for the title ‘King of all Drifters.’ Step aside, Vin Diesel, who is fast and furious now?
5 Partly Cloudy (2009)
This sounds more like a vague weather forecast than a film, but we can tell you it is another of Pixar’s spellbinding shorts.
Partly Cloudy is set—yes, you’ve guessed it—in the clouds. For years, cartoons have worked to convince children that storks bring baby children into the world, with parents receiving newborn babies on their doorsteps. If only childbirth was really this idyllic! The problem with the story is that children are getting brighter and they are starting to ask questions. So, in steps Pixar to clear things up. This short introduces us to the cloud people, who sculpt babies out of the clouds, ready for delivery by stork. Phew...that’ll stop the questioning for a few more years.
4 Dug’s Special Mission (2009)
Another of Pixar’s spin-off shorts, Dug’s Special Mission follows in the footsteps (or paw prints) of the dog from Up. Because, well, when it comes to animated creatures, you can never get too much of them.
This short follows Dug around on the most special day of all: his birthday. On the day in question, Dug is happily walking around and finds himself in chase with a bird and three other dogs. Caught up in the excitement of having new friends, Dug ends up completing a range of increasingly difficult assignments. With Dug failing miserably, the other dogs threaten him and say that their master will punish him. This isn’t turning out to be much of a happy birthday. How will it end? You've got to watch to find out!
3 La Luna (2011)
This is a heartwarming tale of a boy and his grandfather, as the boy embarks on his first night of work. Though, given the wonders he is about to witness, it can hardly be called work. The pair venture far out to sea in an old wooden boat, named La Luna. It is here, in the middle of the ocean, far away from sight of the public and with no land in sight, that the little boy is introduced to his secret family business. And a very unusual business it is, too, because the grandfather has been working his whole life harvesting stars from the moon. This wonderfully whimsical piece brings together generations and tackles the issues of modernity and tradition.
2 The Blue Umbrella (2013)
The poster alone looks like an award-winning piece of art. This mesmerizing short shows as a splash of color and happiness breaks out amidst the sadness of a dull, rainy city.
On first glance, this just looks like a frivolous bit of fun—which, of course, it is—but it is also something much more. This short tells the tale of two differently colored umbrellas that fall eternally in love, despite their depressing environment. This is a story of hope and love's power to bring happiness and light into the darkness. This film also cleverly touches on issues of diversity, showing that color should not stand in the way of true love. If only finding love in the big city was really this easy…
1 Party Central (2013)
Another of Pixar’s blockbuster spin-offs, Party Central sees the cast of Monsters, Inc. (2001) take to the big screen for an extra helping. Our old pals, Mike and Sully, are back and this time they are in university. If you thought you had fun at university, you should see these guys—they really put the monster into party.
When the guys first arrive, ready for a weekend of partying, they find that no one has turned up at the Oozma Kappa frat party. But, Mike and Sully soon sort this out, with the help of some rather dirty tactics. They sneak along to the neighboring fraternity’s party and steal all their food and drink. So, with vital party supplies running low, Mike and Sully are suddenly overwhelmed with guests.