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Presto
Movie poster shows a man in a tuxedo holding a smiling rabbit in one of his hands, while the other is raised as if to present the rabbit to an audience. Text at the top of the image states "Pixar Presents A Magical Motion Picturette", followed by the film's title. Near the bottom of the image, is three circles, each containing scenes from the short film.
Directed by Doug Sweetland
Produced by Richard Hollander[1]
Written by Doug Sweetland
Starring Doug Sweetland
Music by Scot Blackwell Stafford
Editing by Katherine Ringgold
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s) June 10, 2008 (Annecy Animation Film Festival)
June 27, 2008 (with WALL-E)
Running time 5 min, 17 secs.
Country United States
Language English

Presto is a 2008 American Pixar computer-animated short film shown in theaters before their feature length film WALL-E. It is included on the DVD and Blu-ray release of WALL-E also. The short is about a magician trying to perform a show with his uncooperative rabbit and is a gag-filled homage to classic cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes. Presto was directed by veteran Pixar animator Doug Sweetland, in his directorial debut.

The original idea for the short was a magician who incorporated a rabbit into his act who suffered from stage fright. This was considered to be too long and complicated, and the idea was reworked. To design the theater featured in Presto, the filmmakers visited several Opera Houses and theaters for set design ideas. Problems arose when trying to animate the theater's audience of 2,500 patrons—which was deemed too expensive—and was solved by showing the back of the audience.

Reaction to the short was very positive, and DVD reviewers of WALL-E considered it to be an enjoyable special feature. One critic called Presto a "winner through and through",[2] while another found it to be "a short and hilarious animated film".[3] Presto was nominated for an Annie Award and Academy Award.

Contents

Plot

Turn-of-the-century magician Presto DiGiotagione[a] is famous for a hat trick wherein he pulls his rabbit Alec Azam[b] out of his top hat. The short begins with an unfed and irritated Alec locked in a cage, unable to reach his carrot.[4] After Presto returns from eating a meal, he begins practicing his act with Alec, revealing that the top hat is magically connected to a wizard's hat kept backstage with Alec, so that when Presto reaches into the top hat, his hand appears out of the wizard's hat, allowing him to grab Alec and pull him out of the top hat. He intends to feed Alec the carrot, but realizes that he is late for the show and rushes off to the stage without doing so. Presto tries to start the performance, but Alec has reached his limit and refuses to cooperate until he is given the carrot. Presto then spends the rest of the show trying to catch Alec through the opening between his top hat and the wizard's hat.

Alec cleverly turns the hat's magic against his master in painful and humiliating ways, such as putting the magician's finger in a mouse trap and later into an electrical socket, causing him to dance wildly, and having his head sucked into a vacuum kept offstage. On the other hand, Presto antagonizes Alec by turning one carrot into a flower and smashing another into pulp. The audience interprets these shenanigans as part of the act and applauds with increasing approval. Eventually, Presto can take no more and chases Alec backstage, catching his foot in a rope that lifts him up to the fly space above the stage when he mistakenly releases the weights holding down some stage props. When his foot comes loose from the rope, he falls, along with a piano and some suspended scenery. Alec, realizing that Presto will be crushed, uses the magic hat to save him, earning the audience's wild approval for both himself and Presto. Presto gives Alec the carrot (and many more), as well as second billing on the posters advertising the show.

Production

Film screenshot of a rabbit in a cage desperately reaching for a carrot sitting on a nearby table. The table has various jars on it, and posters for the magic show can be seen on the wall in the background.
In the opening shot, Alec is shown desperately stretching for an out-of-reach carrot. In order to get to the conflict quickly, viewers are shown what the rabbit wants almost immediately.[5]

Presto was directed by veteran Pixar animator Doug Sweetland, in his directorial debut. Sweetland provides the dialogue-free voice acting for both of the movie's characters.[4] He pitched the film at the start of 2007 and began production late in the year, completing it in May 2008.[6] Presto's gag-based format was heavily influenced by classic cartoons. Looney Tunes cartoons directed by Tex Avery were a major influence, with Alec being easily compared to Bugs Bunny. Other influences include Tom and Jerry, the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. The character design for Presto was based on William Powell.[7][6]

The original scenario for the short involved a magician who incorporates an autograph-seeking rabbit into his act after his previous rabbit leaves him. Complications arise as the new rabbit suffers from stage fright. Director Doug Sweetland compared it to the plot of A Star Is Born. The idea was reworked due to being too long and complicated, taking an estimated three minutes longer to tell.[7]

To achieve the highly formal environment, the filmmakers looked at the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opera House and classic vaudeville theaters like the Geary in San Francisco—which the crew took a tour through—for set design ideas. Animating the theater's audience of 2,500 patrons proved an expensive proposition, even with the help of the crowd-generating Massive software. Early suggestions were to show cutaways of just a small portion of the audience, but the full effect was achieved by only showing the back of the audience.[8] To save time, most of the audience models were borrowed from the previous Pixar film, Ratatouille. Additionally, Presto's body (from the neck down) is Skinner's lawyer, and the carrot was one of the many food props from that film.

Reception

Reaction to the short film was very positive. Carl Cortez of If called Presto a "winner through and through".[2] Marcos Bernal-Salas of The Examiner named Presto his favorite bonus feature of WALL-E's DVD. Bernal-Salas described it is "a short and hilarious animated film" and praised the animation and sound design.[3] Jake Coyle of the San Francisco Chronicle found Presto to be "a delightful and cartoonish appetizer" which kept the tradition of short pre-feature films alive.[9] Darren Bevan of Television New Zealand thought that although WALL-E was a "delightful tale" and "truly gorgeous", Presto "very nearly stole Wall-E's thunder".[10] James Sanford of the Kalamazoo Gazette called the short a superb and hilarious curtain-raiser, describing it as a Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes version of The Prestige.[11] Presto was nominated for the 36th Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject.[12] The short was also nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film,[13] but lost to La Maison en Petits Cubes.[14]

Notes

a^ : A play on the word 'prestidigitation'.
b^ : A play on the magic word 'alakazam'.

References

  1. ^ S. Cohen, David (2008-09-19). "Drawn together at Pixar". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992537.html?categoryId=1050&cs=1. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  2. ^ a b Cortez, Carl (2008-11-28). "DVD Review: Wall-E - 3-Disc Special Edition". If. http://www.ifmagazine.com/review.asp?article=2932. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  3. ^ a b Bernal-Salas, Marcos (2008-11-30). "Need a holiday gift? How about Wall-E on DVD". The Examiner. http://www.examiner.com/x-1367-NY-Film-Review-Examiner~y2008m11d30-Need-a-holiday-gift-How-about-WallE-on-DVD. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  4. ^ a b "Supplement to Dave Smith's 2006 book Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia". Disney.com. http://disney.go.com/vault/supplement.pdf. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  5. ^ Desowitz, Bill (2008-05-23). "Presto Change-O for Pixar". Animation World Network. pp. 1. http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&category2=&article_no=3648&page=1. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  6. ^ a b Douglas, Edward (2009-02-06). "Presto Director Doug Sweetland". ComingSoon.net. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=52513. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  7. ^ a b Von Riedemann, Dominic (2008-09-25). "Interview: Doug Sweetland on Presto". Suite101.com. http://hollywood-animated-films.suite101.com/article.cfm/interview_doug_sweetland_on_presto. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  8. ^ Desowitz, Bill (2008-05-23). "Presto Change-O for Pixar". Animation World Network. pp. 2. http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&category2=&article_no=3648&page=2. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  9. ^ Coyle, Jake (2008-06-26). "A short review of the new Pixar short, Presto". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/06/26/entertainment/e040829D21.DTL. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  10. ^ Bevan, Darren (December 31, 2008). "2008 cinema review: July to September". Television New Zealand. http://tvnz.co.nz/content/2342571. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Sanford, James (June 26, 2008). "Pixar's WALL-E has humor, suspense, romance - and show tunes?". Booth Newspapers. http://www.mlive.com/movies/index.ssf/2008/06/pixars_walle_has_humor_suspens.html. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  12. ^ King, Susan (2008-12-01). "Kung Fu Panda, Bolt and Wall-E lead Annie Award nominees". Los Angeles Times. http://theenvelope.latimes.com/env-annie-awards-1dec2008,0,3047769.htmlstory. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  13. ^ "List of 81st annual Oscar nominations". The Times of India. 2009-01-22. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/US/List_of_81st_annual_Oscar_nominations/articleshow/4017817.cms. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  14. ^ "List of 81st annual Oscar nominations". The Times of India. 2009-01-22. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/US/List_of_81st_annual_Oscar_nominations/articleshow/4017817.cms. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 

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