“A new Pixar short is out?! Get me on the case, guv’nuh!” I thought to myself. And so without knowing anything else about it, I watched and learned that Borrowed Time, (a phrase which here means, “the period in which the inevitable is postponed”), is anything other than what I thought when seeing the name ‘Pixar.’
And it’s not even Pixar, per se! Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj, two Pixar animators, independently directed the short that fooled me until around the 2-minute mark, where I started guessing that it may not have been made with kids in mind. The ‘official synopsis’ is as follows:
“A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on.”
And that’s all I’ll say plot-wise! The important thing is that when I closed my laptop on the end of the seven-minute video, I was emotionally drained. And to Coats and Hamou-Lhadj, this was intentional! A series of KC Green tweets that I had to scroll back for maybe twenty minutes to get came to mind.
I recently made use of Nickelodeon’s latest incarnation of nostalgia-bait, ‘The Splat,’ with a few episodes of The Angry Beavers and Hey Arnold! It’s no secret to anyone like me who has misplaced wishes to go back to the 90’s even though we really grew up in the 2000’s that there was something better about the cartoons of Nickelodeon’s heyday. (see: Norb’s pronunciation of ‘better’). For the most part, they managed to tell heartfelt stories and convey serious, important themes without insulting kids’ intelligence. Helga Pataki is one of the great characters in all of television. But watching ‘The Splat,’ I realized there’s something inherently childlike about the shows we all grew up on. The pacing is incredibly fast, and the need to fit an entire dialogue-based storyline into fifteen minutes is very present. It’s weird thinking that this is how we were taught to process information.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? Of course not! Everything has its place. Bob’s Burgers does the same thing. But these are shows that don’t make a lot of use out of the potential of animation. Lately, however, we’ve been blessed with a slew of great cartoons. Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and Over the Garden Wall are all examples of superb storytelling that both give kids the benefit of the doubt in terms of what they can understand, and are beautiful to look at. Perhaps most importantly, the pacing of these stories are equivalent to that of a fine molasses stew slipping down a gutter pipe in the brisk of November. That’s not to say animation hasn’t strayed from its kid-oriented, comedy-genre roots before; it has. In fact, it does it constantly. For its entirety, Pixar has thrived on mixing it up, and I’d argue that almost every Pixar film falls under a different genre while using animation as the medium.
This is what’s big about Borrowed Time. It hits all the notes that an Adventure Time does, but it’s really not for kids. While similar concepts are addressed in those shows, there’s always an amount of sidestepping, of sugarcoating. Borrowed Time gives you these themes frankly, maturely, and has some blood in it. This time the differences are a little different. It’s more overt. It’s more ‘adult.’ But still there’s a stigma there. Even me, a seasoned animated movie watcher, fell victim to the assumption that this was going to be a tried and true Pixar short.
But adult animation’s been around forever. So why isn’t it taken more seriously as a medium? Ralph Bakshi’s been working since the 70’s on spearheading the movement for more mature animated movies with Fritz the Cat, which invented furry porn, and Coonskin, which was All About the Boobies baybee, and Cool Worl-okay, I might see how there’s a problem here. (see: Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle).
So it’s maturity? Let’s be real, ‘adult’ is not synonymous with ‘mature,’ and that concept shines through when some of the most popular animated shows for adults are this,
or T H I S .
And like KC Green, I too am upset about Sausage Party being a hit in the movie biz. Even Roger Rabbit, a movie I enjoy, doesn’t escape being mostly just crude. There’s something wrong when the ever-popular Family Guy is dumber than Tom and Jerry.
So is that the issue here? The masses? I don’t think so. Pixar’s movies are more mature than most of what the entirety of Hollywood puts out, and everybody and their Mothra goes to see them. So what’s the problem, again? When there are movies like The Secret of Kells, or The Triplets of Belleville, or La Planèt Sauvage, or Watership Down, (which I still haven’t worked up the courage to watch in its entirety after being scarred by a particular scene in my youth) – heck, any Ghibli or Madhouse movie stretches across genres in mature ways. But like anime as a whole, people just don’t see it that way. Maybe getting animation recognized as a legitimate form of expression for all genres is just, like anything, an issue of exposure. It also doesn’t help that IMDB lists it as a genre, or that Timmy Turner heartthrob Trixie Tang said this once:
“Because, Anonymous Voice from Nobody, you won for comedy, and everybody knows that comedy is the lowest form of entertainment… next to animation.”
So is Borrowed Time an answer to my cartoonist prayers? Will it fall on me to make an animated slasher movie? Perhaps. But for now, I’ll say to my personal hero Mr. Green that there’s hope yet.
Below is the short itself, plus another mature and beautifully done animated video.