We’ve known for a while that Pixar has no intention of attaching an animated short of some kind to precede Toy Story 4, but a Disney representative recently made it official, per Slate:
Toy Story 4 will break with tradition by going without an animated short when it enters theaters June 21, a representative for Disney confirmed to Slate. That makes it the first Pixar movie without one since the original Toy Story in 1995…
Again, this isn’t a surprise. We would have had heard about a short premiering with the movie a long time ago, but there’s been no hint of anything, not even one of the Sparkshorts Pixar released on YouTube (some speculated they might at least show one of those for the sake of showing something).
I’m seeing a mix of reactions to this, with many Pixar followers assuming this to be an anomaly; surely, Pixar wouldn’t ditch a tradition they’ve held since A Bug’s Life, right? Others, like me, are less optimistic. Pixar now has a hand in helping Disney develop computer-animated shows for the Disney+ streaming service, and the Sparkshorts are a newer program meant to push boundaries and cultivate new voices in and around the animation community. Feature shorts might not be considered a necessary expense for a studio under new leadership.
I’m not implying that this was a call made by Pete Docter, who now leads Pixar creatively, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the company has decided to refocus their efforts on shows and cheaper shorts that will accomplish the same goals as the feature ones (they’re really meant to keep employees working in between film projects).
And it’s worth pointing out that Coco paved the way for gradual changes in how Disney and Pixar handle short films. In 2017, Coco was the first Pixar film to come with a Walt Disney Animation short: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, which was met with severe disdain for its bizarrely long runtime.
Bottom line: short films don’t make much money, if any, for Pixar. But their animators can be put to good use helping Disney and other production companies with spin-off shows, like the upcoming Monsters at Work, though the extent of Pixar’s specific contribution to these and other Disney+ projects is a bit unclear at the moment.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Pixar just didn’t have a short film ready in time for Toy Story 4, and for whatever reason, they’re downplaying this sudden change. We’ll know soon enough when more news comes in about Onward, their next film arriving in theaters by next March.
UPDATE: Pixar has given an official explanation for why they didn’t make a short. You can read their response here.