Presto (film)

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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
Edited by Katherine Ringgold
Production
  company
Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 5:17
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. 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 reviewers of WALL-E's home media release considered it to be an enjoyable special feature. Presto was nominated for an Annie Award and Academy Award. It was included in the Animation Show of Shows in 2008.

Plot[edit]

Vaudeville-era 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.[2] After Presto returns from eating a meal, he begins practicing his act with Alec, revealing that his 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, much to Alec's anger. Presto tries to start the performance, but Alec becomes reluctant 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 into multiple painful and humiliating ways and unsuccessful attempts of magic; Presto's hand is hit against the podium backstage, his finger is stuck in a mouse trap, and he is hit in the face by an egg (caused by a backfired attempt to aggravate Alec). Presto responds by antagonizing Alec, turning the carrot into a flower. Furious, Alec sucks Presto's head into a vacuum kept offstage, which spikes Presto's hair and turns his face red. Presto looks angrily at Alec. Alec closes Presto's hand into the podium's drawer, and looks through his sleeve for the carrot. Presto starts running at Alec, but instead is poked in the eye by his own hand. Presto drops his hat, and when he grabs the wizard hat, he accidentally rips off own slacks. Furious, Presto wants to attack Alec, but in an act to defend himself, Alec puts an offstage ladder into the wizard hat, and Presto is hit between its legs. Trying to get revenge, Presto attempts to hit Alec with it, but the plan backfires when it misses and hits a door, and he is sent hitting his chin on the ladder. Presto antagonizes Alec again, covering the carrot with a cloth before smashing it into a pulp with a piece of the ladder. Alec then retaliates by aiming the opening of the wizard's hat towards an electrical socket which Presto's finger goes into, causing him to dance wildly to bluegrass music as he is electrocuted. The audience interprets all these shenanigans as being parts of the act and applauds with increasing approval.

Presto loses his temper and storms 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 whilst trying to catch Alec by force. 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 (returned to its original shape), as well as second billing on the posters advertising the show (as seen in the promotional poster above) and they are rewarded for each show they do, roses and carrots for Presto and Alec respectively.

Production[edit]

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.[3]

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.[2] He pitched the film at the start of 2007 and began production late in the year, completing it in May 2008.[4] 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.[4][5]

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. 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.[5]

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.[3] 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[edit]

Reaction to the short film was very positive. Carl Cortez of If called Presto a "winner through and through".[6] Jake Coyle of the Associated Press found Presto to be "a delightful and cartoonish appetizer" which kept the tradition of short pre-feature films alive.[7] 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".[8] 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.[9] Presto was nominated for the 36th Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject.[10] The short was also nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film, but lost to La Maison en Petits Cubes.[11]

Notes[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ S. Cohen, David (September 19, 2008). "Drawn together at Pixar". Variety. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Supplement to Dave Smith's 2006 book Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia". Disney.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  3. ^ a b Desowitz, Bill (May 23, 2008). "Presto Change-O for Pixar". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Douglas, Edward (2009-02-06). "Presto Director Doug Sweetland". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  5. ^ a b Von Riedemann, Dominic (2008-09-25). "Interview: Doug Sweetland on Presto". Suite101.com. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  6. ^ Cortez, Carl (2008-11-28). "DVD Review: Wall-E - 3-Disc Special Edition". If. Archived from the original on February 10, 2010. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  7. ^ Coyle, Jake (June 27, 2008). "Pixar whips up magic with 5-minute ‘Presto’". msnbc.com. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ Bevan, Darren (December 31, 2008). "2008 cinema review: July to September". Television New Zealand. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  9. ^ Sanford, James (June 26, 2008). "Pixar's WALL-E has humor, suspense, romance - and show tunes?". Booth Newspapers. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  10. ^ King, Susan (2008-12-01). "Kung Fu Panda, Bolt and Wall-E lead Annie Award nominees". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  11. ^ "Nominees & Winners for the 81st Academy Awards". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Your Friend the Rat
Pixar Animation Studios short films
2008
Succeeded by
Rescue Squad Mater