Lava (2014 film)

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Directed byJames Ford Murphy
Written byJames Ford Murphy
Produced byAndrea Warren
Music byJames Ford Murphy
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
Running time
7 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Lava is a 2015 American computer-animated musical short film produced by Pixar Animation Studios.[2] Directed and written by James Ford Murphy and produced by Andrea Warren, it premiered at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival on June 14, 2014, and was theatrically released alongside Pixar's Inside Out, on June 19, 2015.[1]

The short is a musical love story that takes place over millions of years.[3] It is set to a song (also called "Lava") written by Murphy,[4] and was inspired by the "isolated beauty of tropical islands and the explosive allure of ocean volcanoes."[5] In an interview with Honolulu-based KHON-TV, Murphy explained that his interest in Hawaii began 25 years prior while honeymooning on the main island of Hawai'i. Shortly before the film production had begun, Murphy went back to Hawaii in order to "reconnect emotionally" with the land that sprung his inspiration.[6]

Years later, he heard Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", which touched him.[7] "I put together this fascination and love and this experience I had with my wife in Hawaii, with this feeling I had for this song and thought, wow, if I could blend those two things, it would be really—a film I would love to see."[7]

The idea began to coalesce while attending the wedding of his sister, who married at the age of 43. "As my sister stood up on the altar, I thought about how happy she was and how long she'd waited for her very special day. There, at my sister’s wedding, I remembered Loihi and I had an epiphany... What if my sister was a volcano? And what if volcanoes spend their entire lives searching for love, like humans do?"[7] Lava is unique in that it lacks any verbal communication other than the song.[8]


On a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, a lonely volcano watches the wildlife creatures frolic with their mates and wishes to find one of his own. He sings a song to the ocean each day for millions of years, gradually venting his lava and sinking into the water, but does not realize that a female submarine volcano has heard him every day and has fallen in love with him.

She emerges on the day when the male volcano becomes almost extinct, but her face is turned away and she cannot see him. He sinks fully into the ocean, heartbroken, but revives when he hears her singing his song to him. His fire reignited, he erupts back to the surface alongside her, and the two merge to form a single island so they can sing together.


Before creating "Lava," the director, James Ford Murphy, identified characteristics in which he wanted Lava to mimic. These desired characteristics came from 5 other Disney Pixar Shorts that Murphy revealed:[9]

  1. "Knick Knack" (1989)
  2. "For the Birds" (2000)
  3. "Partly Cloudy" (2009)
  4. "Day & Night" (2010)
  5. "La Luna" (2011)



The production of the film took an entire year and required a 100-person crew.[12]


Critical response[edit]

The short had mixed reviews.

Nicholas Garrett gave the short a positive review; he said that "it is one of their most touching and subtle (shorts)".[13] Oliver Lyttelton said that it was "beautiful".[14] Pat Mullen gave the short 5 stars out of 5, praising its "fantastic visuals" and its "overall originality and artistry".[15] Nelson Rivera said "The story is told musically, which is always exciting, because music can really get to core emotions and Lava most certainly achieves this, almost effortlessly".[16]

However, Pablo Ruiz gave a negative review, describing its storytelling as "lazy" and arguing that "there's no character growth, no arc. There's no story. It's just things happening on screen."[17] Michael Colan ranked Lava as one of Pixar's weakest short films based on the writing, saying it has "too much telling, not enough showing". He praised the short film for its "gorgeous animation", however, and thought that it had a "good idea."[18]


The short film "Lava" appeared at both the Telluride and Hiroshima film festivals.[19]


The song to the short, also titled "Lava", was released on June 16, 2015, as a digital single, and as a bonus track on the CD release of Inside Out's soundtrack.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Keegan, Rebecca (July 11, 2014). "First Look: Pixar's 'Lava'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Emery, Debbie (June 19, 2015). "Pixar's Short Film 'Lava' Announced". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  3. ^ Calia, Michael (June 20, 2014). "Pixar Unveils Details of Next Projects: Inside Out and Lava". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Siegemund-Broka, Austin (June 20, 2014). "Pixar's Pete Docter Promises 'Inside Out' Will Break New Ground". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  5. ^ Koch, Dave (May 29, 2014). "Inside Out Adds Animated Short". Big Cartoon News. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  6. ^ Crawford, Trish (September 13, 2014). "Lava, a volcano full of love: Animator Jim Murphy directs first film, part of TIFF Short Cuts". Toronto Star. p. E.10. ProQuest 1563990550.
  7. ^ a b c "5 questions with Disney/Pixar's 'LAVA' director James Ford Murphy". KHON2. January 2, 2016.
  8. ^ Calia, Michael (June 26, 2015). "ARENA --- Movies & Books -- The Initial Attractions: 'Lava': Pixar Shorts: A Farm System for Storytellers". Wall Street Journal. p. D.4. ProQuest 1691212428.
  9. ^ "5 Pixar Shorts That Inspired 'Lava'". Dow Jones Institutional News. June 25, 2015. ProQuest 2065117828.
  10. ^ a b Mizutani, Ron (August 19, 2014). "Local singer on lead role in new Disney/Pixar animated short 'Lava'". KHON2. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  11. ^ Jones, Oliver (August 28, 2014). "An Exclusive First Look at the Upcoming Pixar Short 'Lava'". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Taylor, Dan (June 21, 2015). "Second Chance: Sonoma animator James Murphy turned down an opportunity to work on 'Toy Story' but got another shot with 'Lava,' which opened Saturday". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, Calif. p. D.1. ProQuest 1690472307.
  13. ^ "Review: Pixar's 'Lava' is a hunk of burning love". Ka Leo O Hawaii.
  14. ^ "We Rank the Best Pixar Shorts From 'Lava' to 'Luxo Jr.'". Yahoo Entertainment. June 18, 2015.
  15. ^ Pat Mullen. "Cinemablographer: OIAF Review: Pixar's 'Lava'".
  16. ^ "LAVA". FilmMunch. June 15, 2015. Archived from the original on June 15, 2015.
  17. ^ Ruiz, Pablo (August 3, 2015). "[OPINION] My Problem With Pixar's 'Lava'". Rotoscopers.
  18. ^ Colan, Michael. "Lava (2015) Animated Short-Review". The Exported Film. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  19. ^ Crawford, Trish (September 13, 2014). "Lava, a volcano full of love: Animator Jim Murphy directs first film, part of TIFF Short Cuts". Toronto Star. p. E.10. ProQuest 1563990550.
  20. ^ Inside Out (CD). ASIN B00WHZZGFK.
  21. ^ "Lava (From "Lava") - Single". iTunes Store (USA). Apple. January 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2015.

External links[edit]