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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
Story by Ted Mathot
Valerie Lapointe
Justin Wright
Starring Doug Sweetland
Music by Scot Stafford
Edited by Katherine Ringgold
Production
company
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
Running time
5:17
Country United States

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, as well as the work of Tex Avery. 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; this was deemed too expensive, and was solved by showing the back of the audience.

Reaction to the short was positive, and reviewers of WALL-E's movie home media release considered it to be an enjoyable special feature. There is also a book. 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. A hungry and irritated Alec is locked in a cage, unable to reach his carrot.[3] 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. Anything that passes into either hat will emerge from the other.

Intending to feed Alec, Presto realizes that his show is starting and rushes onstage instead. Alec refuses to cooperate with the act and turns the hats against Presto in a variety of ways that lead to escalating degrees of humiliation, such as letting him catch his finger in a mousetrap, hit himself in the eye with a raw egg, and get his head sucked into a ventilation shaft. Presto continues to antagonize Alec at the same time, first turning the carrot into a flower and later smashing it to pulp with a hammer.

Fed up with Alec's behavior, Presto storms backstage after him, but accidentally releases a set of hanging stage props and gets his foot caught in a rigging rope. He is yanked up into the fly space above the stage; when his foot comes loose, he falls again and finds himself in danger of being crushed by both the props and a falling piano. Alec uses the hats' magic to save him, earning the audience's wild approval for him and Presto, who gratefully gives him a fresh carrot and starts to give him second billing on the posters advertising the act.

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.[2]

Doug Sweetland made his directorial debut with Presto. Sweetland provides the dialogue-free voice acting for both of the movie's characters.[3] 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.[2] 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 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 c d Desowitz, Bill (May 23, 2008). "Presto Change-O for Pixar". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Supplement to Dave Smith's 2006 book Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia" (PDF). Disney.com. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Douglas, Edward (February 6, 2009). "Presto Director Doug Sweetland". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Von Riedemann, Dominic (September 25, 2008). "Interview: Doug Sweetland on Presto". Suite101.com. Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  6. ^ Cortez, Carl (November 28, 2008). "DVD Review: Wall-E - 3-Disc Special Edition". If. Archived from the original on February 10, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  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 January 2, 2009. 
  9. ^ Sanford, James (June 26, 2008). "Pixar's WALL-E has humor, suspense, romance - and show tunes?". Booth Newspapers. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 
  10. ^ King, Susan (December 1, 2008). "Kung Fu Panda, Bolt and Wall-E lead Annie Award nominees". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Nominees & Winners for the 81st Academy Awards". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]