Pixar’s shorts are almost as famous as their feature-length films. With so many of them winning Academy Awards, film lovers, young and old, look forward to seeing what surprise short film Pixar will attach to their latest projects. Now, thanks to the launch of Disney+, Pixar short fans will no longer have to wait for a theatrical release as new shorts will appear on the streaming platform throughout the year. The latest short that debuted on the service was a prequel to Soul entitled 22 vs. Earth.
This short film follows 22, who is voiced by Tina Fey, as she tries to build an alliance to stop young and eager souls from choosing life on planet earth. The short, which runs roughly about 5 minutes in length, is geared towards fans of Soul, especially those who wanted a bit more backstory on 22 and why she was the way she was in the feature-length film. Children are sure to smile and laugh throughout, but I personally appreciated the darker humor. Needless to say, at only 5 minutes, it’s worth a look. I did love that all of the original voice cast from Soul came back for the short. That was a nice added touch.
After screening the short, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual roundtable with the film’s director, Kevin Nolting. Nolting has been working as an editor at Pixar since Finding Nemo, and before that, he edited live-action feature films, including Child Play, Leap of Faith, and Excess Baggage.
Scott Menzel: My question is about you being an editor at Pixar. I looked through most of your career, and you were an editor. What was it like to make the jump over to the director’s chair?
Kevin Nolting: Sort of two parts of that. In one way, it wasn’t that big of a jump or that hard because in animation, especially at Pixar, the editor works so closely with the director from pre-production through the final mix. So I’ve had this front-row seat to it. I watched Pete direct for 15 years and learned from that. As far as an editor directing, editors, by definition, are very judgmental. The material comes in, and we immediately judge it. It’s just part of the job. It’s like, “This will work. This won’t work. I think that’ll work. I don’t think this is a good idea.” And being a director and being the one being judged, it’s a good lesson for anybody, I think. So that was the biggest shift for me. I look at actors and directors and anybody who’s feeding an editor. I have always had respect for them, but I have more respect now, let’s put it that way.
Scott Menzel: As a fan of Pixar, both the shorts and the long-form films, many of them have characters trying to find their purpose. Obviously, it’s a huge theme in Soul, but I’m curious, in your opinion, why is that such a staple of most Pixar movies?
Kevin Nolting: I think it’s the personalities who make the movies at Pixar with these fundamental questions, and they’re exploring them through the movies. I guess that’s the best answer. And also, if you look at the age, especially the people like Pete and Andrew Stanton, the age they were when they started at Pixar, you could follow their movies and see as they grow, as they get older, the questions they’re asking. So I think you could probably make a correlation there too. Thank you.
Scott Menzel: I’ve been hearing so many different stories about creating content during the pandemic. So for this short, what was the biggest challenge you faced creating it from your home?
Kevin Nolting: We did all of the production from home. We only did two brief story working sessions live in the studio, and getting used to Zoom, and just trying to read people’s faces and body language. That was the biggest challenge. The other thing is that Pixar, the design of our main building, is so great in that building. I don’t know if you have been there, but if you want to go to the bathroom and get a cup of coffee, you have to go to the central atrium. And when you go to the central atrium, you always run into somebody working on a movie, and you have these conversations. My experience has been so much of the stuff I’ve worked on has come out of those conversations. I might just accidentally meeting somebody. We can’t emulate that in Zoom at all.
Scott Menzel: Absolutely, if you don’t mind, I would like to one final question. One of the things that I’ve noticed about your career was that you started in live-action movies as an editor for pretty much a good portion of your career, and then you made the jump to animation. What made you want to leap over to animation?
Kevin Nolting: I wish I had a perfect answer to that, except that it was completely accidental. A friend of mine who I had worked in live-action in Los Angeles called out of the blue. I hadn’t talked to him in years, and he is now working at Pixar, and they were looking for editors and assistant editors as they expanded. And it was just an accidental encounter that sounded intriguing to me. I really love Pixar movies because my children were young at that time, and they were the first movies that I could go and enjoy a movie with my kids. And I just loved what they were doing, so I came up.