They say that good things often come in small packages. In the case of Pixar's truly phenomenal short films, that's most definitely the case. Since the inception of the production company known as Pixar, dozens of short films have been produced, winning countless awards and inspiring animators and fans all over the world. Whether the short film would later go on to inspire feature films, or whether it exists as a spinoff from an already produced short film, Pixar rarely produces a bad short.
If anything, they've produced so many incredibly high-quality shorts that it's not hard to feel like some of these shorts deserved feature-length films all on their own. There are, to be sure, some short films that really do feel best-suited to the typical three to seven-minute length short format. But some of these incredibly beautiful, moving, and often hilarious shorts depict such richly realized worlds and exciting adventures that it wouldn't be too difficult to make a full-length film from what already exists. We take a look at ten of the best candidates.
10 Knick Knack
Some of the best films Pixar has produced have been about the secret lives of toys. First produced back in 1989, the short film Knick Knack represents another slice of life story about some unlikely toy heroes. The main character of the short film is an adorable little snowman named Knick who lives inside an Alaska snowglobe.
Knick has a dream of exploring the world beyond his own snowglobe—and, in particular, meeting and romancing a nearby Miami-themed souvenir featuring a pretty blonde in a bikini. A comedy of errors ensues, following Knick's unsuccessful attempts to leave his shelf. It would be pretty easy to turn this story into a grand, miniaturized adventure, featuring other colorful shelf-dwelling characters.
9 Geri's Game
Released in 1997, Geri's Game is one of Pixar's first real attempts at exploring the lives of elderly people—in this case, the titular character Geri. Years later, the studio would do the same with 2009's Up, with the character of Carl Fredericksen. Geri, however, represents a much more light-hearted and whimsical look at the lives of older individuals.
Geri spends the entire short playing an aggressively competitive game against a mystery opponent, who turns out to be none other than himself. It's a touching and funny character study of a day in the life of an adorable, creative older man. It would be more than enjoyable to spend a little more time in this whimsical man's world.
8 For The Birds
In the 2000 short film For the Birds, Pixar began to really show its total grasp of animals and the quirky behaviors they have that make them so truly fascinating and hilarious. On the whole, the short film doesn't amount to much more than a group of snobby little bluebirds bullying a bizarre-looking bird known as a lesser rhea. The strange-looking bird inserts himself into their petty, clique-like circle, but soon gets the ultimate revenge.
Their childish behavior ultimately allows him to humiliate them by sending them flying into the air, which results in the rest of the birds losing all their feathers. The short itself feels like it would be suited to a single scene in a longer film exploring the life of this quirky, larger bird. And for a short with no dialogue, and no named characters, that's quite the impressive feat.
7 Mike's New Car
Monsters, Inc. remains one of Pixar's most beloved films to this date, but its eventual sequel, Monsters University, also remains undeniably polarizing. A film that serves as a better sequel in many ways is the 2002 short film Mike's New Car. Picking up after where the film left off, the short follows best friends Mike and Sulley through a true slice of life as Mike tries to show off his new car—only to wind up ruining it through a comedy of errors.
In many ways, Monsters University was a step back for Pixar, as it followed up on emotionally meaningful storytelling by introducing characters from the ground up with no clear connection to each other. A better sequel—and a true sequel, at that—would have picked up where Monsters, Inc. ended and continued to follow these larger than life characters throughout their day - just like this short film does.
The 2003 Pixar short film Boundin' is arguably one of the weirdest shorts the company has ever produced. But it has its own unique, almost quaint, and old-timey charm to it that makes it seem perfectly suited for an underdog hero's journey of epic proportions. Boundin' follows the life of a shy little sheep who loves to dance but quickly loses his bravery after his wool is sheared.
Subjected to mockery from other animals, much like the protagonist of For the Birds, the sheep soon finds him counseled in the art of leaps and bounds by the mythical jackalope—a large jackrabbit with antelope horns. The sheep soon regains his confidence and begins to bound around, dancing freely, no matter his appearance. It's a great parable and would make for a wonderful feature film.
Pixar films haven't typically had love stories in the way that most conventional Disney films do. But the 2014 short film Lava manages to produce one of Pixar's most moving love stories of all time—a love story between two volcanic islands, at that. The lonely volcano Uku spends thousands of years singing and wishing for a great love to come along and find him. But soon, the unthinkable happens, and Uku sinks beneath the surface of the water.
Little does he know, however, an underwater volcano named Lele has been hearing his song for all this time and feeling as though it was meant for her. Through the magic of song and love, they are both joined together as one island above the surface, living the rest of their volcanic island lives in love and song. It's a truly touching short film, with stunning visuals and beautiful music. We'd gladly watch even more of it.
4 Riley's First Date?
Inside Out is one of Pixar's most emotionally gripping movies to date, which is fitting, considering its focus on human emotions and how people process them. The follow up short film Riley's First Date? expands the film's universe in truly exciting ways. Not only does it explore the emotions we already know inside main character Riley's mind, it once again features the emotions of her young male friend, Jordan—as well as the complex, but similar emotions of both of her parents.
Riley's First Date? serves as a perfect starting point for a prospective Inside Out sequel. The world has already been built, and new characters and compelling relationship changes have been introduced. It wouldn't take much at all for this short film to serve as the beginning of the next entry in this possible franchise.
Disney's and Pixar's ability to depict water and sea life is second to none in the animation world. We'd gladly accept any excuse to continue seeing their artistry at work. But in the case of the 2016 short film Piper, it also certainly helps quite a bit that the central character is absolutely adorable and that the short's storyline is so emotionally compelling.
Piper follows a baby sandpiper named Piper as she tries to overcome her fear of water and learn to find food for herself. Through her innate curiosity, Piper overcomes her phobias and befriends a baby hermit crab, learning about the world of underwater life and becoming an expert all on her own. The film manages to portray a truly compelling emotional arc all without any dialogue, establishing friendships and family relationships that we would love to see more of in a feature film.
The 2018 short film Bao is one of Pixar's most emotionally sophisticated films of all time, regardless of the length. In a mere eight minutes, Bao portrays a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, humorous and dramatic, mystical and realistic. A woman raises an anthropomorphic steamed bun—also known as a bao—as though it were her child, nurturing it from childhood through the difficult teenage years until it becomes clear that the bao intends to move away with a woman he loves.
In a fit of emotion, the mother impulsively eats the bun, only to become hysterical. As is soon revealed, the bun was never a bun all along, but her own son, whom she has nurtured and loved and raised for his entire life—including their shared love of the titular bao buns. The film is so beautifully crafted, philosophically moving, and artfully written that it would make for quite the natural translation to a full feature length.
1 Hawaiian Vacation
Simply put, Toy Story is Pixar's best and strongest franchise. The wait between every film in the franchise has only gotten all the more difficult to endure, so it was natural that Pixar began to produce short films of all lengths to fill the gaps between feature film entries. One of the best and most creative of these adventures was the 2011 short film Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation. Now living with Bonnie, the toys learn that Bonnie and her family are going away to Hawaii for the holidays.
After being left behind by Bonnie, the toys are excited to try and create their own version of Hawaii at home, particularly to support the budding romance between Barbie and the newly reformed Ken. The short film features some great visual gags, wonderful costumes, and true moments of slapstick humor. It wouldn't be a stretch at all to imagine this sort of conflict at the heart of a feature-length film.