Dropping in theaters ahead of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is the short film, Us Again.
The short film features a couple, a woman named Dot, described as “young-at-heart,” and a man named Art, who dance their lives away, literally. A “magical night” allows the couple to rediscover their joie de vivre through dance. The short’s score, described as “funk and soul-infused,” comes from Captain Marvel composer Pinar Toprak. The couple’s dance is choreographed by husband and wife dance duo, Keone and Mari Madrid.
Parrish also named the two characters after his grandparents, Arthur and Dorothy. The Madrids inspired Parrish, as he watched their viral dance routine in which they acted like an elderly couple, the short began to take shape.
Shadow and Act recently attended the global press conference for the short film, with panelists including director Parrish, the Madrids, and producer Brad Simonsen. It was moderated by Amy Astley of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Parrish has been an animator with Disney Animation for 11 years, serving as the head of animation for Big Hero 6. He was also director of the animated short film, Puddles.
On developing the film, Parrish said, “When I was coming up with ideas, we pitched four ideas actually in the development process, but this idea in particular came from a time in my life when I was kind of struggling with the changes that go along with aging. I was kind of, you know, bemoaning my aging body. I’m not a super old person, but I was starting to recognize those changes in myself and it kind of led me to these conversations that I would have with my mom where she would always talk about all the great things that she was gonna do when she grew up. And it really made me stop and realize that, um, I kinda had my priorities wrong. I was looking in the wrong direction, and-and if I’m always looking in the past, then I’m gonna miss the beauty in the now.
Speaking about Toprark’s score, Simonsen said, “The vision for this was always to have a funk-soul, old and now feeling, and she brought it. And she was such an incredible collaborator. It’s wonderful.”
The Madrids say that working with Disney has been a dream.
“We’ve been dancing for so long and choreographing. The one thing we’re so passionate about is story, and just the marriage of the project was just instantaneous as soon as we heard what the ideas were and, we’ve been trying to tell stories through dance our entire careers. We find that that’s where Disney’s power in animation or in storytelling is. Devloping the characters and finding out how they would move an all things were so important to us, where usually projects are like, OK, just choreograph to this set of music, and then give it to the artist and that’s it. But we usually don’t get to use the other half of what we love to do, which is tell stories.”
All in all, while the short may be about age on the surface, its much, much deeper than that.
“It’s kind of from multiple perspectives,” said Parrish. “From Art’s perspective and from Dot’s perspective in that there’s a physical Us Again, but there’s also an emotional Us Again in that their relationship is back by the end. They are back to being who they are emotionally by the end. They are Us Again at the end. It’s not about becoming young, but there’s that moment where you go ‘Oh, I guess this is about becoming young again.’ And it’s, like, no, it’s actually about emotionally being true to who you are and recognizing the world around you.”
Raya and the Last Dragon is in theaters March 5. After this, Us Again will be streaming on Disney+ later in June.