I’ve mentioned before that I love the Pixar shorts so I’ve decided that I’m going to try and do one a week until I run out. This week I’m going to do another favourite – Presto.
Doug Sweetland’s Presto proceeded the 2008 Pixar film, Wall-E, and features an adorable rabbit (which Wikipedia tells me is called Alec Azam) and his magician (Presto). It starts with a caged hungry rabbit trying to grab a carrot that is just out of his reach. His master returns from dinner and starts prepping for his act, revealing how the classic rabbit-out-of-hat trick works – there are actually two hats connected by some sort of portal and the rabbit sits under one to be pulled out of the other. Presto goes to feed Alec the carrot but then realises he’s late for the show. He rushes off without feeding the rabbit and so Alec sets out for revenge. Using the dual hat mechanism to his advantage, the rabbit punishes his master in many ways. Presto the magician suffers electrocution, fingers in a mousetrap, losing his trousers, and many other painful embarrassments before storming after the rabbit and nearly getting crushed by the backdrop. Alec uses the hat trick to save him, to great audience applause, and finally gets his dinner.
Like Piper, Presto uses little to no dialogue to get its message across, proving that a script doesn’t need speech to be effective. Everything is action and audio. The style is very different, however, as it is definitely one of Pixar’s more cartoon-y shorts compared to Piper’s hyper-realism. This fits the comical action and also allows for far more character expression (and adorable-ness).
The structure of Presto plays like a joke, with punchline after punchline until one final laugh. There’s the set-up of the rabbit not getting his carrot and then the slapstick comedy of him punishing his master. It is one of the shorter Pixar shorts but I think that is its strength. If it had been any longer, the audience would either have lost interest or stopped being surprised at the lengths the rabbit goes to. It lasts just long enough to get maximum laughs.
Alec Azam and Presto are a perfect, well-characterised duo. I love rabbits, especially when they are a little bit psycho. Alec fits that bill – he is super cute but also full of wrath. His owner Presto is a little snooty (and clearly doesn’t understand his pet very well) but seems to mean well. In some ways, the short is a lot like Tom and Jerry. There is no real villain but there are two clearly defined sides. A small issue causes the action and it becomes a battle between two strong personalities. You, the audience, understand the simple solution for the problems but the characters can’t communicate with one another well enough to achieve it. One of the biggest joys in Presto is that you wonder how far it can go and how it will be resolved.
Presto is another short that shows Pixar at its best – simple storytelling with expressive characters and style.