Pixar Short Review – Partly Cloudy (2009)

Partly Cloudy

It’s a Wednesday so of course I’m doing another short film. This time, I’ve done things a bit differently – though it is apparently associated with Up! (2009), this isn’t one I remember watching before. I stumbled upon Peter Sohn’s Partly Cloudy while writing last week’s review and fell in love.

Storks deliver babies left, right, and centre – puppies, kittens, duckies, you know the drill. The storks collect these from clouds who will personalise things, giving them things like bones and football helmets, and then the storks fly away to deliver them. One cloud, Gus, sitting lower and greyer than the others, doesn’t give his poor, bedraggled stork friend, Peck, the same little creatures his companions do. Instead he provides him with cute little parcels of viciousness – a wide-eyed crocodile that bites Peck’s head, a teeny ram that butts him in his non-existent balls, and a very prickly porcupine with the expected consequences. Gus notices the difference between what he makes and what the others do but can’t bring himself to change. When Peck returns from one hard delivery only to be presented with (what looks like) a shark, he flaps off to another cloud. Gus tries to be angry, storming a bit, but then dissolves into rainy tears. Peck then returns with a football helmet and gear on, ready for his next delivery. Both are overjoyed and Gus gives him the baby – though it’s actually an electric eel rather than a shark.

The animation style of Partly Cloudy is quite interesting. The actual characters are very cartoon-y, and you can quite clearly see the Dumbo influence, but the backgrounds look pretty realistic. I imagine that this was partly done because, as ever, the films display the on-going development of the studio’s animation techniques, but the cartoon-esque characters allowed for the expression required to tell the story. Pixar’s avoidance of dialogue means that they need to communicate in other ways, especially when it comes to the comedic elements, and this style allows for it better. I personally would prefer it to be one way or the other – I’m not a fan of hugely realistic contrasted with absolutely not – but this is a small niggle versus an adorable plot.

I love that this film shows something that I feel is important for writers to remember when creating a short film – though there should always be some character progression, it doesn’t need to be something earth shattering. The characters of the film don’t really change all that much from beginning to end. Instead, the plot is derived from a single conflict-causing moment (Peck flying to the other cloud) and works through that to bring the characters a new appreciation of one another. Their situation doesn’t change but the way the story is told makes you feel as if you’ve been on a journey with them.

Partly Cloudy‘s characters are what really makes it work for me. Gus, the rain cloud, reminds me of Hagrid from Harry Potter. He’s soft, cuddly, and loves his vicious creatures. I do wonder about the implications of him being lower/greyer than the other clouds. Obviously, it’s a great device for automatically setting him apart, but I do wonder if it’s more than that. Is he like Hagrid in that his love of these creatures comes from his own differences? Or is it just that certain cloud types produce different animals and crocodiles just aren’t prevalent in that area? Or did he used to be like the other clouds but did he, because of his tendencies, lose his storks over time and then start to get sad? The one question I can answer is yes, I have gotten too emotionally involved in this cloud’s story.

Peck is also adorable. Long-suffering but loyal, at first it seemed like he took the bite-y babies out of some sort of dedication to his work or loyalty to Gus and I kind of wondered whether we were going to see him leave. It made sense to me that, if it was Peck’s story, he would have to leave to be happy/safe. By the end though, it becomes clear that Peck loves Gus and seems to love the vicious little ones as well. He coos over the electric eel and then hugs it as it electrocutes him (sadly his new helmet and gear don’t protect him from shocks). I nearly died from the cute.

Partly Cloudy has strong characters that make you care. Nothing really happens in the film and yet it’s not really as simple as some of the other Pixar shorts. It’s different but really rather enjoyable. And if they ever sold a soft toy of that ram, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

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