us again first look

It’s been five years since Walt Disney Animation last released an animated short to be paired with one of its feature films (that excruciatingly long Frozen short that wouldn’t end was from Pixar, not WDA). And it’s been even longer since Disney earned acclaim for one of its original shorts, like the exquisite Oscar-winning 2012 short Paperman, which screened in front of Wreck-It-Ralph.

And while not many people will likely be heading to theaters to catch Raya and the Last Dragon on the big screen due to the ongoing pandemic, Disney is bringing back the experience of seeing a lovingly animated short in front of a film with Us Again, an ode to dance and aging, which will screen in front of Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters this March and come to Disney+ a few months after that. See the Us Again first look below.

Us Again First Look

Raya and the Last Dragon has got itself a pretty good dance partner for when it opens in theaters this March for its day-and-date release in theaters and through Premier Access on Disney+. Walt Disney Animation will debut the animated short Us Again in theaters in front of Raya and the Last Dragon, followed by a Disney+ debut in June. The animated short, which you can see the first image from above, is written and directed by Big Hero 6’s head of animation, Zach Parrish, and tells the story of an elderly couple who rediscover their love for life through dance. Here’s the synopsis for the short, via Disney:

Set in a vibrant city pulsating with rhythm and movement, an elderly man and his young-at-heart wife rekindle their youthful passion for life and each other on one magical night. The years fade away as the joy of dancing propels them across the exciting cityscape of their youth and revives fond memories and ambitions.

Us Again will be told entirely without dialogue, and is set to an “original funk and soul musical score reminiscent of the mid-60s” composed by Captain Marvel‘s Pinar Toprak. Parrish also collaborated with dancers Keone and Mari Madrid, a real-life married couple who have performed with artists like Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish, whom Parrish had seen in a viral video of Keone and Mari dancing as an older couple. The pair helped craft a dance sequence that would convey Parrish’s complicated feelings about the physical limitations of aging.

“Working with Keone and Mari was the key to making this film work,” Parrish said in a statement. “From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted this film to be music driven. And I felt that dance is a universal language that can translate into any culture. I loved that their dance style felt like it was made for animation, and that there was this genuine, honest and organic connection between them because they were actually a married couple in real life. The story itself was inspired by my own grandparents, who faced getting older in different ways, along with my own physical limitations in playing sports resulting from getting older and injuries. I started thinking about how someone might look at the world differently as things change and they grow older.”

The short runs roughly six minutes, and looks to be a return to form for Disney-related animated shorts, which had begun to feel like glorified marketing ploys for hit franchises like Frozen. The image shows a beautiful neon-lit city in the rain, the joy clear on the dancers’ faces as their older selves are reflected on the watery streets. It looks absolutely lovely, and will hopefully herald the return of Disney theatrical shorts (once theaters are back and running), which Disney Animation chief creative officer Jennifer Lee stressed will be a priority. “One of my priorities has been to bring back theatrical animated shorts and to give artists at our Studio an opportunity to explore new ideas,” Lee said.

Lee executive produces Us Again, which is also produced by Brad Simonsen (Big Hero 6, ZootopiaRalph Breaks the Internet).

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