John Lasseter

The Radiator Springs 500½ (2014, Rob Gibbs and Scott Morse)

There's some charm to The Radiator Springs 500½, but nowhere near enough. There are hints of good ideas–like a Western showdown motif at the beginning–and some of the failed gags should have worked–a car who comes along to do the cymbals after a pun. Oh, right, it's a Cars spin-off cartoon short. Forget to mention that part.

Anyway, there's nothing cohesive about it. Half the short is the good car (voiced by Owen Wilson, who must have been busy because he has almost no lines) racing against these bad cars who have no respect for the town. Then the town cars are on this idyllic anniversary drive.

There's an effective junk yard sequence towards the end, but otherwise it's tepid and without any excitement. Springs's greatest stylistic influence appears to be video game cut scenes. Whoop-de-doo.

It might get points for being harmless, but why give points for being harmless?

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Rob Gibbs and Scott Morse; written by John Lasseter, Jeremy Lasky and Gibbs; edited by Torbin Xan Bullock; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, Anthony Christov; produced by Mary Alice Drumm; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen), Larry the Cable Guy (Mater), Steve Purcell (Sandy Dunes), John Cygan (Idle Threat), Jess Harnell (Blue Grit), Bonnie Hunt (Sally Carrera), Cheech Marin (Ramone) and Danny Mann (Shifty Sidewinder).

Red’s Dream (1987, John Lasseter)

Red’s Dream sure is depressing. It’s wonderfully depressing, actually, since the second act is so profoundly upsetting one almost hopes for the happy ending.

The short is only four minutes, so I think the first act basically consists of the tracking shot through the bike shop. The titular Red is a unicycle, on sale among the better regular bikes. I mean, what can a unicycle even do?

Clowns like unicycles. Maybe a clown will show up.

And then we get to the dream. Where Lasseter makes his coolest move is when the short goes from being about a clown’s unicycle to the unicycle itself. There’s some beautiful, silent anthropomorphism going on. Lasseter actually makes the unicycle far more accessible by giving it a duck’s beak and head tilt.

The short is very assured, very confident. When Lasseter gets to the coda, it’s devastating.

Lovely score from David Slusser as well.

3/3Highly Recommended


Written and directed by John Lasseter; music by David Slusser.

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