Synopsis: Dignity. Poise. Mystery. We expect nothing less from the great, turn-of-the-century magician, Presto. But, when Presto forgets to feed his rabbit one too many times, well, there's really no telling what to expect! Follow the escalating high jinx of the amazing Presto, his rabbit Alec, and what happens onstage when a star magician's ego provokes some clever revenge from his neglected costar.
Director(s): Doug Sweetland
Production: Pixar Animation Studios
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination.
5 min

Hi, my name is Doug Sweetland,

and I'm the director of Presto.

I'd like to take this opportunity

to just point out

all the brilliant contributions

of everyone who worked on this short,

but, unfortunately, that would take

the length of a feature,

so I salute you, Presto crew.

Presto crew forever.

And, instead, we'll discuss

some of the underlying ideas

that are at the heart of Presto,

things that we were thinking about

while we were making this short.

Starting out, it's clearly sort

of a classic cartoon throwback,

but with some key differences

that I think make it intrinsically Pixar.

First, the short takes place in real time,

which means that we can't really cross

dissolve from a gag to another,

or from one set piece to another,

as is often the case

in old classic cartoons.

Ours has to run in real time much more

like its own sort of sequence

in a feature or something.

Which makes it, then, a self-contained

story in five minutes,

and not a serial.

Lastly, it's entirely pantomimed,

meaning that even though

they have voices,

we can't use jazzy dialogue

to kind of push things along.

One idea we wanted to convey

early on is just that

Presto is... Well, he's clearly a cad.

And that even though he has

these powerful magical hats,

he doesn't really have

any magical powers himself.

And so, in a way, this whole act

is sort of his exploitation

of these hats and this rabbit,

rather than by his own merit.

In fact, a friend had pointed out

how limited his imagination is.

He has what might be

the most powerful device in the world,

this sort of teleportation device,

and he only uses it to stage

sort of a mediocre magic act.

Another important concept

from a character standpoint

was just making Alec

as sympathetic as possible.

So here we are in sort of the gag

onstage/offstage section of the short,

and just notice that Alec's brows

are incredibly sad.

He's doing some sadistic things

to Presto,

but we just felt for the humanity

of the short

that he's not, himself, a sadist,

he's actually incredibly apologetic

and wishes that it didn't have

to come to this,

but it just simply must come to this.

Really, that was, like, a tweak that

came sort of late in the process

and it came just right down

to changing his brows.

For the longest time,

they were sort of like angry brows.

And just lightening them up

and making him look sorry,

I think, adds to the sympathy and,

hopefully, to the humor of that stretch.

Another thing is just notice that

he doesn't really ever move

from that spot on the table

and that's another important thing.

You think classic cartoons,

everything's got to be completely zany.

But a lot of, hopefully, the humor

and certainly the strength of Alec

as a character

stems from the fact that he's able

to do all of these things

without actually even really

barely moving at all,

certainly not his...

If you're looking at his feet.

And so, I think an interesting

thing to point out,

Presto has to move

a tremendous amount.

He's running up and down the stage,

he's very physical.

He affects Alec not at all.

Alec, not moving, is able to then

affect Presto a tremendous amount.

Looking at the ladder gag,

this is just an interesting example

of the story process,

that gag was really controversial

just because its physics

aren't sort of obvious.

So we tried cutting it,

but, actually, it made its way back

in the reels

simply as a way of getting Presto back

to center stage

so he could smash the carrot.

That is interesting to me in that it didn't

make its way back in by its own merit,

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Doug Sweetland

Doug Sweetland is an American animator and film director.As a child, Sweetland drew cartoons for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts for several years. After graduating high school in 1992, he opted to attend California Institute of the Arts and pursue his lifelong love and passion for animation. In 1994, he decided to leave school in his final year to join Pixar. His first assignment was as an animator on Toy Story. He continued as animator on A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. He was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Character Animation for the film. Sweetland continued to build an incredible reputation as one of the best animators in the business. He was awarded back-to-back Annie Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Character Animation for Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. He took on the lead animator role for Bud Luckey's Oscar-nominated Boundin' and worked as an animator and storyboard artist on the Oscar-winning The Incredibles. Sweetland followed this up by stepping into the supervising animator role on John Lasseter's Cars. In 2007, Sweetland pitched a short film about a sympathetic magician who gets "dumped" by his rabbit. This eventually evolved to a more slapstick film (and a throwback to Warner Bros. classic Looney Tunes). Teddy Newton was brought on board to design the characters; it emerged as Sweetland's directorial debut. Presto was very well received by audiences and critics alike when it preceded WALL-E in theaters. It was honored in 2008 with an Academy Award nomination in the Best Animated Short Film category. It was included in the Animation Show of Shows in 2008. On September 24, 2010, it was reported that Sweetland had been hired by Sony Pictures Animation to direct a computer-animated film adaptation of The Familiars novel series; that project has been cancelled. In January 2013, it was reported that Warner Bros. was developing the computer-animated feature film Storks under their newly created Warner Animation Group banner, conceived and written by Nicholas Stoller, with Sweetland set to direct. In April 2015, Warner Bros. announced that the film, which Sweetland co-directed with Stoller, would be released on September 23, 2016. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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"Presto" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 19 Sep. 2020. <>.

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