Disney Animation has released Us Again, the first new theatrical short since the 2016 release of Inner Workings which accompanied Moana on the big screen. The new short from director Zach Parrish brings together dance, music, and the emotional storytelling and inspired animation we’ve come to expect from Disney. Us Again is making its debut exclusively in theaters worldwide prior to showings of Raya and the Last Dragon and it will absolutely make you cry.
Us Again follows elderly man, Art, and his young-at-heart wife, Dot, who rekindle their passion for one another and life on one magical night in a vibrant city. The short film is told entirely without dialogue and set to a magnificent original 60s funk and musical score. I got to sit down with director Zach Parrish for an interview with CinemaBlend and he opened up about personal connections that make this stunning short so emotional.
It was coming from an emotional place for me just trying to figure out what my perspective on getting older was, and so it really was about that and then that sparked an idea of, ‘Oh, it would be cool to do a fountain of youth story’ and it kind of snowballs from there... You get to work with a whole team of people in development at Disney and so we really started from the characters first and really trying to dig into like why does Art feel this way? What exactly does Art feel and where do we want him to go? And the plot changed a lot, the specifics of where they went or what they did, those things we change and we iterate until we get it right. But the core emotion and the core message I think was consistent from the beginning as far as trying to create this story that really encourages people to stay present and to appreciate the world around them.
Us Again director Zach Parrish is an eleven-year veteran of Disney Animation who served as head of animation on Big Hero 6, so he is no stranger to making Disney magic and he succeeds with this short film as well. He even drew inspiration from his own grandparents, which is part of what makes the film so touching. Here’s what he shared:
My dad’s parents, named Art and Dot, they sold their house, bought an RV, traveled the United States, went to all the national parks and all of that, and then my other grandparents, they were more homebodies. My grandpa, especially, was much more sedentary and you really saw this contrast in how they viewed what old age meant. And so as I’m trying to think about myself and getting older, where I want to go and what I want my older age to be, I thought it’d be interesting to tell a story that kind of captured that dichotomy within one relationship because it felt like a good point of contrast and conflict to talk about but to also illustrate the importance of getting out, moving and enjoying life.
The animation is so beautiful and real that you forget you’re not looking into actual human faces. Music and movement are also used to convey emotion in this film, which was choreographed by award-winning World of Dance performers Keone and Mari and composed by Pinar Toprak (who worked on Captain Marvel). Every aspect of this film captures the fear of aging and the relief, excitement, and pure bliss felt in breaking free from that fear. Zach Parrish also said:
It’s such a western view on aging, this negative view on aging that I think we’re all programmed with to some degree, seeing these changes as negatives. It really was those conversations with my mom when she was still in her 60s and talking about when she grew up and just realizing that like, it’s a choice, I guess? To have that view, and to think of yourself as always old, when my life is days away from giving birth to our first kid and I still feel like a kid to some degree and that’s okay, too.
Viewing yourself as young or old truly is a choice, and that’s exactly what Us Again tells us in the most beautiful way. So I don’t expect you to cry in a sad way, but in a joyous, full of relief, this is so relatable and makes me so happy I can’t explain it kind of way. If you aren’t able to make it to a movie theater to see Us Again along with Raya and the Last Dragon, fear not. Us Again is scheduled to make its streaming debut in June on Disney+.