Supposed to accompany “Raya and the last dragon” in theaters, “We, always” followed him… on Disney +. Entirely musical and dancing, this enchanting short film is presented to us by its director, producer and choreographers.
Available on Disney + since Friday, June 4, Nous, toujours had to accompany Raya and the last dragon in French cinemas, for a pre-program full of color and music. The prolonged shutdown of cinemas decided otherwise, but the film still managed to find its way to our home. And fortunately.
Directed by Zach Parrish, head of animation on The New Heroes, the short film also benefited from the contribution of the choreographic couple Keone & Mari, and it immerses us in the streets of New York, alongside an elderly man and his wife who rekindle the passion of their youth for a night via dance.
As often, the studio offers us a little gem. Entirely musical and dancing here, with a particularly sustained sense of rhythm and a communicative joie de vivre, which will give more than one viewer the desire to wiggle around at home. A short film that sometimes recalls the segments of Fantasia, in its approach, and that its creators have revealed to us: the director Zach Parrish, the producer Bradford Simonsen and the choreographers Keone & Mari.
AlloCiné: What was the starting point of this short film?
Zach Parrish : We have presented four ideas for further development. But this came to me at a specific time in my life, when I was faced with the changes that come with getting older. I lamented as I watched my body grow old. I’m not very old though, but I was starting to realize these changes, and it brought me back to the conversations I had with my mom, when she told me about the great things she’s done in. growing.
It made me realize that I was wrong about my priorities. I was looking in the wrong direction, and by dint of being turned to the past, I risked missing the beauty of the present. I define myself as old while my mother considers herself young. And it was this idea of youth as a state of mind that triggered this mechanism and made me think that it would be fun to do a rejuvenation story.
A story that relies heavily on music. Can you tell us more about its design?
Bradford Simonsen : From the start of the process, Zach knew that the music had to be the basis of the film. The choreography and the music. Tom McDougall, who oversees the Music department at Disney Animation, hired Pinar Toprak, to whom we owe the Captain Marvel soundtrack. So she composed the music and what we didn’t know, even though we were aware of her talent, is that she loves funk. And from the start of the project, we were looking for that soul and funk vibe, old and new, so it was perfect.
The dance had to inspire history … and vice versa
And this music is accompanied by dance. Keone & Mari, when did you join the project? And what did the possibility of participating in a Disney short film mean to you?
Husband: It seems to me that it was in April 2019. And I remember it because I was then six months pregnant. (laughs) (baby cries are heard) And here is the baby! But this experience was a dream, and something surreal at the same time. We’ve been real Disney fans since we were kids, so I still have to pinch myself to realize this has happened.
Did you use silent films or choreographic work to tell this story devoid of dialogue?
Zach Parrish: We looked at all kinds of references. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to movies, and animation, so we kinda watched it all. Disney has a big history when it comes to using dance as a way to tell stories, and it dates back to the shorts with Mickey Mouse. We even took part in an event where it was about eccentric dance, animation and how they come together.
I also obviously saw Fantasia again, because it’s amazing what they manage to say in these short films without dialogue, just guided by music and movement. And it was by focusing on this desire to tell a story through dance that I remembered this video of a couple that I had seen online. They were dancing like an old couple on “Is This Love?” by Bob Marley.
And that was perfect for me, who am familiar with pose-by-pose animation [qui consiste à dessiner les étapes clés d’un mouvement, comme le début, le milieu et la fin d’un saut, avant de revenir dessiner les images intermédiaires manquantes, ndlr]. And their dancing style had a very lively nature. They are also able to tell stories through the way they dance. Each dance obviously tells something, but there is a depth, an emotion in theirs. And the bond between the two of them is so visceral that they felt perfect for this movie.
Keone: We have been dancing and choreographing for a long time. And we are passionate about stories so we felt united in this project as soon as its ideas were presented to us. Because we have always tried to tell stories through our art. Disney’s great strength in animation is its storytelling, and we were able to participate thanks to our dancing style. Developing the characters and determining the way they move was very important to us where on other projects we are just asked to choreograph a number, give it to the artist and that’s it. And we never do the other half of what we love, which is telling stories.
How important were Keone & Mari’s choreographies to the writing process, as they represent both the heart and the language of the film?
Zach Parrish: (laughs) Yes, we had a chicken and egg problem on this short film. We had to have the music to influence the dance. But dance had to inspire history… and vice versa. Fortunately, Brad had the intelligence to turn to Keone & Mari very quickly. Because when we met them, we had barely started to work on the story.
We needed storyboards and we wanted to work with them from start to finish, if only to find out how far we could go and not go. Knowing that we were able to go pretty much everywhere because they are amazing. Especially when it comes to the characters and their understanding of the emotional level we were planning to go to and the story we wanted to tell.
The film can appeal to all age groups, beyond just being about people who love to dance.
Where did this idea of having to go through a downpour to enjoy life again come from?
Zach Parrish: I knew I wanted to do a fountain of youth story and was looking for an interesting way to develop it. And I admit I got a thing with the rain and the puddles (laughs) [son précédent court, disponible dans la collection Les Courts Métrages Disney sur la plateforme, s’appelle Flaques d’eau, ndlr] Us, always is maybe the continuation [de mon court précédent]. Or the prequel (laughs)
Growing up in the Midwest, the rain is a joy to me. When I was little I played in the rain and that’s where puddles formed. It’s a very childish activity for me, and it’s a little different for people here in Los Angeles. But it was such a joy for me before, that the rain seemed to me to be perfect to represent the fact of falling back into childhood, to ensure the transition of the characters. And I also liked this idea of this couple who reconnect with their passion for one night. They behave like children and are themselves again.
It is for this reason that the short film is called Us again [en version originale]. This refers to different points of view: that of Art, that of Dot but also a physical aspect. And emotional, because the spark of their relationship is back at the end. This is not a film about rejuvenating but about the moment when we say to ourselves “I have this feeling of reconnecting with my youth”. By being true to who you are and recognizing the world around you.
How did you design the characters? Both their appearance and their movements?
Zach Parrish: We knew from the start that we wanted to have an interracial couple. I’m part of an interracial couple myself, Brad too, and we wanted to portray one on screen. And many of the studio staff are focused on diversity and inclusiveness. It is with these artists that we started to bring this universe to life.
I wanted something both similar and different from the Disney style. Something that looks smaller, simpler in design, with less anatomy detail. Our artists have presented us with several versions, and the ones of Dot and Art that you see in the film are the combination of several of them. But the result encapsulates their origins and personalities very well.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this short film?
Zach Parrish: There is this idea that works for me and that we find in Flasks of water : taking the time to focus on what is important, what surrounds you and makes your life so beautiful. Many see it as a movie about accepting aging, and there is of course a bit of that. But it is less about age than not focusing on what blocks us at each stage of our life.
Do not focus on the past or on what can distract you from the beauty of the world around you. But also knowing how to appreciate the people who are with you and make your life more beautiful. This is particularly where the character of Dot is important, because she makes Art aware of it. It can speak to all age groups, beyond just being people who love to dance.
Keone: It may sound simplistic, but loving others and being there for them. It is something very powerful. As artists, we hope that we can bring joy and warmth to people, and inspire them in some way. We hope that’s what they get out of the short film. And that dance is represented there in an unprecedented way for the public.
Husband: I join Zach on realizing what’s important. Great art is something that is left with you after you see or experience it. He follows you home (laughs) He makes you see a truth, and I hope that is how people will feel. That they will think of things as simple as “I’m going to pet my dog for ten minutes, and just enjoy it.” Or whatever source of love is by your side.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on February 25, 2021