Pixar shorts inspire imagination. They win awards. They deliver the goods. We’ve watched and compiled the best 21 Pixar short films right here, from the first Pixar movie to the most recent. They’re sure to entertain, trigger creativity, and — for filmmakers — spark short film ideas of your own. Storytellers, take heed: there’s a lot to learn on this list of animated short films.
We’ve numbered this list of animated short films to keep them organized, but they’re not ranked, since they’re all dynamite. We present the definitive Pixar short films list. Be sure to check out our bonus home video Pixar short standouts at the end of the list.
SHORT ANIMATION MASTERPIECE
One of the most beautiful and creative animated short films made by Pixar, or made by anyone. Sanjay’s Super Team affirms the idea of art and entertainment as cultural ambassador.
Based on a true story from director Sanjay Patel’s childhood, the story is deceptively simple. It rings true for any family living in our fast-changing world.
Little Sanjay is more interested in action figures and his favorite TV show than in religious tradition. But when he starts to daydream, Hindu gods become superheroes.
Released with feature The Good Dinosaur, the film was nominated for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
PIXAR SHORT FILMS KITSCH
2. Knick Knack
John Lasseter, creator of this short film and many others, pays homage to Chuck Jones cartoons of a bygone era with this heartfelt comedic tale.
A snowman trapped in a snow globe yearns to dive into a souvenir Miami ashtray, where a sunbather beckons him to join the party.
DISNEY SHORT FILMS
In this animated short film in the Monsters, Inc. universe, Mike and Sully visit their alma mater and their brothers in the Oozma Kappa Fraternity. And things quickly get out of control.
Released in 2014 with Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, Party Central features the voice talents of Hollywood heavy hitters Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
The Monsters, Inc. duo have become full-fledged cultural icons. You can see them now, any day of the week, at Disneyland and Disney World.
ANY LIST OF PIXAR SHORTS MUST INCLUDE ...
4. Tin Toy
Another Pixar Oscar winner, Tin Toy (1988) was directed by John Lasseter. It was produced when Pixar was suffering financial constraints. Former Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs agreed to bankroll the short film as a test of PhotoRealistic RenderMan software.
The challenge was to get baby Billy just right.
Tin Toy was another culturally significant offering from Pixar. It was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry in 2003.
And RenderMan is much more than the animation software on display in Tin Toy. He even has a bit role as a character in the film.
DISNEY PIXAR SHORT FILMS WITH FLAVOR
Bao is the first Pixar short film directed by a woman. It’s also one of the most loved by fans.
Bao presents the universal story of an empty nester longing for fulfillment. It is told from the point of view of a mother whose dumpling, or Bao, comes to life and becomes a son.
PIXAR SHORTS BRING ROMANCE
Leave it to Pixar to tell a love story … between two umbrellas. This short film from 2013 was released with the feature Monsters University.Pixar often uses animated short films to roll out new techniques. With The Blue Umbrella, Pixar struts its stuff with global illumination.
DID YOU KNOW?
Global illumination, abbreviated as GI, is an algorithm used in computer generated imagery that replicates the manner in which light is reflected off one surface onto another surface rather than just the indirect light that touches a surface from its source. Global illumination is used to make lighting seem more natural in three dimensional scenes.
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS FROM ON HIGH
Partly Cloudy is a 2009 Pixar short film that achieves the impossible.
Bringing clouds to life sounds easy, right?
Animating clouds, floating blobs of moisture and light, and making them sentient is actually a tall order. But Pixar does it masterfully in this adorable gem.
Director Peter Sohn took inspiration from the film Dumbo, which he loved as a child.
The story centers around storks and clouds working together to get babies to humans and other animals. A gray cloud is responsible for baby alligators and porcupines.
Partly Cloudy was released with the feature film Up, also known as the “Pixar old man” film.
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS THAT JAM
8. One Man Band
The creators employed a 38-piece orchestra, as well as several soloists to provide music.
Pixar shorts often go through a standard development process, but this short was developed from the start with music as its emphasis. There is no dialogue whatsoever.
PIXAR SHORT FILMS TAKE FLIGHT
One of the most charming short films, and another Oscar-winner for Pixar, For The Birds is almost deceptive in its simple storytelling. It was released in 2001 with the feature film Monsters, Inc.
Animating feathers with movement is difficult, and this film is technically flawless. For the Birds delivers a short morality lesson with hilarious consequences.
At just over three minutes in length, this film uses funny animated birds to explore heavy topics like bullying and inclusion.
Pixar did not develop new technology for the production of For the Birds. But it turns out the studio didn’t have to — the birds speak for themselves, and so does the work.
PIXAR OLD MAN FILMS
10. Geri’s Game
A two-million-dollar experimental short film, Geri’s Game is noteworthy in the list of Pixar shorts as the company’s triumphant return to animated short films.
After an eight-year short animation hiatus to focus on feature Toy Story, Geri’s Game is the first Pixar story to center on a human character.
The success of Geri as a beloved Pixar old man led years later to the creation of Carl Fredricksen, yet another Pixar old man, in Up.
A senior citizen in an empty park challenges himself to a game of chess. He acts out the role of his opposing player as he goes from one side of the chessboard to the other.
The film is light in tone, but with a feeling of loneliness and hope that gives it depth. The animation is stellar, the story succinct and emotional.
FIRST PIXAR MOVIEs
11. Luxo Jr.
What was the first Pixar movie nominated for the Oscar? Read on.
This is the first computer animated short film directed by John Lasseter after his exit from ILM. It was produced by Pixar 1986.
This short animation film has the distinction of introducing Pixar’s now infamous logo to the world. It’s also John Lasseter’s directorial debut.
Clocking a modest two minutes in length, Luxo Jr. gives a preview of Pixar’s affinity for humanizing inanimate objects. The technique continues in feature-length films like Cars.
It tells the story of an older lamp, Luxo Sr., watching a younger lamp, Luxo Jr., play with an inflated rubber ball.
It is two minutes well spent. It was the first computer-generated imagery film to be nominated for an Academy Award. It showcases an excellent use of shadow mapping.
In 2014, the short film was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation with the National Film Registry.
PIPIN’ HOT PIXAR SHORTS
He succeeds, with a musical score reminiscent of the ukulele version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.
The events of the film takes place over millions of years, but only take up seven minutes of screen time.
A lonely volcano, waiting to find love, goes extinct. He is brought back to life by the song of another volcano, who has fallen in love with him.
The animation is beautiful. The detail in the plumes of smoke during eruption is truly mesmerizing.
The short was released with the feature Inside Out in 2014.
FIRST PIXAR MOVIE WITH WORDS
Do yourself a favor. Watch this short with a child. You’ll laugh and tap your feet in unison.
Released in 2003 with the The Incredibles, this Disney Pixar short film deserves to be as much of a classic as the feature it opened.
Written, directed, narrated, and composed by animation godfather Bud Luckey, this short animation film is about a proud dancing sheep who loses confidence after getting sheared. A wise Jackalope helps bring back his mojo.
A rhyming musical in the same vein as a Western frontier Dr. Seuss, this is the perfect length and tone for viewers young and old. It’s also a lesson in whimsical voiceover narration.
This is chronologically the first in the list of Pixar shorts with words. Previous Pixar short films include music and sound, but no words.
And, yep, you guessed it! The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.
INTERGALACTIC PIXAR SHORT FILMS
A tongue-in-cheek look at alien abduction, Lifted is a beautifully realized short film.
Pixar short films come of age with this one. It is truly a sight to behold.
With a score by Michael Giacchino and a relatable premise of being evaluated by a superior while aiming to please, Lifted becomes fun, universal viewing for adults and children.
ANTI-BULLYING ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
The Oscar-nominated 2017 Pixar short Lou was released with the feature film Cars 3.
This story is about the beast that lurks within a lost-and-found box — a beast who takes it upon himself to reform a playground bully.
Lou is a morality tale with humor and heart. It is also a testament to Pixar’s upping the ante on diversity and inclusion. The child characters are all so human, so real, and so diverse.
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS ALL DAY EVERY DAY
16. Day & Night
The short film Day & Night was originally released in 2010 with Toy Story 3 and tiptoed into new technical territory for Pixar.
With a mix of traditional 2D and 3D animation, this Pixar short film uses the Tudor-era music of Greensleeves to score a collision between “Day” and “Night.”
The outlines of the characters are achieved using 2D animation. Within their bodies is Pixar 3D animation at its finest.
The piece won Best Short Film at the 38th Annie Awards, and, of course, was nominated for an Oscar.
LOONEY PIXAR SHORTS
One of Pixar’s most beloved creations, the Presto short film is as memorable as it is entertaining.
It appeared before the wildly successful Wall-E in the theaters in 2008.
It is the story of a increasingly desperate magician, and the rabbit who tries to best him.
Pixar shorts often elevate sight gags and slapstick humor familiar to viewers of Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny cartoons. Presto takes this influence to new and hilarious levels.
While there is no actual dialogue, there is significant voice acting in the form of sounds and character reactions.
One note: the film used the software MASSIVE to get a detailed crowd reaction. Animating the audience would have required a lot more time and money without relying upon the cutting-edge application.
what is MASSIVE?MASSIVE (Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment) is an artificial intelligence and computer animation software. It is used to create visual effects for crowd scenes.
The software’s primary feature is its ability to quickly create thousands of characters who can act individually. It was designed for director Peter Jackson for his Lord Of The Rings Trilogy to bring hundreds of thousands of soldiers to life.
PIXAR SHORT FILMS ON THE OPEN SEA
18. La Luna
La Luna is yet another one of the Pixar short films that reaches the peak of technical and storytelling achievement.
A stunningly beautiful story, La Luna follows three generations as they venture into the open sea to do their traditional work.
We won’t spoil the magical reveal when the audience discovers what the father-son-grandfather trio does for a living. But it’s worth watching.
This is a motivational short film, with excellent sound design and a charming premise.
Of course, this film was nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2012 Academy Awards. It draw inspiration from Le Petit Prince by Antoine De St. Exupery and the fantasy short stories of author Italo Calvino. It also evokes the anime style of Hayao Miyazaki.
PIPER PIXAR SHORT FILM
This gem of a short film won the Best Short Film Academy Award for 2016. This marked the first short film Oscar for Pixar since For the Birds won the category in 2002.
Released in 2016 with animated blockbuster Finding Dory, the story of a sandpiper’s search for food is a delightful, nearly photorealistic animated short film that is beautifully realized.
PIXAR SHORTS WITH FEELING
20. Red’s Dream
Are you in the midst of a career crisis? Wishing for more out of life? Or maybe you’re looking to create a short film that mixes melancholia, whimsy, and fun — and still sticks the landing with a three-and-a-half-minute runtime.
If any of these sound like you, or if you’re looking for a quick animation fix, then the 1987 Pixar short film Red’s Dream fits the bill.
This is one of the many Pixar shorts YouTube offers. The dialogue-free story follows a discount unicycle who dreams of being a circus star.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIXAR MOVIE?
This 1984 Pixar short film was technically made by The Graphics Group, the division of Lucasfilm that would spin off into its own company, Pixar, in 1986.
It’s widely considered one of the first Pixar shorts, if not the first Pixar movie. It’s even included in the Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 home video compilation.
HOME ENTERTAINMENT PIXAR SHORTS
22. Mike’s New Car
Sully and Mike from Monsters, Inc. headline this comedy short film released in 2002 from Pixar. It was also nominated for the Best Animated Short Oscar in 2002.
Technically a home video offering rather than a theatrical short, this title was included with the Monsters, Inc. home video release.
The film is expertly crafted, with a light story.
The familiar characters of Mike and Sully take Mike’s new car for a spin or vice versa.
TOY STORY PIXAR SHORT FILMS
Any short film that brings us the joy and wonder of Toy Story should be included here. Hawaiian Vacation has all our favorite characters in a snappy little tale. It’s like seeing old friends.
This film in the Toy Story world is another that caters to adults and children alike in it’s humor. It kicks off the arcing storyline in the Toy Story Tunes short film series.
HOME VIDEO PIXAR SHORTS
Selling anyone on the virtues of the rattus rattus is no easy feat. But by the end of this short film, which accompanied the feature Ratatouille on home video, you will respect and maybe even love the species.
Who knew that learning the historical path of a rodent could be so entertaining? The film mixes live action, traditional 2D animation, stop motion, and 3D animation. It also includes a delightfully retro score.
With an amazing musical sequence and a cameo by a pre-release Wall-E that will make you sit up and pay attention. With an eleven minute running time, this is Pixar’s longest short film to date.
And it’s refreshing to see Disney Pixar short films follow a rodent who’s not named Mickey for a change.
Find the Best Short Film Ideas
Now you know that Pixar shorts deliver the goods. You’re entertained. You’re inspired
It’s time to use what you’ve learned. Pixar raises the bar. You can, too.