Love Thy Neighbor

Currently in theaters everywhere, you can go see a great Pixar film and even stick around for a fairly good one too.  Pixar’s short animated films have been an entertaining throwback to the earlier days of cinema when a cartoon and a newsreel often preceded even live-action dramas, not just other animated features.  Until now, Pixar’s cinematic lagniappe has rarely surpassed the feature films that succeeded them.  With Day & Night, we have a short film that is more visually and thematically complex than its feature-length accompaniment, Toy Story 3.  Check out my review after the jump and a brief behind-the-scenes video on the making of the short film.

Day and Night opens in 2D fashion, on a sleeping figure.  As he wakes, we realize that his body is a window into mundane daily activities.  Though he is a 2D figure, the scenes in his body are animated in the computer-generated 3D style to which we have become accustomed in Pixar’s films.  As he wanders across the screen, we realize that this character is Day and that all the daytime sounds and scenes within his body mirror his movements and illustrate his thoughts.  Soon, Day stumbles over another sleeping figure that looks similar to him.  As he wakes this figure, we quickly see that it is Night and all the 3D images in his body are nighttime sights and sounds that contrast the images in Day’s body.  As they move about the screen, they exhibit a bit of distrust in each other and engage in one-upmanship…anything Day can do, Night can do better.  However, they also quickly become jealous of some of the images that each contain (Night would like to “embody” a pretty woman sun bathing on the beach; Day envies Night’s fireflies).  However, as they grow more comfortable with each other, they begin to simply enjoy the beauty that each has to offer, and, as they move to uncover a scene of Las Vegas, they realize how much fun they can have together.  They go crazy dancing in front of Vegas as the city rocks, literally, both Night and Day.  Yet their true beauty emerges when they embrace each other:  Day’s sunset and Night’s sunrise combine to create incomparably beautiful scenery.  As they let go of one another, they realize that they have traded identities:  Day has become Night and Night has become Day.

Day & Night is simultaneously about self-discovery and appreciation of the other.  In fact it suggests that we can only fully love ourselves in the embrace of that other.  The creative team commented on the characters, “[…As] they discover each other’s unique qualities–and come to realize that each of them offers a different window onto the same world–the friendship helps both to gain a new perspective.”  As the two characters work their way towards one another, they reveal scenes of a small radio station/tower in a desert broadcasting an old recording of a motivational speech by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  The speech talks about overcoming the fear of and embracing the other.  Day & Night, on a fundamental level, reveals that the world…the human experience…is an interaction with the other…that we are all ultimately other.  While we are all beautiful in and of ourselves, when we embrace one another, a deeper truth/beauty about ourselves emerges.

This, in a way, is a vision of Jesus’ second greatest commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is indeed a tall order and something that precious few of us humans are ever truly skilled at doing.  Each character in this short film is proud of what they can reveal in themselves…they clearly love what they have to offer.  Yet as they interact with one another, they begin to fall in love with the visions that the other can embody.  Night’s fascination with Day’s rainbow sets off a series of fireworks.  The creative team added, “Day and Night find that they are more alike than different–both are fearful and jealous, but ultimately proud to share the best of themselves and as they discover, better together than apart.”

This short film is an absolute delight and well worth the price of admission, whether you see it in 3D or not.  Teddy Newton, who also worked on the fantastic 2D animated film, The Iron Giant (1999), directed Day & Night and is regarded as one of the leading voices in the animation industry.  Check out the behind-the-scenes video for more on his experiences of making Day & Night.