Pixar Spark Shorts – “Smash and Grab” Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were on Disney+

Everyone had their own reasons for getting excited about the arrival of Disney+.

The old favorites released from the mysterious “vault” such as classic Princess movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Fan-favorite Disney Channel shows That’s So Raven, Lizzie McGuire, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Can I admit that I watched all of the seasons of The Suite Life On Deck without seeing The Suite Life first?

New favorites such as the over-the-top successful AladdinI can confirm that the movie is at least as good the 6-7th time you see it as it the first time.

And then the pièce de ré·sis·tance, the first original live-action Star Wars series The MandalorianA show that has exceeded our expectations and is worth every bit of hype it was given.

There are a few gems on Disney+ that I wanted to spotlight for those looking for something that they may not have heard of before, but would definitely enjoy.

Spark Shorts: Smash and Grab

spark shorts

If you have not checked out Pixar’s section of Spark Shorts, you must do so immediately. Pixar more than any other studio has taught us that compelling stories with deep messages can be told in less than 10 minutes but remain in our memories forever.

Smash and Grab : After years of toiling away inside the engine room of a towering locomotive, two antiquated robots will risk everything for freedom and for each other.

smash and grab

This short is one of the best shorts I have ever seen in my life.

In less than 10 minutes we are introduced to a beautiful and complex dystopian robot society where some robots live in freedom and luxury while others are enslaved.

A deep connection of love and brotherhood is made apparent between our two main characters. They have been enslaved together, and they will be free together, or they will die trying.

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The personalities of these robots are communicated through simple eye-shape changes, robot sounds, gestures, and movement. You understand who these characters are, what motivates them, and what they mean to each other without a single word being spoken.

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You fall in love so fast with these characters that you immediately feel the fear when they are put into peril by their decision to reach for freedom. The fear they feel for each other is worse than the fear they have for themselves.

Y’all, there have been dozens of movies that cost millions of dollars who couldn’t accomplish in 2+ hours what this one short is able to accomplish in 7 minutes.

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An entire world/society is clearly communicated, injustice is seen for what it is and a decision is made to do something about it. Two distinct personalities are established as well as their connection and meaning to each other. These characters step out of their comfort zone and all that they have known to reach for something better, no matter the cost. They have a complete and full character arc in 7 minutes time.

And all of this is communicated without a single word being spoken. The world, a problem, main characters, decisions, a battle, sacrifice, love, endurance, and the ending?

I’ll let you watch the short to find out what happens. It’s glorious.

Plus, just check out how gorgeous this world is. The colors, the textures, the lighting! The artistry is purely stunning and takes its place on the stage of excellence right alongside the storytelling and music.

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s & g concept art

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Everyone involved in creating this short should be dang proud of themselves.

Check it out today on Disney+, Smash and Grab! 

 

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

Fatherhood is such an important topic in today’s culture.

It always has been. Thousands of children grow up every year without fathers, absent or neglectful fathers, and even abusive ones. Every single one of us has a need for a dad literally built into the way we develop and function.

When someone is faced with a lack of a good father it definitely creates many extra layers of struggle.

There are thousands of incredible single moms out there who are doing both the job of dad and mom, they deserve all the praise and recognition they can get, and I look forward to writing a series celebrating mothers as well.

We are also blessed with some pretty amazing kick-butt dads who remind us those good men do exist and we should be celebrating the guys who are giving it their all to be good dads.

Whenever I see an example of a great dad on screen I sit up straighter and take notice. I want to highlight a few of the best I have seen on the big and small screen.

The Mandalorian

the mando single dad

Disney+’s The Mandalorian was already on track to become a success before the world ever knew that Baby Yoda existed.

Jon Favreau made a brilliant move when he chose to add a baby and an adoptive relationship to this series.

At first glance, it merely looked like a shiny shoot-em-up about a Mandalorian warrior. Cool, but not exactly deep.

What began as really cool became unbelievable overnight!

Baby Yoda has become the heart of the series, and his introduction turned the Mandalorian into a character with a full range of emotions and deeply personal motivations that we can all connect with.

baby yoda

What Makes the Mando a Great Dad?

The biggest thing of all…sacrifice.

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He lost his complete freedom to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wished.

He lost his career and Guild membership.

He became enemies with multiple dangerous groups of people.

He has committed to an entire life on the run. As was evidenced by Chapter 4, stopping and settling down with a family doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Mando or his new son.

He has no idea what the lifespan of this child is or how long Baby will need him. 50 years old…still a baby who toddles and cannot yet speak. That’s some serious commitment.

He takes on a responsibility to care for someone that could well cost him his life.

Parents sacrifice for their children in countless ways every single day.

To be a parent is to lay your life down daily for someone else who is smaller and more vulnerable, who may not ever be able to repay you.

It’s a selfless, sacrificial kind of love.

It’s a 24/7 job that never lets up, especially if you are a single parent and, oh yeah, people are trying to kill you AND your kid!

The Mando has shown this kind of selfless love for a child who isn’t even his own blood. Not even his own species!

The Mandalorian is giving a beautiful place of honor to adoptive/foster relationships, fatherhood, and single parenting. And it’s stinkin’ awesome.

mando holding baby yoda cool

Mando on his own is really just another warrior with a bag of skills and shiny armor.

Mando as a father putting himself on the line for a tiny little Person?

That’s about as macho and cool as it gets!

Fatherhood is one of the most masculine and awesome things in this world, and I could not be more pleased that Mr. Favreau chose to make the theme of fatherhood the beating heart of a show that is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen on screen.

For all of the horror, violence, and evil that is created and consumed by millions of people, it’s really nice to enjoy a show that gives honor to that which is truly honorable.

Here’s a shout-out to all of the awesome dads, step-dads, foster dads, adoptive dads, single-dads, grandpas, surrogate dads, teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, big brothers, uncles, friends, and guys who are stepping up to the plate and raising the precious people that are our future. You guys are MVPs and we love you.

And I’d say you are in good company…

mando and yoda

Star Wars Resistance: 10 Reasons Every Star Wars Fan Needs To See It

Placed in a very new era of Star Wars, Star Wars Resistance is the third animated series to tell untold stories of our favorite galaxy far, far away.

Reason 1: Dave Filoni Is A Jedi Master At Storytelling

Dave Filoni has earned my trust as a storyteller. He never ceases to intrigue me, surprise me, and leave me feeling as though I have been fed a rich and fantastic meal, even though the “cuisine” varies for every show.

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The Clone Wars was heavy with layers, awesome in the moment but also bearing the weight of the impending collapse of the Jedi Order/Republic and the rise of the Empire. We feel the clock ticking down in every episode as heroes and villains battle for dominance in the dying sun of an era.

The Clone Wars gave the Prequels a greater sense of purpose and meaning, and it taught us that even the battles that are lost in the moment still matter and pave the way for future victories.

rebels

Star Wars Rebels (my personal favorite) carried on the tradition with a much simpler approach to the story. We had a smaller cast of characters but got to go far deeper into the intimate familial relationships they created. The character development was gorgeous.

Threads that had begun in the Clone War era were woven into this raw and gritty Rebel world with the deft hand of a master weaver. Season 4 of Rebels contained some of the most breathtaking Star Wars storytelling and lore I have ever seen in my life.

Hope is the key theme of this series and it was fully respected. I ended the show in tearful wonder.

Each of these stories has the potential to merely be a copy of its predecessor show(s), and certainly mirroring scenes, as well as crossover storylines/characters, are used to each story’s advantage.

But Dave always makes something entirely new while maintaining the same heart in all of his work. It’s a delight to see each new thing created by this man because he has a gift.

Reason 2: Star Wars Resistance Will Only Have 2 Seasons

I do really enjoy this show, so I am sure that when the final credits roll I will feel some sadness about it ending. However, only 2 seasons means that they have a plan and they know where they are going to wrap up the story beautifully. 

I will take 2 well-written, well-crafted seasons over Season after Season that gets watered down and wanders as the writers drift into apathy and unnecessary, trumped-up romantic drama. Or aliens.

Then again, this is Star Wars, so aliens wouldn’t really stand out that much.

Reason 3: The Timeline Is Current To Our Sequel Trilogy.

Season 1 begins 6 months before the events of The Force Awakens and ends on a cliffhanger during the events at the end of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

It’s so neat to be experiencing a show that is in “real-time” with the movies we are currently enjoying. Filoni has connected the show with the movie story so perfectly.

You know what happens in The Force Awakens, this is the story leading up to that story. We get a delightful peek into the build-up and behind-the-scenes of The First Order, The Resistance, and some of the chief characters who are at the center of these dramatic events.

kazua and the resistance

The new season will serve as a bridge story that takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.  “The final season of Resistance takes place during The Last Jedi and leading up to the events of The Rise of Skywalker,” a Disney rep said. “With the movie coming up in December, this was a natural place to end the show with an epic finale.”

Reason 4: Kazuda Xiono Is Truly the Most Unlikely Hero For the Main Character

Our previous show MC’s were both Jedi proteges, Ahsoka Tano, and Ezra Bridger. Both of those characters were very intuitive, had street smarts and raw skills that gave them a leg up on their journey to becoming some of the most powerful characters we’ve ever met.

The movie MC’s have also been “Chosen One” levels of awesome.

And Kazuda? Well…he’s a…” good person”.

kazuda closeup

This kid could choke on the air without breaking a sweat. He essentially does half of the time. You’d think that would be annoying but in actuality…

He’s kind of crazy adorable.

Kazuda Xiono is the son of a wealthy senator in the New Republic on Hosnian Prime. He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and was trained by the best in the New Republic Navy.

He is an incredibly skilled pilot, but he didn’t gain any real-life skills until a mission to deliver a message to the Resistance put him in the direct path of none other than Poe Dameron.

poe and kazuda

Poe sees something in Kaz, a spark of potential that he is willing to blow into a flame.

Kaz leaves everything he knows overnight to be stationed on a remote oil platform and spy on behalf of the Resistance, gaining intel about the platform and potential First Order involvement.

And he’s terrible at it…for a while.

kazuda awkward

This kid has no practical skills, no idea what anything costs or is worth, and is about as low-key as a town parade. Why on earth did Poe choose him to be a spy?

The greatest gift of this show (and there are many) is watching Kaz grow and succeed against all odds, even against himself.

His determination to not let Poe down, as well as his genuine love and concern for the people around him, transforms this awkward and messy kid into a brave leader. By the end of Season 1, we too see what Poe saw within Kaz.

kazuda getting serious

The New Era of Star Wars is all about the idea that anyone can make a difference, whether you are a stormtrooper, a scavenger, or a spoiled rich kid with a heart that’s often bigger than your brain. Resistance emphasizes this concept in a very visual way with the character of Kaz. It’s deeply encouraging.

Reason 5: Poe Dameron

Oscar Isaac is the most believable voice role I have ever heard in my life. If you have not gotten enough of a Poe Dameron fix from the movies then watch this show!

poe

Poe carries himself with the same lazy grace and daring decision making as he does in the movies. He’s 100% the Poe of the big screen, even down to his “selective hearing” when it comes to General Organa’s orders.

Oh yes, that makes for a purely delicious episode.

These flaws and tension in regards to his character add to the realism. To Kaz, he’s a hero and a mentor. But Poe still has room for growth, as we all do.

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Poe shows up quite a few times throughout this series, and some of my favorite episodes include the ones where he and Kaz go on “missions” together. They are the kinds of episodes that, while still moving the story forward, are made by a fan for the fans who want to have a good time.

And any moment when Poe is on screen he is giving you a good time.

poe on mission

The Poe and BB-8 love is as strong as ever, which leads me to my next Reason.

Reason 6: BB-8

To me, BB-8 is the best thing since sliced bread.

kaz and bb8

Every Star Wars story is marked by a remarkable droid. The Sequel Era is truly BB-8’s domain, and like every other droid in every other story, BB-8 essentially keeps everyone alive all the time.

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We get to see even more of his quick wits and antics, and as well as a hint of droid romance that just delighted my soul. How is it possible to love a little metal sphere this much?

bb8 and his girl

Reason 7: The World Is Fascinating

The Colossus is an oil platform in the Outer Rim. It’s a very self-contained and yet colorful world. This rig runs on an “everyone in their place” system that is both orderly and also confining to many of the characters.

the market resistance

The Colossus only works if everyone does their job, which makes for a sense of community that is hugely important for various parts of the show.

resistance oil platform

The most exciting aspect of this world is the regular sky races and the team of crack pilots known as “the aces”. They are the local celebrities as well as the protection force called upon when pirates attack. It’s a distinct culture where skilled pilots with good equipment sit at the top of the food chain.

oil platform

There are the local regulars who add flavor and spice to the story.

Still, the constant threat of pirates and the regular visits from First Order officers remind the characters that they are not as “remote” and “safe” as they would like to believe.

the parts store resistance.jpg

This world is distinctly Star Wars without having any visible connection to The Force, the planets/systems we are more familiar with, or any Force-sensitive characters.

It’s exotic, it’s full of unique species and people, it has its local heroes and villains. It has its “monsters”, local politics, and time-honored traditions.

The animation is b-r-e-a-t-h-t-a-k-i-n-g.

We’ve stopped off at places like this before in Star Wars stories, but never have we set up shop in one. The setting is a delightful treat.

the races resistance

Reason 8: The First Order Is An Unkown

As an audience, our first introduction to The First Order came through the eyes of characters who knew their threat well.

Finn fled its cruel tyranny. Poe was teething and fighting The First Order at the same time. Leia has been at war with these kinds of baddies her entire life, she was literally birthed at the beginning of the struggle. Rey was introduced to them via surprise air raid.

first order jerks

But the characters of Resistance? To them, The First Order is unknown.

Is it the oppressive Empire all over again? Is it a vague and irritating shadow? If we just mind our own business the First Order will surely mind theirs…right? What if they are actually here to help us?

It is a neat perspective to see how different characters view TFO and how the unfolding story affects them. Off-hand comments and lightly expressed perspectives suddenly gain intensity and weight as life gets more serious.

As the season builds towards the climax, the audience sees the stars aligning to the well-known events of The Force Awakens and the tragedies that are unsuspecting characters are in for. If only we could warn them.

It’s painful to see the places where ignorance and deception in regards to The First Order’s villainy lead characters into places of loss and heartache.

The First Order

Reason 9: Responsibility, Discovery, Redemption Tragedy, and Betrayal Take It To the Next Level

kazuda spy

Dave Filoni lulls us into a false sense of security with Resistance. He uses a much lighter touch with these characters as well as a more relaxed and goofy sense of humor. This is certainly the most “kid-friendly” series he’s made thus far.

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But do not let that light touch fool you, this show tells a compelling story that brings many characters on a journey with real themes. Some things will lift your spirits, other things will break your heart.

kaz and yeager

There is redemption. There is growth. There is deception. There is betrayal. There is loss. There is triumph.

It. Gets. Real.

hosnian prime gone

Reason 10: We Ended On A Cliffhanger Heading Into Uncharted Story Territory

For once we don’t know everything that’s going to happen next, just like our characters.

We know what more of what they are capable of and where they still need to grow. Our characters have surprised us and taken us on a journey.

But starting Season 2, we all know their biggest battles are yet to come.

It’s not the longest Star Wars ride we’ve ever been offered, but it’s a good one.

commander oil platform

There are still unanswered questions, looming threats, and broken hearts.

Star Wars of any era carries that golden quality that sets the really good stories apart from the mediocre ones.

It’s constantly showing us a reflection of our real world and our real stories.

This reflection just happens to take place in a galaxy far, far away.

the bowels of the oil platform

Star Wars Resistance returns on October 6, 2019, on Disney XD.