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Pixar’s Smash and Grab Is a Loving, Wordless Ode to Workplace Friendship

Two robots break the rules in this Pixar SparkShort.

Smash and Grab, the second short to come out of Pixar’s SparkShorts program, is a wordless tale about best friends who happen to be robots. Set in a distant futuristic land, our two robots, Smash and Grab, serve two singular and complementary jobs. Smash chisels and hammers away chunks of glowing rocks and passes them off to Grab, who uses their hands to toss the rocks into a furnace engine. Day in and day out, these two robots toil alongside each other, breaking only to play catch with the rocks.

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They try to high-five, but are kept apart by their tethers, long cables plugging them into a power source. But when Smash catches a glimpse of the outside world, where robots are free, they devise a breakout plan and bring Grab along with them to search for a better life. The only thing standing in their way? An army of advanced, flying robots set to send Smash and Grab into obsolescence.

The short is written and directed by David Larsen, a story supervisor at Pixar, whose job it is to translate scripts into images and storyboards. What’s so interesting about the SparkShorts program is that it gives Pixar employees a chance to create their own original work and pursue stories they are passionate about.

Larsen said, “The genesis came out of this idea that somebody who has a restrained life, who wanted a free life. There’s an interesting idea that a robot that is designed for one job does not want to do that job anymore, that wants a better life.”

Pixar has tread similar ground with 2008’s WALL-E, a lonesome tale about the last robot on Earth who falls in love with a high-tech scout drone. Both films rely on almost no dialogue between the robots but manage to articulate complex and moving emotions through beautiful animation. Smash and Grab says so much with only aperture-like eyes and body language, a simple yet powerful tool for storytelling.

Smash and Grab, like its predecessor Purl, takes a simple idea and expands it with delightful and entertaining results. It makes us root for two wordless robots and care for them over the course of an 8-minute runtime. That’s animation at its finest. We’re excited to see what comes next from Pixar and the SparkShorts program.

(via Laughing Squid, image: screencap)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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