Growing old gets old fast, as anyone past their mid-20s would know. The grass of adulthood isn’t as green as we all thought it would be as naive kids. There are lessons to learn, pressures to deal with, bills to pay, and norms to live up to. Growing old isn’t easy and Pixar’s latest short, Twenty Something, captures the pains of growing in the most meaningful way possible.
Directed by Soul artist Aphton Corbin, the short follows Gia’s first night out as a 21-year old. In true Pixar fashion, the night doesn’t quite go well for her as the crippling anxiety adulthood brings soon takes over. And in truer Pixar fashion, there’s a conceit within the short that elevates it to a whole new level; Gia is made up of three kids walking under a trench coat – 1-year old Gia, 10-year old Gia, and 16-year old Gia. In the press junket, Corbin elaborates:
I just love this idea of all these kids and what they’d look like stacked up in a trench coat. Trying to navigate through life. It felt like the perfect metaphor of trying to steer through life while hiding your insecurities.
Through the eyes of Gia’s past selves, Corbin puts the perils of adulthood in focus; an insurmountable hurdle we must all jump over. Part of being an adult means being in control of yourself, both physically and emotionally, which 1-year old Gia is unable to do. For 16-year old Gia, it’s that yearning for social acceptance but being ill-equipped to handle socializing. All of this is beautifully realized by Corbin and her team and its powerful messaging cuts through the whimsy of it all.
There’s even an added layer of complexity behind the cute representations of Gia as Corbin purposefully based them on psychoanalytic theory. In our interview with her, she said:
I kind of based it on the subconscious. The id, ego, and super-ego. I tried to break the character down in that way. 1-year old Gia is the id; what does it want? Eat, sleep, and drink. 16-year old Gia is the super-ego who is super insecure all the time. 10-year old Gia is the level-headed one, the most confident of them all. Those three felt right.
What makes Twenty Something stand out in an era of sleek, fancy, 3D Pixar shorts is that it’s in 2D. As I put it while speaking to Corbin, the short has a very nostalgic Saturday morning cartoon vibe to it, which only underlines the child-like yet complex messaging of it all. Corbin cited budget constraints as a driving reason but also referred to vintage cartoons as sources of inspiration.
It was really inspired by older vintage cartoons specifically in the 60s and 70s. We tried to get some of that charm and appeal into the design that we have there.
With a short as evergreen as Twenty Something, it didn’t come as a surprise to hear that the story was somewhat autobiographical for Corbin, who took the plunge of directing something for Pixar for the first time with the short. Like a true artist, Corbin took all her fears and worries over something as monumental as directing and turned it into a beautiful piece of art.
The whole thing is absolutely autobiographical. Gia was just me in my twenties, especially with the insecurity of directing for the first time. All those feelings came over me of like, “Oh my god. I can’t do this. This isn’t going to be a good movie.” And so it was fun to take those insecurities and put them into a film. It was very fun to put parts of me into that one character. I’ve never had anything quite as embarrassing as what Gia does in her first night out though [laughs].
Twenty Something is out this Friday on Disney+ which I highly recommend you guys check out. It’s a beautiful short with a heartfelt message told in a really fun story.