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Press Conference: Disney’s Newest Animated Short ‘Us Again’ Dances Into Audience Hearts

With the release of Walt Disney Animated Studio’s newest animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon, a brand new short will be accompanying the film.

Us Again is the first new theatrical short by the studio in five years. It is set to debut alongside Raya and the Last Dragon on March 5, 2021 in theatres and will stream on Disney+ in June. I was fortunate enough to attend the press junket that dived into the details of how this short came to life.

(Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

Director Zach Parrish shared the origin of this short and how the idea came to be.

Parrish: [This] idea in particular came from a time in my life when I was kind of struggling with the changes that go along with aging. I was kind of, you know, bemoaning my aging body. I’m not a super old person, but I was starting to recognize those changes in myself and I was…it kind of led me to these conversations that I would have with my mom where she would always talk about all the great things that she was gonna do when she grew up. And it really made me stop and realize that I kinda had my priorities wrong. I was looking in the wrong direction, and if I’m always looking in the past, then I’m gonna miss the beauty in the now. And I’m old by my own definition, and she’s young by hers. And so that idea of youth being a state of mind really got my gears turning and I really thought it’d be fun to do a fountain of youth story.

Producer Brad Simonson talked about how the team came up with the styles for the score.

Simonson: [As] we started the process, Zach [Parrish] knew that the foundation of this had to be the music. [Choreography] and music were the foundation of the short. Tom McDougal, who is head of music at Disney Animation, brought in Pinar Toprak, who did [the] Captain Marvel [score]. [Although] Pinar’s amazing at doing scores, she loves funk. So, the vision for this was always to have a funk soul, old and now, feeling, and she brought it.

Choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid addressed their inspirations for dancing and what excited them about this project.

K. Madrid: [For] us, obviously we’ve been dancing for so long and choreographing. The one thing [that] we’re so passionate about is story, and just the marriage of the project was just instantaneous as soon as we, you know, heard what the ideas were and […] we’ve been trying to tell stories through dance our entire careers.

M. Madrid: [Honestly], I have to say that when we came in and we saw it was an interracial couple, […] we were so happy and excited to see that. We’re both children of interracial couples. […] So, that was really meaningful too. [And] also just, like, obviously, marriage and trying to be in the shoes and imagine having a marriage that long and a life that long with somebody.

Zach Parrish continued with what he hopes audiences take away from the short.

Parrish: I think that the idea for the short was always […] it’s something that I struggle with, and it shows
up a little bit in Puddles, my previous short. But it’s about taking that time to focus on what’s truly important, and what’s around you and what makes your life beautiful. I think, you know, many people think that [Us Again is] about being okay with aging and sure, that’s a part of it too.

But I think the core of the idea is less about […] age, and it’s more about any age not focusing on things that are holding you back. Not focusing on the past. Not focusing on anything that’s distracting you from the beauty that is that is the world around you. And so that and appreciating those who are on that journey with you and make your life beautiful. And so that’s really where-where Dot’s character really comes into play is that she’s encouraging Art to see that, but she’s also that person who carries so much of the beauty of his world for him, and so, hopefully, all ages can take that away, and if nothing else, they just love to dance.

Us Again, alongside Raya and the Last Dragon, arrives in theaters on March 5th and on Disney+ in June!

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