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Knick Knack

Made in 1989, Knick Knack was a three minute short CG animation by Pixar Studios, featuring what was then the cutting edge of rendering capability, way beyond what real-time renders were capable of. To put it in perspective, this was just six years before Toy Story was released.

There is no speech in this three and a half minute film, and the complexities involved in lip syncing were just a pipe dream at this point.


The film opens showing a shiny pink flamingo, sitting on a wooden shelf, with a water-free pool saying 'Sunny Florida' under it. The flamingo is wearing dark sunglasses and nodding its head in time to the same beat being used for the background music. Then the scene switches.

This time it shows a skeleton wearing dark sunglasses and tapping its foot to the same beat. It is also on a shelf, at this point only possibly the same one, and is holding a surfboard. On the stand under it, is the message 'Surf Death Valley'.

These are obviously knickknacks; little souvenir baubles on a shelf. Next we see more ornaments of the same type, all wearing dark glasses and moving in some way to the beat. An Egyptian pyramid and a cactus are first up, then back to the pink flamingo on the same shelf. On the other side, of the flamingo we see the death valley surfer, then a palm tree, and a jungle tree. Lastly,. Is a pool saying 'Sunny Miami', with a blonde girl in a bikini (also wearing sunglasses), kicking her feet in the pool as she relaxes.

The camera switches to a distance shot and pans - the first moving shot - over the ornaments all gathered together at the end of one shelf, to the other end of the shelf, where a snow globe sits, with the phrase "Nome Sweet Nome - Alaska". Inside is a snowman, and a plastic cut-out igloo.

Zooming back in, we are returned to still shots. It is obvious that with all the subtle movements the characters are doing, it is too processor intensive to see moving camera shots close in. The snowman blinks, and looks over to the other ornaments with a frown. The blonde woman waves to him.

This excites the snowman, and he rushes over to her. Or he would, but the wall of the snowglobe gets in his way. He can't join the dance party. Frustrated, he decides that is not going to stop him, and disappears into the globe.

He comes back with the igloo in hand, and uses it to smash the glass. Unfortunately it bounces off and floats down to lay on its face on the floor. Not giving up, the snowman dashes off, and retrieves a large shiny hammer - everything in this world is shiny - which he uses with his nose as a chisel, to break the glass.

All this does is bend his nose out of shape. Each time he pulls the hammer back, his nose is a different bent shape. He puts his bent nose back on and tries again. The blonde looks on puzzled as he finds a pneumatic drill and uses that to try and break the glass. He bounces around and the vibration makes his face fall off. New plan.

The blonde is examining her nails, and looks back to see the snowman lower a wielding mask over his face. He has an oxy-acetylene wielding torch and prepares to light it. Only one problem. He's underwater in the globe. He eventually gets a single blast of flame that propels him back like a rocket, and the whole snowglobe moves - in the wrong direction.

Now all the other ornaments are looking at him as the snowman gleefully stands behind the igloo at one end of the snowglobe with a detonator plunger. The other end is piled high with bombs and boxes of TNT. He wiggles his eyebrows then jams down the plunger.


The entire snowglobe goes white for a moment from swirling snow, leaping off the shelf then coming back down again. The glass survives. The snowman swirls in the currents, then looks down dejected. He has failed. That's when he realises he can see the floor. The snowglobe is sticking half off the shelf.

As he leans forwards for a better look, its just enough to overbalance the globe and it plunges off the shelf, falling glass-first towards the floor.

As he looks up at the ground, the snowman smiles. All the snow is away from the ground, and he sees a door marked 'Emergency Exit'. Pulling it open, he leaps out, free. Jumping off the snowglobe he feels so smug as he continues to plummet. He lands in the fish tank - we don't see this, just hear it. This was over a decade before the ability to animate water.

He looks up annoyed from a collection of coloured stones. Then he looks to his left. A blond mermaid is there in the tank with him, lounging on a rock that says 'Sunny Atlantis'. Overjoyed, he runs towards her. However, his snowglobe has also landed in the water, and righted itself as it did so. As he dashes towards her, it floats down over him. The still-open emergency exit drops on him, and he is back in the snowglobe. Just fractions of an inch from kissing the mermaid, his head bumps into the glass of the globe. From inside. Again.

The scene closes on his decidedly unhappy face.

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