Kitbull, or, Why Are You Trying to Kill Me, Pixar?

It was only just this past February when Pixar released a new short (SparkShort?) called Kitbull. But it feels like it has already been feeding away on my soul for decades.

This features some of the best cat animation I’ve ever seen. The dog is very well-done, too, though I’m less impressed by that because dogs are simpler. They just are – it’s not a put-down, just a fact. Once you have studied the musculoskeletal systems of dogs and cats side-by-side, you can never be the same.

The story is what you expect. A kitten and a pitbull? Well, they have to become friends. The kitten is a shy goofball. And the pitbull is being exploited.

I didn’t expect it to be as dark as it was, though. I thought he would just be a typical backyard pitbull, wanting to be included, but never allowed inside. But, alas, he’s being used in fights, which is horrifying. The fighting itself isn’t what got to me (you don’t actually see it, anyway). It was the discarding afterwards, the complete disregard for feelings and for suffering.

In real life, I wouldn’t trust a dog who was trained to fight with any animal other than human beings – at least, not without a lot of good, positive training, and supervision. But in this Pixar short, you’d better believe I bought their friendship right away, which ultimately was about much more than lonely neglected animals being lonely and neglected.

The kitten is a typical semi-feral street kitten, but she is more than that. She is afraid of others and retreats to the solitary comfort of what she knows, and this lends itself to an allegory for human viewers about opening yourself up, relaxing out of your shell a little bit, and being brave enough to reach out to connect, and to help, even when it’s scary.

A fighting dog is a good allegory for human viewers for when everyone wants to fit you into a specific, limiting, and also bad box which is damaging to you, and potentially to others, and it blocks you from making connections that you might want to make.

Luckily they both transcend their figurative and literal boxes and escape the stupid backyard, and then get adopted in a really funny and yet also extremely wrenching scene.

Everyone who made this almost succeeded in murdering me – death by drowning in tears, like Alice that one time.* Thanks.

*I do want to talk briefly about that: the fact that Kitbull got to me, and still gets to me, months later, is nice. It’s very annoying, too, because I hate crying in front of people but I also wanted to make everyone I know watch it, so I had to contort my face into weird expressions to stop myself from crying, and it didn’t really work, but I still think it’s nice.

The daily slog is sometimes not great. Today, in particular (2019/08/02, you can burn right out of the history books) was pretty bad. People neglect their animals, who do nothing to deserve their bland, everyday apathy. And then we, who chose to work in a field that takes a huge emotional toll, have to step in and act as the caregivers, making difficult decisions and being unable to help. Even if the animals don’t feel their own abandonment, we feel it for them. When the animals are going to be euthanized, they don’t know it, but we know it for them. It becomes, as time goes on, harder and harder to care as fully as we used to. The sadness for the animals, the empathy, is too rich and takes too much time to unravel, so instead we just feel quick bursts of anger at people and their apathy, and let that anger fuel us for a day, or an hour, or fifteen minutes. But why do the job when it doesn’t pay and it just makes us angry?

Shorts like Kitbull and Gift, that one awful sequence in Fox and the Hound, the whole opening of Oliver and Company – it’s kind of stupid, but, after a day like today when all I wanted to do when I got home was numb everything with a drink and something boring on Netflix – these are actually what I need. What we do matters. These stories remind me.

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