NOC Review: ‘Us Again’ Charms Right Before ‘Raya’

If you have the great fortune of seeing Raya and the Last Dragon in a safe, socially distant drive-in theater this coming weekend, I’m happy to say you’ll be treated to a neat little short from Walt Disney Feature Animation called Us Again.

I was privileged enough to catch the short as well, and wanted to do a quick review because stuffing it into my already million-word review for Raya seemed a bit excessive, and because every work of art needs to be evaluated individually given the work and craftsmanship that went into making it. Not to mention that every unique story should be evaluated on its own merits as a separate story.

That being said, Us Again is a really charming little piece of animation. The short is directed by  Zach Parrish, a veteran animator for Walt Disney Animation, and the creator of the 2020 Disney Animation short, Puddles. This time around, Parrish teams up with award winning Filipino choreographers/dancers Keone and Mari Madrid, and Captain Marvel composer Pinar Toprak. The result is a colorful, fun, toe-tapping 7-minute smile-fest that makes you really want to get up and dance.

Ambitiously told without any dialogue or lyrics, the short introduces us to a world where everyone’s jazz dancing to the music of life, as they tap, kick, and shuffle across crosswalks and fountains in a big city. We cut to an older couple living in an apartment. The husband in the couple is cranky and just wants to sit and watch TV. His wife tries to encourage him to get up and dance, like they used to when they were young. When he refuses and hurts her feelings, he begins to regret it, and suddenly, the rhythm and beat catches up with him and he becomes a young man again. He goes after his wife, who’s also turned into a younger woman again, and together they recapture the glory days of their love by swing dancing their way around the city.

The animation and music are all you need to really flesh out the characters and give them emotion and meaning, as well as drive home the themes about being young at heart no matter how old you are. The choreography is spectacular on every level, from the main couple’s moves to those of the side characters in the background. The Madrids really out did themselves, and I’d be completely lying if I said I didn’t wanna learn how to move like that. Overall there’s a lot of heart in the product of what you’re seeing.

The only real complaint about the short is that, while it tells a really charming complete story about love, recapturing youth, and making use of the limited time we have before we get old, it just didn’t stay with me the way a story like Pixar’s Bao or Disney’s VR short, Cycles did. I suppose the investment in the characters and the stakes just weren’t really deep enough for me to continue my investment in the story and characters after it ended; at least not as much as I really thought it should given a pretty nice message, and amazing dancing and music. What also hurts it is that debuting before an epic like Raya and the Last Dragon, which tells this really complex, fun story with a relevant message today, you’re bound to remember Raya and forget about the short that proceeded it.

That being said, the short is still ultimately charming, and extremely well animated and choreographed. And there’s nothing wrong with it being slight, as long as it’s enjoyable and sweet! And Us Again genuinely is short and sweet!

Overall Score: B+