Hello everyone! Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of participating in an amazing virtual conference to celebrate the release of Disney’s ‘Us Again‘ as it arrived on Disney+! The conference was hosted and led by superstar dancer & choreographer, Derek Hough, whom we came to find out was a big fan of the short film as well! We gained some insight into what exactly it took to put this short film together and afterwards received the opportunity to speak with some of the amazing talents as well! So, here we go! Here’s my conversation with Director, Zach Parrish and Choreographers, Keone and Mari Madrid along with some information they shared during the Conference!
Us Again is streaming now on Disney+!
Told entirely without dialogue, and set to an original funk and soul musical score reminiscent of the mid-60s, Us Again uses the art of animation and emotional storytelling to entertain and inspire.
“From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted this film to be music driven… and I felt that dance is a universal language that can translate into any culture. The great Disney musical classics like the original ‘Fantasia,’ and particularly the ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ sequence from ‘Fantasia/2000’ are some of my favorites, and I was influenced by them in the making of ‘Us Again.’”Zach Parrish
ZACH PARRISH (Director) brings his love of animation, dance and emotional storytelling to his assignment as director of “Us Again.” Most recently, he had directed the animated short, “Puddles” for Disney Animation’s “Short Circuit” program, now airing exclusively on Disney+.
Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Parrish has a strong childhood memory of telling his first grade teacher that he wanted to make cartoons when he grew up. As a high school sophomore, he realized that he could combine his love of animation with his love of computers, after seeing Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. and having an “emotional response” to a one-eyed green ball named Mike Wazowski. He felt that animation was magic, and wanted to learn how to do that trick that would make audiences laugh and cry.
Parrish attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a BFA in Animation. He landed his first professional gig at the acclaimed visual effects company, Rhythm & Hues, while simultaneously continuing to advance his skill set through the online animation school, Animation Mentor. He went on to work at Sony Pictures Imageworks (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “Alice in Wonderland”), before joining Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2010 as an animator on “Tangled.” This was followed by feature credits on “Wreck-It Ralph” (Supervising Animator), “Big Hero 6” (Head of Animation), “Zootopia” and “Moana” (animator), and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Workflow Supervisor and animator). He credits his amazing parents and loving family for always supporting his dreams. Parrish and his wife, Brittney (who works in production management for Walt Disney Animation Studios), are expecting a baby later this year.
“To use dance as a mechanism to exaggerate the entire world and as a way to show a youthful spirit… and then, all of that combined really sparked a memory of two of my favorite dancers that I fell in love with years ago, Keone and Mari. I saw a video of them back in 2015 on YouTube and I fell in love. I’ve marveled at their storytelling and characters they create, their athleticism, but also the deep connection that you feel between the two of them. And to me, their style of dance has this amazing way of blending styles from the past and the present, which really fit thematically into this film. And so from the beginning of the project, as I was pitching it, they really were the example I was using, as how I felt, like we could create… this world of dance.Zach Parrish
Keone and Mari Madrid
“We have always dreamed of having our particular style of movement being incorporated with animation… our style is very new and young and we were like kids in a candy store working with Zach and the team to see our movements realized through the characters of Art and Dot.”Keone Madrid
“We were pinching ourselves constantly throughout this project. From our initial e-mails and phone calls to our first visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios to meet with Zach and Brad, it’s been an overwhelming experience. We wanted to push ourselves to make something magical, beautiful and timeless. From the first time we saw the storyboards, I was already tearing up… the characters were very easy to relate to and to empathize with. As a married couple, we tried to imagine being their age, and we also thought about our own grandparents in bringing the characters to life through dance.”Mari Madrid
KEONE AND MARI MADRID (Choreographers) are acclaimed dancers, award-winning choreographers, directors, and most importantly spouses & parents. Their ability to tell stories through inventive choreography and human gestures has permeated beyond the dance world and into theatre, music, film and online platforms.
Mari grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and received a BA in writing and literature at the California College of Arts before meeting Keone (born and raised in San Diego, CA) at a dance workshop in 2008. Hesitant at first to choreograph together fearing that it might cause tension, they eventually found a special connection that led to a successful partnership, billions of online views, a 2012 wedding, and a daughter. They would continue to work on projects such as: starring in and choreographing music videos for Justin Bieber, as well as collaborations with Billie Eilish, Kpop sensation BTS, Flying Lotus & Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, MTV VMA nominees, Drama Desk Award nominees, “World of Dance,” “The Ellen Show,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With the Stars,” Cirque, Nike, Timberland, Beats By Dre, several Kpop artists, champions at major dance competitions and opening their own online and physical dance space, “Building Block.” In 2018, Keone & Mari also published their first top-selling multimedia ebook, RUTH.
Most recently, Keone and Mari co-created, directed, choreographed, and starred in their first Off-Broadway theater show, “Beyond Babel,” a New York Times pick that received two Drama Desk Award nominations. They are currently developing two new Broadway-bound shows, the Britney Spears musical “Once Upon A One More Time” and the “Karate Kid” musical.
“It’s their spirit and their love that resonates from them that’s so powerful.”Mari Madrid