Tuesday Shorts Talk is a weekly discussion of an animated short film, featuring classics and lesser known works.
In 1997, no one was aware of excellence that Pixar would soon produce. Up to that point, their only full length film film was Toy Story. A few years later in 1997, Pixar quietly made “Geri’s Game,” a short film about an old man playing chess. Whoa, sounds like a blast, right? Take a look:
With “Geri’s Game,” Pixar proved they had the ability to make just about anything interesting and entertaining. This is a short that takes a relatively simple concept and creates something truly memorable. Since when was watching an old man play chess so exciting?
The film’s only character, Geri, has a wild imagination. He is not playing an ordinary game of chess because his opponent is himself. Even more shocking is the fact that this concept works as exposition. You’d expect the reveal of Geri’s opponent to be reserved for a twist ending, but it is precisely the opposite. Viewers know from the very beginning that Geri is alone.
The progression of the short takes a mind-bending twist. Geri begins playing by himself, and by the end, he is playing against himself. What starts as a comical viewing of an old man turns into a exhilarating and slightly voyeuristic game of chess. As the short goes on, viewers are made to believe that maybe Geri isn’t just playing by himself, even though it is clear that he is alone.
Who are we as audience members to experience this old man’s private delusion? Though innocently presented, it seems so intrusive.
“Geri’s Game” is an early sign of Pixar’s blossoming creativity and is still one of the studio’s best shorts.