I am dabbler in watching animation in much the same way I’m a dabbler in reading the manga. Which is to say, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons compared to someone who isn’t interested in them but I am far from an expert.
When I read about a Pixar short from 2019 called Kitbull, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to emotionally handle watching it. And then I watched it anyway.
It’s a cartoon about a little black stray kitten who helps a pit bull escape his abusive owner who forces him to fight. I cried pretty much the whole way through.
Before I actually talk about content, I do want to note that this was apparently Pixar’s first traditionally animated cartoon. (That means hand drawn. I had to look it up to be sure) And the design work is really strong. In particular, the kitten’s design, which is the most cartoony by far, is powerful. With a head the size of her body and maybe a third of that head being eyeballs, she is adorable, painfully vulnerable and brave all at the same time.
If Scott McCloud is to be believed, the more cartoony and abstract a character is, the easier it is for us to identify with them. The kitten is the point of view character. A small mercy from this is that we don’t see the actual dog fights, just the painful aftermath. But an important part of the short is her journey to learning to not be afraid of the pit bull and to love him.
Another important part of Kitbull is that there is no dialogue. The two animals just make animal sounds. There is nothing fantastic about Kitbull because it is depicting the kind of animal abuse people actually do. And which rarely gets the happy ending Kitbull has.
Every pit bull experience I’ve had has been ones with caring owners. And the only problem I’ve had is them deciding to be stubborn lap dogs and it’s like having wet bags of sand holding you down. So I can get behind the clear message of Kitbull. Animal abuse happens and animal abuse is bad.
It took me years to find out Kitbull existed. It wasn’t a fun watch. But it was a powerful one.