Burrow

Most years recently I’ve tried to see all the short films nominated for the Academy Awards—divided into animated, live action, and documentary categories—when they are shown together in packages in theaters. This year I managed to catch the animated and live action, but not the documentaries.

Usually there are five films in each category—the official nominees. This year, for whatever reason, the animated film category was expanded to eight—the nominees plus three “honorable mention” types.

The first animated film shown in this year’s package is the 6-minute Burrow, the entry from Disney Pixar. As always, the Disney Pixar offering was highly professional, meticulously crafted, upbeat, a crowd pleaser, and came with a positive message.

A rabbit, guided by a sketch of her dream home, commences burrowing into the ground. But each time she thinks she has found the ideal spot to build her burrow, it turns out there are nosy, intrusive neighbors close by. (Other animals, who in fact are uniformly friendly toward her and welcome her accidentally entering their homes.) Growing increasingly frustrated by her failure to establish any kind of privacy away from all these overbearing folks, she digs more and more frantically, farther from the surface, she hopes farther from the already inhabited areas of the underground.

In the end, after she gets herself in trouble and the other animals rally to help her, she realizes the important life lesson that other people aren’t threats or annoyances to avoid, but potential friends that enrich one’s life.

It’s a nice little tale, and like I say it’s very professional, very well done, but Burrow is not anything that blew me away. I’d rank it somewhere around the middle or just below of the animated films that I’ve seen in these Oscar-nominated short film packages over the years.

The message is a largely worthwhile, welcome one. You do indeed miss out on a lot of life by isolating yourself from people and reacting negatively to their reaching out to you. It’s not good to live your life in a shell, or a distant burrow.

On the other hand, if I wanted to be a cynic, it’s not hard to approach this film from a devil’s advocate perspective. It implies that there’s something inherently wrong with being an introvert, with valuing privacy, with wanting time and space to yourself to think, to sometimes wanting to get away from it all, to not seeing being social and having people around all the time as an unmitigated positive.

As a lifelong introvert myself, I recognize both positive and negative aspects of instinctively prioritizing privacy and having plenty of time to oneself. I think some people are well suited to a congested urban life where you know all your neighbors, everyone is always in everyone else’s business, your environment is noisy and stimulating, there’s always plenty to do, etc. Other people are better suited to a life in the country somewhere, with peace and quiet and plenty of elbow room. I’m not convinced that all wisdom lies with the former folks. I think there are pros and cons to both lifestyles.

Not to mention, of course, that outside the world of cartoons people are not so consistently friendly, and interaction with them not so invariably beneficial. In real life all too many people really are threats or annoyances, and there can be good reasons to be wary of them.