WHAT: “A Love Story,” the third animated short film from Chipotle–following 2011’s “Back to the Start” and 2013’s “Scarecrow”–finds the company in a somewhat soul-searching mode, as a couple of young kids with a dream to serve good food to good people soon see their creations spin out of their control.
WHO: The four-minute video was directed by Pixar veteran Saschka Unseld of Oculus Story Studio for Passion Pictures and CAA. The film is silent, so there are no voice actors, but it does feature a haunting cover of “I Want It That Way” as performed by My Morning Jacket.
WHY WE CARE: It’s a weird time for Chipotle, man. There was the E. coli crisis that saw the restaurant close all of its stores for a day in February to showcase its commitment to food safety. There were allegations of sexual harassment and a lawsuit in California. There’s the marketing executive who was just arraigned on drug charges. You can’t really blame Chipotle if they’re pining away for the simpler days–but the fact that this theme is so overt in the short film “A Love Story” basically transitions that pining from “subtext” to just plain ol’ “text.” In the short–which is excellent, and which carries a clear Pixar-like sensibility–a couple of kids whose lemonade and orange juice stands are set up across the street from one another find their competition spiraling out of control. The stands become storefronts, then megachains. They production line gets complicated. The food starts tasting bad. The lemonade and OJ stands somehow find themselves selling tacos for some reason. They hate what they’ve become–and then they re-encounter one another and, pining for the simpler days when they could just sell good food to good people without all of the stress and hassle, they strip it back to basics and open a food truck where they make fresh tacos with fresh ingredients. As a corporate parable, it’s maybe a bit on-the-nose, but it really has been a heck of a time for Chipotle, so we can’t blame them if a pitch about going back to basics really resonated in a conference room in recent months. As branded content goes, this is both a good little short and a surprisingly deep glimpse at the trauma of actually running the sort of business that can afford to create high-end branded content, so we’ll call “A Love Story” a two-fer.