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In the United States, a "short film" usually means a movie between 20 and 40 minutes, while anything shorter than 20 minutes is supposedly called "short subject". The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, though, and either can get shortened to just "shorts". The universal maximum length is 40 minutes; anything longer is a "feature film". Minimum lengths vary by region and organization.

Live-action shorts were very common in the days when cinemas ran all day and people would often come and leave at any point. The types could be included in a regular program were Newsreels, comedy shorts like The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, musicals that are a de facto Concert Film focusing on some particular music act and cartoons such as Walt Disney's primary output until Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was shorts. In certain home video editions of vintage Disney and Warner Bros.-owned films, you can watch a bonus feature collection of film shorts that are assembled like a typical theatrical short film line up of the appropriate decade.

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Unfortunately, shorts were paid with a set fee regardless of the audience response and were of course overshadowed by the feature films, which got the advertising. That's why Walt Disney took a chance with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a feature, which could allow him to see real profits as well as to pay for the high production standards he strove for. With the rise of the double feature the shorts were gradually squeezed out, leaving only the cartoons and newsreels until television killed them off.

Short films nowadays tend to be student, independent projects or from public institutions like the National Film Board of Canada, often short in time and budget. It's a challenging medium in which to work, given the constraints, but like all media, it has its perks. Short films are great training projects for beginners since they are easier to make than a feature film, and can be very personally rewarding, considering the filmmakers can go wild with crazy ideas that they don't have to sustain for a feature film or a series. Major studios like Walt Disney Pictures in the past with their Silly Symphonies and Pixar now also use them as a good way to try out new film techniques before using them in features. Most Web Original projects could easily be called short films; so could some entries in Le Film Artistique.

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Most films made specifically for novelty/large-screen formats such as IMAX — nature and science documentaries, performance art showcases, animated shorts/compilations, etc. — and screened in museums or amusement/theme parks, rather than given mainstream theatrical releases, are short films. With IMAX, this was partially due to the logistics of changing the giant reels of film it required until digital filmmaking/projection came along and made it much easier for mainstream films to be released in the format, but the short film format persists for other productions.

However, the short film has had a bit of a semi-revival as mainstream fare, such as the aforementioned Web Original films on sites like YouTube. In addition, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Warner Bros. have regularly produced animated shorts for both theatrical release, as TV special material, and as DVD Bonus Content. In Canada, there is Moviola, a cable TV channel that features only film shorts. In Japan, studios will publish several Anime shorts together, each running 30 minutes or more, as double or even triple features.

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The term comes from the number of reels it took to play the film on a projector. Shorts were typically two reels (hence 20-40 minutes), and features were usually four to six reels (when these terms were coined, features were usually 60-90 minutes).


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first six Pokémon movies were rather short, padded out by the Pokémon-centric shorts before each one.
  • Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z:
    • The movies are probably the most famous examples. All 3 original Dragon Ball movies are 45-60 minutes and 12 of the 13 original Dragon Ball Z movies are the same length.
    • There are currently only 4 exceptions. The first Broly movie was 70 minutes, the 10th Anniversary Dragon Ball film (The Path to Power) was 80 minutes, and the recent Dragon Ball Z movie, Battle Of Gods, was 85 minutes in theaters, with an extended 105-minute version on TV and home video. Resurrection F was 95 minutes.
  • Out of 11 Dr. Slump movies, only one (the second) was a full length feature. The rest had running times from five(!) to 60 minutes.
  • The Digimon franchise has nine movies in this vein - two each for Digimon Adventure (the first of which was a Pilot Movie), Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Tamers, one each for Digimon Frontier and Digimon Savers, and the standalone Digimon X-Evolution; Digimon Xros Wars has no films. All of them save the Adventure movies and the first Tamers movie note  are non serial movies. The American release known as Digimon: The Movie is just a rather odd edit and splice of the first three.
    • This results in some weird plot changes. In the original Japanese, the films had no real link between them. In the dub version, all the segments are linked together flimsily by saying that the computer virus that created Diaboramon was also responsible for the events in the other segments. Within the Digimon universe this makes practically no sense.
  • The very first Yu-Gi-Oh! film, produced by Toei following their short-lived "Season 0" series (as opposed to Studio Gallop's later, more popular take on the franchise), clocks in at about half an hour.
  • The first three One Piece movies were all similar in length to Digimon movies, because the first three One Piece movies were double features with the first three Digimon movies (from the fourth One Piece movie on, they were pretty much full length, while Digimon movies pretty much remained half length).
    • However, after a 115 minute epic written by the manga's author, the 11th One Piece movie is only 30 minutes long, reverting back to the double feature format (this time with Toriko), albeit in 3-D.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! appeared as two very short "introductory" films before it actually began broadcasting.
  • The Di Gi Charat movie was logically about four times as long as a typical episode... making it just short of half an hour. It was typically shown as a triple feature alongside The Slayers Premium (itself only about 7 minutes longer than a typical Slayers episode) and Sakura Wars: The Movie.
  • The Slayers franchise had several of these. The Motion Picture itself is only 70 minutes long. The three other Slayers movies – Return, Great, and Gorgeous – all clock in at around an hour apiece. Slayers Premium is only a half hour long, being shown as a part of a festival, with the DVD cut being 8 minutes longer.
  • "The Very Short Azumanga Daioh Movie" features big-budget animation (much of the cast looked Off-Model, though, since the film was made before the series premiered, serving as something of a preview, never mind the fact it takes place during second year, as revealed by the hairstyle Tomo was wearing at the time, yet mashed together plots from all around the series), but is the length of a single segment in a regular episode, making it a shade under six minutes long.
  • The Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- movie lasted barely over 30 minutes. Why, one can only wonder, since it seemed to move a tad bit too fast.
    • Made worse if you see the interviews with the original cast and director: whey asked to state their favorite parts, most of them respond that it's hard to choose, because the movie had to pack so much into a short time frame. The obvious question of "why not make it longer?" is never asked.
      • Simple answer: many studios screened this film alongside the ×××HOLiC movie, another CLAMP title, which was also noticeably short, only an hour long. The two movies share a scene between them. Maybe they were supposed to be a package deal.
  • The Macross 7 movie was the length of a single 30-minute episode, and was taken from a script idea that there hadn't been time or budget to include in the main run of the series. It's set in the middle of the action, before the big Grand Finale fight.
  • The third Ranma ½ movie, Team Ranma vs. The Legendary Phoenix. It's about a half hour long, and in the US it was sold as an OAV and packaged with other OAVs, even changing the opening and closing sequences.
  • Tenchi Muyo! had two movies of normal length and one (Daughter Of Darkness) that was only an hour (shown as a double feature with Slayers Great).
  • YuYu Hakusho had both a short movie and a second movie whose length is normal by Western standards. The short movie resembled a TV episode in length, but had a standalone movie-style plot. This movie was a double feature even when released in America, being packaged with the Ninku movie.
  • The Soreike! Anpanman theatrical features are consistently 51 minutes long, but they are shown together with a 20-minute-long short film. This was not always the case - the film from 1990, Baikinman no gyakushuu, ran at least 80 minutes.
  • A 20-30 minute Gekiganger 3 movie was included in supplemental material to Martian Successor Nadesico, on top of the OVA release of the Gekiganger 3 "series".
  • Noiseman Sound Insect is an actual short movie the length of a normal anime episode, but with all the values and the budget of a full feature film.
  • The two Pretty Cure Max Heart movies clock in at 70 minutes apiece; the Splash Star movie doesn't even break an hour.
  • Voices of a Distant Star, at 25 minutes. Notable for having been done by just one guy and his Mac, except for (obviously) the soundtrack and the voice acting on the DVD release. His 2007 film 5 Centimeters per Second also counts, with a runtime of just over an hour, divided into three "episodes." The Garden of Words is a mere 46 minutes long, and, indeed, the short length was the one aspect of it that Western reviewers consistently disliked. (Ironically, he made this one relatively short partly due to complaints that his longer movies were lower-quality.)
  • Inukami! had one. The movie was the length of an average TV episode, except with a little more at stake than your average TV episode and a slightly bigger budget. Namely, the Censor Box elephant was CG and chrome.
  • The New Maple Town Story: Palm Town Chapter "movie" is actually the series' first episode padded out with scenes from Maple Town Story's final two episodes in place of the original flashback sequence. That was common practice up to (probably) the late '80s/early '90s.
    • The Lady Lady movie is similar to the above example, the four (!) Attack No. 1 movies were slight re-edits of two to three episodes each, while the Tongari Boushi no Memol movie is actually just a summary episode.
  • Toei Animation produced masses of very short original movies for their popular TV shows. One of the shortest might be the Mahou Shojo Lalabel movie, clocking in at 15 minutes.
  • Kino's Journey has two 30-minute movies.
  • Hetalia: Paint It, White would be just under an hour long, about the length of two regular half-hour episodes, without the clips from the series thrown in. Given the source material, they didn't have a lot to work with, but wanted a feature-length film. The move proved controversial in Japan and the Japanese DVD release removed the clip show parts, but the American release includes them.
  • Blood: The Last Vampire is a rare example that actually got shown in American theatres, likely due to very high production values.
  • Also applies to Toku movies, since the genre has a lot in common with anime. Traditionally both the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises have movies released in the summer and released as a double feature with Super Sentai getting the short end of the stick with run-times clocking at roughly 30 minutes (without commercials, regular episodes clock in around 21-22 minutes) while the Kamen Rider feature runs between 45 minutes to about an hour.
  • Early Super Sentai movies (before the Ohranger Vs Kakuranger movie became the standard for Sentai crossover films) were essentially regular episodes played on the big screen with little to no changes. Goranger had this the worst with four "movies" which were just episodes of the TV show.
    • Kamen Rider has been moving away from this somewhat starting with Kamen Rider Decade and Kamen Rider Double. In addition to their summer movies, Decade's finale was incorporated a part of a standalone Kamen Rider movie that crossed over with W, but even that didn't completely escape this, running as three distinct segments (one for Decade, one for W and team-up) that run about half an hour each. This soon became the Movie War series, each coming out in the winter and would feature an Early-Bird Cameo of the current season's Secondary Rider.
  • Some of Sanrio's theatrical films fall into this. The Cinnamoroll movie was 45 minutes and was screened with Nezumi Monogatari. The Jewelpet movie was this too, as it was screened with Onegai My Melody: Yu and Ai.
  • Ojamajo Doremi had two of these during the Sharp and Motto seasons. The first one was screened with Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! and Supreme Evolution!! The Golden Digimentals, while the second was screened between the Digimon Tamers and Kinnikuman movies. The Sharp movie was 27 minutes long while the Motto movie was 26.
  • All of the Sailor Moon movies clock in at just an hour and were shown as part of the Winter Toei Animation Fair series. The first and third have 10-minute shorts before the movies to pad out the run-times some.
  • Cutey Honey Flash got a 38-minute film as part of the Toei Summer Anime Fair.
  • Averted with the Tamagotchi films except for the first one (which was shown with the Cutie Honey Flash film mentioned above) and Eiga Tamagotchi: Himitsu no Otodoke Dai Sakusen!, which is an actual short film about 10 minutes in length and was screened with the Himitsu no Cocotama movie. Other than those, all Tamagotchi films run 90 minutes.
  • The Little Witch Academia movie is just 50 minutes long and had a limited two week engagement in Japanese theaters.
  • Sometimes this will happen with non-Japanese franchises aimed at children that are screened in theaters.
    • The Thomas the Tank Engine films after Thomas and the Magic Railroad round out at an hour, and would be shown in theaters as part of the program Kidtoon Films in North America, or as two-day limited engagements in the United Kingdom. There was also a Fathom Events screening that was an hour long and was made up of a episodes that were then new to North American audiences.
      • Many movies screened by Kidtoon Films, not just the Thomas ones, fall under this trope as well. They were padded out with shorts that were either related or unrelated to the film, while some, such as the Barbie films (up until The Princess and the Popstar), just ran by themselves due to the films each running around 70 minutes or more (The Pearl Princess would later be released alone by Screenvision). Two of the shortest films were Friendship and Adventures, being the first two episodes of each show combined, and Kidtoons Comics, a 65-minute collection of short films, which could as well be the American counterpart to the Toei Animation fairs.
    • Each My Little Pony: Equestria Girls film runs 70 minutes and the first two were given a run in theaters a month before the video release.
    • BMG Video ran their kids' properties as part of Century Theaters' summer kids club in the late 90's, which included their version of The Wind in the Willows, Chuck Jones' Peter And The Wolf, and the Cabbage Patch Kids films. Mumfie's Quest was the only example from the film series that wasn't a Short Anime Movie-it ran a whopping 108 minutes. However, during the last year of their partnership, they ran 2 Mumfie episode compilations which lasted 45 minutes each.
    • If it wasn't for the padding by the Milkshake! hosts and the additional older episodes of the show that round it to 70 minutes in total, Peppa Pig: The Golden Boots could have been 15 minutes long.
      • There was also Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience (known as Peppa's Australian Holiday in Australia), which was basically 7 5-minute shorts which were each followed by segments involving a girl talking to puppets of Peppa and George.
    • Disney Junior Party is a 60-minute film released in Italy and Spain which complies episodes of three of it's most popular shows and has filler featuring Mickey Mouse. The US distributor Fathom Events also has a similar series called Disney Junior At The Movies.
    • Fathom Events also did a Zula Patrol event which lasted only 70 minutes long.
    • A few movie theaters across the USA sometimes screen the new VeggieTales episodes before they hit DVD, each of which last only 45 minutes long.
  • While Disney has screened shorts before their movies before, sometimes they fall under this trope because they are the length of a typical Short Anime Movie (around a half hour). Two examples of this are the Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes and Olaf's Frozen Adventure.
  • In-universe example: In The Simpsons episode "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner", The Wild Dingleberries Movie is shown to have a runtime of 47 minutes, qualifying it for this trope.
  • Regular Show: The Movie, a 60-minute film, was shown as a limited release in select US cities.

    Animated Shorts 

    Live-Action Shorts 

    Shorts that were later made into feature films 
  • 9: This was a short before it was a feature.
  • Battle for Terra: This was a short before it was a feature.
  • Cashback: 2004 short extended into 2006 feature.
  • District 9: As Alive in Johannesburg
  • Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB: 1967 George Lucas student film, later adapted into feature THX 1138
  • Frankenweenie: A live-action short from 1984 before being remade as a 2012 stop-motion animated feature.
  • Johnny Lingo: 1969 short expanded into a 2003 feature.
  • Kids
  • Obvious Child: The 2014 feature film was expanded from a 2009 short which also had Jenny Slate in the lead.
  • Saw: This series began as a short film, with the Reverse Bear Trap that was later incorporated into the first Saw feature.

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