DreamWorks Animation has launched DreamWorks Shorts, with the goal to develop talent, storytelling skills, innovate new technologies and explore new characters and stories for possible feature film development.

The first short from the program is “Bird Karma,” directed by William Salazar. The short will debut theatrically before DWA’s Japanese release of “The Boss Baby” nextspring. It will also play select international and U.S. festivals.

DreamWorks Animation Film Group president Chris deFaria put the program in place when he joined DWA in March. DeFaria and his creative team heard more than25 pitches for films at a session open to all DWA employees, with the intention of producing two to three projects over the next three years. From those pitches, eight films were advanced to active development, with three scheduled for release over the next 18 months: “Bird Karma”; “Marooned,” directed by Andy Erekson; and an untitled short directed by Pierre Perifel, Liron Topaz and JP Sans.

The pitch session participants ranged from production assistants to lighting directors, with teams working across multiple disciplines.

“The pitch process was incredible,” said deFaria in a statement. “DreamWorks is truly an artists’ enclave and we were all blown away by the immense talent at the studio. There were personal stories, comic sketches, gorgeous concept art and simple pencil tests — some were 2D, most were 3D — and even one stop-motion pitch; but taken together the collection demonstrated a level of inventiveness, story-sense and innovation that surprised and delighted all of us. The criteria for selection was primarily artistry and entertainment, but we were also on the lookout for ideas that could challenge our technology and explore innovative methods of storytelling.”

DeFaria also noted that the teams took more risks with storytelling and design, which only plays up part of the program’s mandate to explore storytelling and the creative process.

“In many ways this format and length are liberating, and we see our teams taking more personal risks with their storytelling and design,” said deFaria. “Our first priority is our six feature-length projects currently in production, so the time allotted for these short film projects can sometimes be limited.  But the pace at which these films are progressing is a testament to how passionate these filmmakers are about this program. It’s a perfect opportunity to put total creative control in the artists’ hands.”