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Toy Story’s Most Iconic Stills After 25 Years

Stills, Toy Story

Posted by Joanna • November 22, 2020

The Twitter account @OnePerfectShot is a truly inspiring page to scroll through. There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing a screenshot that not only perfectly represents the movie, but just looks good too. Pixar movies take inspiration from a huge range of movies, both classic and modern, and you can see these influences sprinkled throughout the studio’s work. Cinematography does exist in the world of animation, and a whole lot of thought goes into it.

We’re going to go through each Pixar movie in order, each of us hand selecting the stills that we find to be the most iconic. That’s right – we’re choosing our own ‘one perfect shots’, and we’re starting off with Toy Story, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary today!

Maya Ved

Maya’s Pick:

With time, seams inevitably begin to show. The technology Pixar uses has come a long way since their first feature length film, where control over elements like texture, shadows, and light was limited. The Woody and Buzz we see in the first Toy Story don’t look drastically different from their later installment counterparts, but they are still noticeably less polished, less delicately rendered.

None of this however comes to mind when watching a sequence like this one, where Woody at last acts upon his selfish resentment towards Buzz. Instead of limitations, just from this still alone, I’m reminded of how well-crafted and beautiful the film is. Animation after all is not simply the look or style of the film, but the composite of atmosphere, environment, character movement and interaction, and of course, story. Even when I was too young to understand why the visuals were so appealing, I was always drawn to the golds, pinks, and purples of the sunset outside Andy’s room. Now that I’m older I can see how those colors underline the building tension to create a dramatic mood. I also appreciate the framing as well, how the ever recognizable cloud wallpaper shares center stage with Woody’s narrow-eyed profile, and how to the left we see the pinboard that sets off the chain of events that launch Buzz out of the window hinted at on the right. It’s the perfect image to mark the turn of the plot.

But all that technical consideration aside, more than anything else this moment is just plain amusing. I can’t remember my first reaction to seeing Woody’s guile in play but with every repeat viewing the absurdity of his pettiness gets even funnier. A lot of serious work went into creating this moment of Woody coming up with a seriously unheroic idea, and it’s a delight to look at.

Joanna

Joanna’s Pick:

Toy Story is a simple movie, but somehow manages to carry a series of pretty intense plots: betrayal, loss, an identity crisis… Buzz coming to terms with his identity is a huge part of the movie, but would probably be considered a ‘sub-plot’ by some. The more I watch Toy Story, the more I realise that Buzz’s struggle with who he is ends up being the most hard-hitting storyline.

This still brings back those feelings brought about by Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More”, with a pang of irony and humour, all while being perfectly and very satisfyingly framed.

Simoa

Simoa’s Pick:

The still I chose for Toy Story isn’t meaningful in any way, just funny. But it was hard narrowing my choice down to just one. Although the film was released in 1995, before computer animation was as sophisticated as it is today, the visuals are still impressive. I think this is the best in the series. I was just four years old when Toy Story was released. I didn’t know that it was making history. But now as then, it’s a movie I don’t get tired of watching.

Toy Story is that rare Pixar movie that doesn’t make me bawl my eyes out. It’s not emotional at all, and yet, it was the first full length feature made by the studio. So I just had to choose a shot that makes me laugh. Woody has just challenged Buzz to fly around Andy’s room, and Buzz readily accepts. His face is determined while Woody is left a bit dumbfounded watching him go. This of course, after Buzz hits him with those terillium carbonic alloy wings. And we know that Woody’s feelings will be more or less the same with this Mr. Lightbeer around. So to me, it perfectly encapsulates the central relationship between these two and is one of the reasons Toy Story is unsurpassed. A story about friends is good, but enemies to friends is even better.

Karla

Karla’s Pick:

Choosing a singular screencap from Toy Story was difficult but in the end, I chose one that felt the most significant to me. In this still, Woody and Buzz had just landed from their most iconic scene. They felt victorious because after their troubles and tribulations throughout the movie, they had finally made their way back to the person they loved the most — Andy. This screencap was the exact moment that they both decided “Hey, he’s alright”. To me, this was the beginning of their beautiful friendship. A friendship that would be referenced for years to come. Sometimes I wonder… Did the Toy Story crew know that they would be creating a legacy that would span decades? 

The history behind Toy Story is so interesting. As the first Pixar/Disney collaboration and as the first feature-length animated film that was entirely computer generated, there was a lot of pressure behind this project. So much so, if it failed, Pixar would not exist today. I believe this is what drove the larger effort into creating an effective storyline. Even if the technology was lacking, audiences around the world would be too wrapped up in Buzz and Woody’s dynamic. And from there on out, Pixar would become known for their story and their technology. An amazing feat that started with two toys and their rivalry.

25 years since its release, and Toy Story is still being referenced in 2020. If you haven’t revisited the movie in a while, today is the perfect day. Happy anniversary, Toy Story!

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Exclusive: New Pixar Apparel from Loot Crate

Posted by Simoa • November 19, 2020

The end of the year is fast approaching, if you can believe it. And with it comes the holidays. Soul will soon be released through Disney+ on Christmas, and we’re sure that Pixar themed gift lists are also circulating around. Today we’re bringing you an exclusive look at some new Pixar apparel from Loot Crate.

Loot Crate’s Pixar collection is already impressive and now their latest additions are here just in time for the holidays and colder weather. The new Loot DX December crate is Escape themed – and after COVID-19 lockdowns have forced us all inside, we could all use a bit of escapism, right? That’s one of the major themes in Up. I personally am really partial to these pajama bottoms! These are perfect for chasing away the gloom of winter. 

Also available is this adorable Finding Nemo scarf. Such a simple but bright design. For those of us bracing for a colder climate, this scarf will also be perfect when the temperatures drop.

These and more will be available on Loot Crate today at 6 pm EST / 9 pm PST. Subscribe here: https://www.lootcrate.com/crates/dx 

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New writers at Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Simoa • November 17, 2020

I’m very happy to announce that the staff here at Upcoming Pixar continues to grow! We are so lucky to now be joined by Maya and Karla.

I’ve known the two of them for years. They are two of the most passionate Pixar fans, in addition to being creative and really talented writers. You may recognize Karla from her lovely essay on Coco that was featured here in 2018. We’re looking forward to more great work like that from each of them.

Read on to learn some more about them!

Hello everyone, my name is Karla! Like most people, I was introduced to Pixar at an early age starting with Finding Nemo; however, I became enamored with their films in 2010 after seeing Wall-E and Up for the first time. Animation soon became my defining passion and ultimately, it led me to a career in technology. After graduating college in 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to work at Pixar as a Systems intern for the summer! I’m very excited to be a part of the Upcoming Pixar team and contribute as a fellow fan.”

Hi, I’m Maya and I’ve been unabashedly in love with the animation medium all my life. My
appreciation started in early childhood, helped in no small part by the feature films and shorts
from Pixar Studios. It’s difficult for me to pick an absolute favorite Pixar film when so many of
them feature the kinds of characters and themes I love best. I’ve always enjoyed writing about
the magic of the animated films’ art and stories so I’m excited to share my perspective and be
part of the Upcoming Pixar team!

We hope you’ll join us in congratulating and welcoming them to Upcoming Pixar!

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Animating Soul with life, colors, and lines

Art, Behind The Scenes, Soul, Soul press day

Posted by Simoa • November 4, 2020

Soul is all about the essence of a person. In most religions, like mine for example (Catholicism), the soul lives on after death. We also believe that our souls will one day be reunited with our bodies. A person’s soul will either go to Heaven (an eternity of holy bliss), Purgatory (a purification process before reaching Heaven), or the dreaded Hell (an eternity of unholy agony).

I know these beliefs are strange, but that’s precisely why I am fascinated by Soul. This is one of the reasons Coco resonated with me so much, too. We pray for all of our dead, the ones we knew and loved, and even those we didn’t. We can’t forget them, as Coco so beautifully showed us.

Soul is not about the afterlife, though we do get a brief glimpse of the Great Beyond. That’s where souls journey after death in this film’s universe. Small wonder then that Joe is terrified of this unknown, the end of his Earthly life, and starts running in the other direction, where he lands – poof!- into an entirely different realm. In direct contrast to that monochrome expanse, this place, the Great Before, is a pastel dreamscape, filled with soft hues of blue, green, and purple. It is here that newly formed souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests.

Soul Matter

What does a soul look like? That was one of the major challenges on this film. I’ve always pictured them as a red plume, like a candle flame. (Maybe a bit Calcifer esque)? After a few trial runs, the souls looked too much like ghosts. Producer Dana Murray mentioned that they overcame this hurdle by adding color: “If souls represent the full potential of who we are inside, maybe we could use color to help show that.”

The film crew also discovered aerogel, the lightest solid material on Earth, which is used by NASA. The aerogel helped with the appearance and texture of the souls. The result is simple but not at all simplistic. Usually it’s the most simple things that require a fair amount of effort and brain power. Souls are immaterial and abstract, but the Pixar artists infused them with whimsicality. Now this abstract concept becomes more accessible with lots of childlike appeal.

There were more things to consider as well. Newer souls are very smooth and float because they have no concept of gravity. Mentor souls are those who are not quite ready to pass over to the Great Beyond, so they are assigned a new soul to guide before they reach Earth. This is how Joe gets paired up with 22. Mentors, unlike the new souls, have discernible features and accessories. In Joe’s case, his hat and glasses help to distinguish him. The mentors walk around because they’re so accustomed to gravity, although they don’t need to.

22 is different from the newer souls: she has a tuft of hair, bigger teeth, the ability to grow legs and walk, and an adult speaking voice. This is because she’s been in the Great Before a long time, and knows a lot about Earth. She’s outgrown the bounciness and sheer wonder of the baby souls. That was something I found so interesting during the virtual press event in September: a lot of thought informed these designs, things we can so easily take for granted.

Soul‘s art team also envisioned some complex design rules: appearing and disappearing limbs, facial features that moved anywhere on the face and big, expressive mouth shapes that took up the whole face. These design rules were first implemented in 2D animation tests. The technical directors accomplished another major feat by simplifying a process that was quite time consuming for the animators. Jude Brownbill explained that there were “facial lines that were hand animated to appear, disappear, and change thickness with each expression. TDs figured out how to automate these lines, helping to anchor the eyes and the mouth on the face, help keep them on model and appealing, and to provide clarity and extreme emotions like confusion, fear, and rage.”

A soul’s guide to the universe

Our universe is staggeringly incomprehensible. How exactly can you capture that vastness? Here’s how Pixar did it. 

It’s human nature to make sense of things and create order out of seeming chaos. Movies like Coco, Beetlejuice, A Guy Named Joe, and A Matter of Life and Death depict the afterlife being run just like a government agency. Soul has a similar system in place with its Counselors and You Seminar. Jerry, one of the Counselors, explains to Joe that everything he sees has been simplified enough for his tiny human brain to understand. The same must also be true for us contemplating the origins of each human life.

The Counselors presented another unique challenge for the artists and animators. The team was inspired by Swedish sculptures, nature, and light itself. And that is what they resemble: beams of light made physical. They are possibly the most striking thing about Soul, odd and ethereal all at once. I would love to see an entire film in this style.

So how were these gossamer thin characters designed? The Counselors are just a single line, but again, it’s deceptively simple on the surface.

Bobby Podesta remarked that they look like the easiest things to animate, but of course they weren’t. These are living lines. Wire sculptures were created to show how the Counselors looked from different angles and with various expressions.

We began exploring shapes, expressions, movements, and transitions, and the animators didn’t just animate a model. I mean, they animated a design, and you can see that here. The characters captured that sense of a living line, a piece of art in a form that was understandable, yet still ethereal. So, to achieve the sense of design within the animation, our animators had to draw on their backgrounds as artists to craft a visually stunning performance, and it’s that combination of being both an actor and an artist that raises the bar at Pixar to a level that we hope continues to exceed our audience’s expectations.

-Bobby Podesta

Seeing these lines in motion is truly astounding. Pixar never stays in the same spot. The artists are constantly pushing boundaries, so each new film contains something we’ve never seen before.

Below is more awe-inspiring artwork I’m so excited to share. Soul will premiere on Disney+ on December 25th.

 

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