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Piper – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Piper, Pixar Short Films Collection, Shorts

Posted by Joanna • November 13, 2018

The Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 3 is out on Digital and Blu-ray today – why not give “Piper” a watch and then dive into this little Pixar short exploration?

Since premiering before Finding Dory in June 2016, “Piper” has quickly become a firm favourite with Pixar fans, and even went on to win the 2017 Oscar for Best Animated Short. This is our first post in our ‘Pixar Short Of The Week’ series, where our Twitter followers vote on what short they’d like us to delve into next. “Piper” won with over 50% of the votes in this week’s poll – I think that alone tells you how beloved it is. It ticks all the boxes – very cute, heart-warming message, a sense of humour, beautiful to watch… And I’ve found that I appreciate it even more now in 2018 than I did when I first watched it in theatres two years ago.

Piper concept art

This is, in part, due to my new-found passion for birdwatching. I don’t know how many people share this joint interest in Pixar and birdwatching, but if any of you are out there, I’m sure you’ll agree that “Piper” is the dream.

Fun fact (maybe): On pixar.com, Piper is described as a Sandpiper – director Alan Barillaro was inspired by ‘watching Sandpipers react to waves and run on the beach’. But ‘Sandpipers’ are actually a large family of birds. Piper is in fact a Sanderling (Calidris alba, as opposed to Hungrius Littlus Birdis) – these are the birds that run in and out with the waves, poking around in the ‘intertidal zone’ for food. They are also the only birds in the Sandpiper family that lack a hind toe – and look!

No hind toe! (Especially obvious if you look at Piper’s mum’s feet).

This is what I love so much about “Piper” – it achieves this perfect balance of realism and magic. On the one hand, the level of detail is such that I can do bird identification, but it’s also a short about a precious baby bird expressing real human emotions and overcoming her fears through a friendship with a tiny crab. It’s a technological triumph, but – and this is the key to the success of the film – it’s also a wonderfully told story.

“Piper” actually started out as a project to push the limits of new animation technology, which is made apparent when you see the animation of individual grains of sand, the frothy movement of the waves, and the independent fluttering of feathers. I love that people appreciate the sheer skill that has gone into the creation of the short, but are also able to just enjoy it and immerse themselves in it.

Look at that feather animation! Look at the sand!

Piper concept art. They even got the Sanderling plumage spot on.

The birds are stylised, but realistic. You can tell the aim wasn’t to fool the viewer into thinking they’re watching a live action sequence. Honestly, it looks better than live action. It looks better than real life! The way they experimented with camera movements and depth of field makes it all so captivating. And the “Piper” crew was able to design the characters in such a way that they can express more emotion.

This is important, because “Piper” is also amongst the many Pixar shorts that have zero dialogue – the connection you feel to the characters is not brought about through words, but is instead completely reliant on their facial expressions and behaviour, along with the music (by the legendary Adrian Belew). It’s the subtle yet complex animation that makes all this possible. Barillaro was inspired by Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E when finding ways to animate communication between non-speaking, non-human subjects. Their gestures are understandable, but the birds haven’t been so heavily anthropomorphised that the ‘otherworldly charm’ is lost.

The message that I take away from “Piper” is that fear is there to be overcome, and life will feel all the sweeter once you’re on the other side of it. By the end of the short, Piper not only gets over her fear of the waves, but completely submerges herself in them! It’s not unlike what Poppa told Arlo at the beginning of The Good Dinosaur in the warm light of thousands of fireflies: “Sometimes you gotta get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side.”

“You gotta get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side.”

Some more fun facts:

  • Yes, Piper is a girl.
  • The composer for Piper, Adrian Belew, is perhaps best known for being in the band King Crimson and working alongside stars such as David Bowie and Frank Zappa.
  • Barillaro took a go-pro to a Hawaiian beach, where the water was nice and clear, to get research footage for the underwater scenes.
  • They recorded pieces of the soundtrack being played underwater in the Pixar pool – these recordings were used in the surround sound during the underwater scenes.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter so you can vote on what next week’s Pixar Short Of The Week should be!

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Ducky and Bunny react to Toy Story 4

teaser, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • November 13, 2018

Are you excited for Toy Story 4? Are you looking forward to it as much as Ducky and Bunny are? The film’s first teaser premiered yesterday, and now there’s a new one! Perhaps in a nod to all the reaction videos on YouTube, this latest teaser is just that – a reaction to Toy Story 4, but by a pair of carnival plush toys.

Here’s our introduction to Ducky and Bunny (the comedy duo of Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele).

Check out the latest character posters too!

Forky, who appeared in the first teaser yesterday, is voiced by Tony Hale. His poster is great; who knew sporks could have an existential crisis about their dual identity?! And maybe Forky is the most intriguing addition to this series. Ducky and Bunny seem like they’ll be a lot of fun, and in this teaser, their wisecracks are inspired by the actors voicing them.

These latest teasers focus on the humor rather than the emotional punch both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have promised us. A trailer shouldn’t be too far off! More toys (maybe even Bo Peep?!) and surprises await us.

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The Toy Story 4 Teaser Is Here!

teaser, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • November 12, 2018

Toy Story 4 is set to release in June 2019, so we knew it was only a matter of time before a teaser was coming our way. But that doesn’t make this news any less exciting!

Pixar posted a Toy Story 4 teaser today – you can watch it below:

It’s surprisingly touching to see all these beloved characters in action again, even though we have been spoiled with Toy Story Toons over the past few years. It seems very little is being revealed about the plot at this stage – the toys are simply joyfully holding hands and spinning around in slow motion with the classic ‘Toy Story clouds’ as their backdrop. It’s oddly dreamlike, especially with Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now playing in the background.

With the news that Bo Peep is making a return in Toy Story 4, I was almost expecting her to slowly come into frame as the camera panned round, but perhaps that would have been an obvious twist… The strange spork creature, on the other hand, is not something I could ever have predicted.

Forky – a spork turned toy?

Here is Pixar’s description of Toy Story 4 so far:

“Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy. Directed by Josh Cooley (“Riley’s First Date?”) and produced by Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Mark Nielsen (associate producer “Inside Out”), Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” ventures to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.”

So is Forky going to be a central character of sorts? Is the movie going to explore the concept of what makes a toy a toy? Can we assume these ‘old friends’ will include Bo? All will be revealed in time, but it’ll be hard to stay patient!

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Woody’s Round Up 11/6/18

Auntie Edna, Bao, Incredibles 2, Round-Ups, The Pixar Story

Posted by Simoa • November 6, 2018

Welcome back to Woody’s Round Up! Today’s installment features amazing costumes, more details on Incredibles 2, out on DVD today, and an addition to Netflix.

A Very Pixar Halloween

We can always count on the folks at Pixar to get into the Halloween spirit with their creative costumes! This year was no exception. Check them out, courtesy of Pixar’s official Instagram page. Baby Bao is the clear winner!

Edna in Auntie Mode

Incredibles 2 is now on DVD today, so be sure to pick up your copy! But even if you’ve got the digital version and have already watched “Auntie Edna” (lucky!), you should still check out this interview with the short’s director and story artist, Ted Mathot. Audiences would need to see a new side to the iconic character while Mathot had to remain faithful to her essence. “Getting her out of her comfort zone a little bit, because she’s always the boss, always in control, was really fun to explore. What happens when she loses some of that control? What does that bring out in her character?” Read more from Mathot’s interview at Animation World Network.

Concept art by Matt Nolte.

Special Effects

Art, story, and technology define Pixar’s approach to filmmaking. Each of those are fascinating to learn about and gives audiences a chance to gain more knowledge about everything that goes into the storytelling we admire so much. Effects supervisor Bill Wattral was interviewed by Shack News about his role and the unique challenges that come with the job.


Wattral discusses the tools Pixar uses; existing ones that serve as foundations and the new programs created by the studio itself. These tools are necessary in making the film look as appealing as possible. One of Wattral’s main priorities is foreseeing problems in the tech department before they become unwieldy. A very informative look at the technical aspects of Pixar’s process.

Coming Soon

The Pixar Story (2007) comes to Netflix on November 18th. The documentary was directed by Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of legendary animator Ub Iwerks) and is now ten years old. Although much has changed since 2007, the doc is sure to still be a great watch all these years later.

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