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January, 2019
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Updates from Toy Story 4 cast

Jonas Rivera, Josh Cooley, Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • January 31, 2019

It seems like we’ve been spoiled with lots of Toy Story 4 content lately! With the film less than five months away, things are wrapping up. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, along with new cast addition Tony Hale (Forky) have posted photos to their respective twitter accounts with the rest of the crew about their final days recording lines. It’s a little bittersweet!

What a momentous occasion this is. After three pitch perfect films, Toy Story 4 will be the last adventure we have with Woody and the gang. Still anticipating the film, but also don’t want this series to end!

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Woody’s Round Up 01/30/19

Pixar, Toy Story, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • January 30, 2019

2019 is the year that Toy Story 4 releases in theatres, and Pixar are doing well at keeping this at the front of our minds. Amongst all the Toy Story 4 hype (including the official reveal of Bo Peep’s return!), you may have missed out on some smaller stories happening around the studio and beyond.

Heimlich Finds A New Home

For old fans of Disney California Adventure, “A Bug’s Land” is likely to bring back a lot of fond memories. It was closed in September of last year, making room for the future (a new Marvel-themed land). It may serve as some solace to learn that Heimlich, who was the star of the attraction “Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train”, has found a new home back at Pixar Studios.

Tempting New Toy Story Merchandise

With Toy Story 4 just around the corner, companies are making use of the franchise’s spotlight by releasing all sorts of new Toy Story­-themed merchandise.

Korean beauty brand “innisfree” has released a skincare and make-up collection inspired by our favourite Toy Story characters. Mr Potato Head hand cream? Yes please.

Pixarpalooza Origins

Find out how the Pixarpalooza began in this endearing hand-drawn short posted on Pixar’s twitter.

Two Toys With A Twitter Account

Just today, recently revealed Toy Story 4 characters Ducky and Bunny (who appear to live at a carnival) got their very own Twitter account: @duckyandbunny! They seem to have found someone’s lost phone and are using it to share blurry pictures, selfies, and obscene amounts of emojis. It’s interesting that they’re classing a smartphone as a ‘toy’ – maybe this is something that will be explored in Toy Story 4 this summer?

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Bo Peep is back!

Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • January 28, 2019

Our first official look at Bo Peep in Toy Story 4 is here!

Her iconic pink and white polka dot dress with the matching bonnet has indeed been swapped out for the blue pantalettes we first saw from a blog post speculating about her appearance. This little 11 second teaser shows us so much. For one thing, Bo isn’t so fragile and stationary anymore. She actually moves. One of the reasons she had such a small role in Toy Story 2 was because her porcelain figurine couldn’t have gallavanted around the Tri-County area with the rest of Andy’s gang. But filmmakers have solved that problem this time around. Can’t tell if she’s still made of porcelain, but she is wearing a pair of strappy high heels! Maybe this means that little Bo Peep has lost her sheep permanently? Now she wields her long staff in an entirely different way, and swings from it and into the screen.

Now that we have confirmation of Bo’s role in the film, we can only guess about what other surprises are in store! Bo Peep may have a new look, but I hope she’s still the sweet and lovely character she always was, even if she’s a lot tougher and active.

In this character poster, she’s wearing flat shoes along with a cape! I didn’t think I’d love her redesign so much! Do you guys love it too? How excited are you for June 19th?!

Update: EW has an exclusive description of Bo Peep from director Josh Cooley.

“Bo’s taken control of her own destiny. While Woody was watching Andy grow up, Bo gathered dust until she took it upon herself to head out into the world. And when Woody shows up, they can’t believe that they’ve found each other again.”

Apparently, Bo and Woody have different ideas about what it means to be a toy. That seems to mirror the brief conflict between Woody and Jessie in the second movie. Can’t be sure just yet what Bo thinks it means to be a toy, but we are eagerly waiting to find out.

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Toy Story Drop!

Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • January 27, 2019

A new Toy Story game from Big Fish will be released this spring, just in time for the latest film.

Described as a match-3 puzzle game, the most exciting thing about it is the inclusion of Bo Peep. She’s still wearing her iconic pink and white polka dot dress with matching pink bonnet, but her design has been updated. It’s safe to assume that this is her final look in Toy Story 4. (Her clothes may be different however, as we found out a few weeks ago).

I feel a little nostalgic seeing the three of them like this. The film is still four months away, but we’re already getting lots of glimpses at our favorite characters together again.

Toy Story Drop! is just the latest game for the franchise – fans even have the chance to be an insider with exclusive games and giveaways.

Will you be playing Toy Story Drop!? Let us know here or on Twitter.

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Oscar Nominations for Bao and Incredibles 2

Academy Awards, Awards, Bao, Brad Bird, Domee Shi, Incredibles 2

Posted by Simoa • January 22, 2019

Oscar nominations were announced this morning and Pixar has received two for both Animated Short and Animated Feature.

This is Brad Bird’s fourth Oscar nomination for a Pixar film. He was previously nominated for The Incredibles and Ratatouille in the Animated Feature and Original Screenplay categories. Those films won Best Animated in 2005 and 2008, respectively. Producer John Walker was also nominated for the first Incredibles. This is Nicole Paradis Grindle’s third Oscar nomination as producer after The Incredibles, “Sanjay’s Super Team” (Best Animated Short) and Inside Out, the latter of which also won Best Animated in 2016.

“Bao” was unfortunately overlooked in this category for the Annie Awards, so it’s especially wonderful to see it receive this recognition. And it’s all the more exciting because this is Domee Shi’s first ever nomination! That’s quite a feat for a rookie filmmaker’s debut!

Although not a Pixar production, the surreal “Weekends” up for Best Short was directed by Pixar story artist Trevor Jimenez.

It’s still disappointing that the directors and writers on animated films can’t be recognized with nominations (or awards) in other categories besides Best Animated. Inside Out, along with The Incredibles, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, but there should be more animated films to join them. Same goes for Best Director. Nevertheless, we want to congratulate all of the nominees in both categories for some stellar films this year!

Tune in to the 91st Academy Awards on February 24th, 2019.

 

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The Blue Umbrella – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Pixar Short of the Week, Shorts, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Joanna • January 20, 2019

“The Blue Umbrella” celebrated its 5th anniversary last year. It played before Monsters University in 2013, and is one of Pixar’s most photorealistic shorts to date. It’s a simple ‘boy meets girl’ love story, except: our two love-struck characters are umbrellas, and blue and one red. Because why not?

Yes, there are plenty Pixar projects that focus on bringing inanimate objects to life. But “The Blue Umbrella” does this in a wonderfully smart and observant way. Director Saschka Unseld highlighted that this is one of the main drivers of animation – breathing life into things that are usually lifeless.

The photorealism is partly the crew deservedly showing off their skills in effects, animation, and lighting. But it’s also a deliberate choice. Unseld wanted to show the audience a real world – convincing enough that you could easily be fooled into thinking it was live-action – before bringing the city to life. One minute the viewer is staring in awe at how real it all looks; the raindrops, the wet pavements, the way the traffic lights and car lights make everything glow; and the next minute the drain pipes and mailboxes are blinking and smiling. This enhances the magic of the short hugely.

You can tell the crew went out to the streets to find as many faces in inanimate objects as they could. The faces haven’t been lazily tacked on to them. Instead, naturally placed screws, bolts and openings form facial features that you could imagine pointing out in real life. It’s fun to find patterns in everyday objects and project personalities onto them, and “The Blue Umbrella” does exactly this but in a very thoughtful, restrained way. The umbrellas, however, have simple but iconic faces composited onto them.

As with all Pixar films, a lot of creativity went into the making of “The Blue Umbrella”, and this is obvious from seeing the finished product. Even the screenplay was written like a poem and is beautiful in itself.

“And in the middle of them
is a bright blue umbrella.

He looks around and with him
we see that
it’s not only the umbrellas that are happy.

Everything in the city
that is made for rain
is cheering.

They all love the rain so much
that together
they start to sing a song.

Rooftops,
gurgling rain pipes,
bus stop shelters…
…all together
they sing a song
to celebrate the rain.”

The city and the rain create a love song for the blue and red umbrellas. The music for the short really helps create this feeling. Composer Jon Brion incorporated steady raindrop sounds into the suite, and together with vocals by Sarah Jaffe, the piece has this immensely relaxing, heartening effect on the listener.

Pixar encourage employees from all sorts of departments to pitch short film ideas. Unseld, who started off in the cinematography department, was inspired to pitch “The Blue Umbrella” when he saw a broken umbrella laying on the side of the street. It made him feel so sad: the material sagged, the way the broken metal supports stuck out at weird angles almost resembled broken bones… Unseld stood there feeling sorry for this poor inanimate object while everyone else continued to walk by. It’s fitting that he went on to create a story that made thousands of people around the world feel so strongly for one blue umbrella.

Some fun facts about “The Blue Umbrella”:

  • At the end of the short, the couple (plus umbrellas) go to café called La Parapluie Café. Parapluie is French for umbrella!
  • Composer Jon Brion also composed the music for Paranorman, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Lady Bird.
  • Finding a way to create the umbrellas’ faces was tricky – they tried making them out of raindrops, or impressions in the cloth. In the end, a stylised face seemed the best fit.

Concept art by Harley Jessup

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Lee Unkrich says goodbye after 25 years

Lee Unkrich, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • January 18, 2019

Pixar is undergoing a lot of changes – many of them positive, others a bit more bittersweet. Lee Unkrich’s departure from the studio after 25 years of brilliant and inspiring storytelling falls into the second category.

Deborah Coleman, Pixar

He first announced the news on twitter, linking to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, and following up with another tweet where he said “the time has come for new adventures.”

Of course, this news comes as a shock. Unkrich did not specify if he’s retiring from filmmaking, but he did inform the Reporter that he’s going to pursue some neglected interests and spend more time with his family.

“I’m not leaving to make films at another studio; instead, I look forward to spending much-needed time with my family and pursuing interests that have long been back-burnered.”

Unkrich’s last directorial effort was the monumentally successful Coco. It was just his second after helming 2010’s equally impressive Toy Story 3. He’s been at the studio since the very beginning, with Pete Docter praising him for his undeniable prowess.

“Lee arrived at Pixar as we were crafting Toy Story, and he’s had a profound effect on all Pixar films since. He literally taught us rookie filmmakers about staging, composition, and cutting. His artistry and expert craftsmanship as an editor and co-director became a major reason for the high quality of our filmmaking, and as Lee went on to direct, his ability to find the deep humor and emotion enabled him to create some of the strongest films we’ve made.”

Before codirecting Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, he was an editor on the films. Pixar president Jim Morris also credited Unkrich’s ability to make the films even better. “If you look at the sweep of contemporary cinema, it would be difficult to find someone more brilliant in the filmmaking arts than Lee Unkrich. He has been a key player in elevating virtually every one of Pixar’s films.”

Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, echoed Morris and Docter:

“Lee has left an indelible mark on the world of film, and we are so grateful for the passion and talent he has brought to each movie he has worked on. He’ll always be part of the Disney-Pixar family, and we will miss him.”

While we are a bit sad over this news, we’re also happy that Lee is prioritizing his family. We truly believe he’s leaving the studio in more than capable hands, and that this new generation of storytellers will still be impacted by his years of dedication and keen storytelling gifts.

Update 1/19: Read Lee Unkrich’s parting letter below.

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Sanjay’s Super Team – The Pixar Short of The Week

Pixar Short of the Week, Sanjay Patel, Sanjay's Super Team, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Simoa • January 12, 2019

“Sanjay’s Super Team” emerged the victor in this week’s poll, which I’m very happy about! I’ve been waiting to delve back into this short ever since we launched our short film series. Premiering before The Good Dinosaur in 2015, it was met with unanimous praise and approval.

Inspired by director Sanjay Patel’s childhood, this mostly true story wasn’t, at first. Patel was actually very reluctant to make it a personal film, but some encouragement from both his father and John Lasseter prompted him to shine the spotlight on his younger self. “Sanjay’s Super Team” is not only Pixar’s first film with a nonwhite protagonist, but the first to feature a non Western culture as well.

There are two rituals being practiced in this short. One is sacred while the other is a distinctly American pastime. Sanjay and his father sit on opposite sides of the room which further illustrates the contrast between their two activities. Note how the television and prayer box are the same shape, the antennae mirroring the incense sticks. Also note how Sanjay is on the left (West) side, while his father is on the right (East) side.

The boy runs to the television set and gleefully begins watching his favorite superhero cartoon. His father is quiet as he kneels before his prayer box. He rings a bell which signals to Sanjay that it’s time to pray. The boy ignores him and instead raises the volume on the TV. But his father has the remote, and he turns the TV off and takes away his son’s action figure too. A thoroughly uninterested Sanjay joins his father, sighing about the whole ordeal. He sneaks the toy back from under his father’s nose and its cape accidentally catches fire from the flame in the oil lamp. Sanjay ends up blowing out the flame and is transported to a cavernous temple. Sanjay is all alone in this dark, cold place, until a monster unfurls from the giant oil lamp in the center of the temple, a creature made of darkness. The monster proceeds to destroy the temple. Sanjay lights the oil lamp, and three Hindu gods come to life: Vishnu, Durga, and Hanuman.

Now the temple is filled with both light and warmth. The deities evoke tranquility in the midst of chaos. They attempt to quell the monster’s attacks, but only succeed momentarily. It’s up to Sanjay to restore peace, and he does so by smashing his action figure against the oil lamp. The reverberating echoes, not unlike the ringing of his father’s bell, calm the monster and he departs peacefully. As the older Patel remarked, the monster is a metaphor for little Sanjay’s own chaotic energy. His father also wanted him to be calm. And when little Sanjay is finally still, he reaches enlightenment, much like the monster who ceases his destruction of the temple.

Sanjay receives a blessing from Vishnu, along with his repaired toy, and returns home. His father allows him to watch TV again once he sees that the boy has no interest in his customs. But Sanjay now has a much better understanding – and appreciation – of his father’s religion and beliefs.

Although “Sanjay’s Super Team” lacks dialogue, it’s a symphony of sounds, as well as light and color. Mychael Danna’s score achieves an epic and adventurous sound, that blends in seamlessly with the chimes of both bells and light. The short’s bold designs and lighting also sets it apart from other Pixar features. The light behaves much differently than it would normally. There’s a glossy sheen to the light and textures within the temple, making the deities almost appear translucent.

There’s also a gracefulness to the short, evident in the movements of the deities. That was a result of studying Indian dances, such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi, and Kathakali.

But there’s gracefulness in the narrative too. The story grew from Patel’s own experiences of ignoring his family’s culture and instead gravitating to an American one. He didn’t want to be different at all. “I wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.” So the short’s conclusion, in which he envisions the deities as his own superheroes and proudly shows his artwork to his father, is especially touching. Sanjay realizes that he can unite his passions and his father’s traditions, that he can embrace his Indian heritage and his American one.

“If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short. I want to normalise and bring a young brown boy’s story to the pop culture zeitgeist. To have a broad audience like Pixar’s see this … it is a big deal.”

“Sanjay’s Super Team” is not only a gift for Sanjay Patel’s younger self, but for the audience as well.

Fun facts:

  • Sanjay doesn’t have an age – at least his older counterpart doesn’t know how old he actually is!
  • The kid art in the end credits was drawn by the children of Pixar employees.
  • Vishnu, the blue deity, represents Sanjay’s father. He’s known as the preserver, and that’s what Sanjay’s father did with his traditions.
  • Vishnu’s blue color is also central to the short, as the flame is blue and so are Sanjay’s pajamas.
  • The motel that Patel’s parents managed is also the same one in the short.

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SparkShorts – What Is It And Why Should We Be Excited About It?

Short Film, Shorts, Smash and Grab, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • January 12, 2019

One of the best things about Pixar is their commitment to innovation. We’ve been highlighting the studio’s short films recently, which have been part of its DNA since it was founded over 30 years ago. That legacy continues with their latest project.

Yesterday Pixar revealed their new SparkShorts program – an official title for the experimental shorts department that we found out about in 2017. It was already an exciting concept – for years, Pixar shorts have been a way of trying out new things and giving employees a chance to try their hand at directing. Having a whole internal program dedicated to giving people at Pixar – from all sorts of different backgrounds and departments – the opportunity to create with little to no restriction or pressure is ingenius. It’s what Pixar is all about: encouraging and inspiring creativity.

Now that the program has been officially revealed and titled, SparkShorts is filling us all with that feeling of awe and pride that Pixar fans are familiar with. Watch their video about it below for some sneak peaks of the upcoming SparkShorts (some of which we’ll be lucky enough to see in just over a month!):

“Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of SparkShorts. The program was created to provide opportunities to a wide array of artists – each with something unique to say.” – Lindsey Collins, vice president of development for Pixar.

The first three shorts in the SparkShorts program will be shown at the El Capitan Theater following The Little Mermaid this January 18th-24th. After this, the shorts will even be available on YouTube for us all to see. Pixar have published the titles and descriptions of these three shorts which you can read below.

  • “Purl,” directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan, features an earnest ball of yarn named Purl who gets a job in a fast-paced, high energy, bro-tastic start-up. Yarny hijinks ensue as she tries to fit in, but how far is she willing to go to get the acceptance she yearns for, and in the end, is it worth it? [Available on YouTube on February 4th]
  • “Smash and Grab, directed by Brian Larsen and produced by David Lally, is about two antiquated robots who risk everything for freedom and for each other after years of toiling away inside the engine room of a towering locomotive. [Available on YouTube on February 11th]

  • Kitbull,” directed by Rosana Sullivan and produced by Kathryn Hendrickson, reveals an unlikely connection that sparks between two creatures: a fiercely independent stray kitten and a pit bull. Together, they experience friendship for the first time. [Available on YouTube on February 18th]

Just months after Domee Shi became the first female director at Pixar for her memorable short “Bao”, it’s so encouraging to see more female directors and new talent from all sorts of different backgrounds making their debut. It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to the new shorts, and to the future! There are countless stories waiting to be told by the talented employees at Pixar, and with projects like this going on, we’ll actually be able to hear them!

UPDATE 16/01/19

You can now find out more about each of the SparkShorts on Pixar’s site here. They’ve also released each short’s corresponding poster. “Loop” and “Wind” are my personal favourites, but they’re all very cleverly designed.

It’s already clear that having crews of diverse storytellers and animators has led to these SparkShorts connecting with a wider range of underrepresented communities and cultures: praise has been given to “Float” for being the first Pixar short to feature Filipino characters, and “Loop” will feature Pixar’s first non-verbal autistic character ‘Renee’, who can be seen in the poster.

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Geri’s Game – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Geri's Game, Pixar Short of the Week, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Joanna • January 5, 2019

“Geri’s Game” is one of Pixar’s most memorable shorts, despite it being over 20 years old now. It came out in 1997, and was then played before A Bug’s Life in November of 1998. Even though its age means that current technology has totally surpassed the level of detail they were able to include in “Geri’s Game”, the short has aged incredibly well and is still fondly recognised as many people’s favourite animated short.

“Geri’s Game”, directed by Jan Pinkava (who went on to co-direct Ratatouille), tells a simple but effective story of an old man (Geri) playing a game of chess against himself. There is only one character in the short, but the clever use of editing, camera angles, and animation give the illusion of there actually being two ‘Geri’s competing against each other. It’s the animation especially that makes this illusion so endearing – one Geri is frail and withdrawn, peering uncertainly through his glasses and moving each of his white chess pieces with shaky hands, while the other Geri sits confidently with a smug look on his face. He doesn’t seem to need his glasses to plan out his next move – as soon as takes his place at the chess table he moves each black pawn, knight or rook quickly and decisively.

“Geri’s Game” shows how important facial expressions and gestures are in determining a character’s personality. Here, the Geri playing with the black chess pieces oozes confidence.

The Geri playing with the white pieces is withdrawn and unsure.

The confident Geri is somehow the much better chess player, but the other Geri manages to win the game in a more unconventional way – he fakes a heart attack and spins the chessboard around while his foe is distracted. And the prize for winning? Geri’s very own pair of dentures.

The story is silly, but it also shows a heartwarming insight into an old man facing the loneliness head-on – loneliness is a huge issue with the elderly, but it’s lovely to see Geri having fun in his own company, even if it’s a little crazy. At the time it was released, it must have really shown the potential 3D animation had for creating characters full of personality and illustrating stories that people feel invested in.  It won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and you can see why – while modern day 3D animation generally looks much more detailed and impressive, “Geri’s Game” made good use of its limited technology. Geri’s character model may not be staggeringly beautiful by today’s admittedly high standards, but the animation is wonderful – next time you watch the short, pay attention to how his elderly hands shake, how he walks carefully and deliberately, and how different his two personas move and behave. Pixar shorts are often used as a form of practice in a way, and you can tell “Geri’s Game” was used to focus on improving their animation and modelling of humans.

Concept art by director Jan Pinkava

Some fun facts:

  • There is one shot where both ‘Geri’s can be seen at once. Pinkava assures us this was an intentional joke.
  • Geri appeared again in Toy Story 2 as the toy repairman who made Woody look as good as new. The toy repairman was a last-minute character addition, so using an old model as a starting point saved them a lot of time.
  • Geri is voiced by Bob Peterson, who has also lent his voice to Dug (Up), Roz (Monsters Inc.) and Mr. Ray (Finding Nemo).
  • Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Incredibles 2) told Pinkava that one of the reasons he came to Pixar was because of “Geri’s Game” – it showed him that human animation was possible using 3D techniques.

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