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January, 2020
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New film still and new insight into Soul

Pete Docter, Soul

Posted by Simoa • January 22, 2020

Pete Docter’s Soul bears some resemblance to Inside Out with its abstract concept, but the two films have another connection. Speaking with Empire, the director gave further insight into what his newest film is all about. As it turns out, Joe Gardner’s journey after his death is to The Great Before, defined as a place where people get their personalities. I can’t help but be reminded of the beginning of Inside Out, where Riley greets the world and her parents as a newborn baby. As Docter noted,

“The instant my kids were born, they seemed to have a very specific, unique personality; this is a deep dive into why that’s the case.”

I love that Docter is drawing inspiration from his children once again for this latest exploration into the human experience. I also wonder exactly how he thinks their personalities were fixed from the moment they were born. Maybe that’s something only parents can understand. Regardless, Soul, in theaters on June 19th, will be a film for everyone. Check out the exclusive new film still.

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Toy Story 4 Short ‘Lamp Life’ Coming To Disney+

Disney+, Shorts, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • January 22, 2020

It feels like Disney+ is slowly but surely filling up with Pixar shorts, and we couldn’t be happier. Between the pioneering SparkShorts (you can read our review of the latest SparkShort – Loop – here), the classic shorts that premiered before Pixar’s feature films, Pixar Toons, and originals like Forky Asks a Question, Disney+ is accumulating quite the collection.

A new Disney+ exclusive Toy Story 4 short has just been revealed, and it’s going to be released in just over a week on January 31st. The new short is Lamp Life, and it’ll give us an idea of how Bo Peep lived her life as a lamp between leaving Woody and becoming a lost toy.

We’re still a little blown away by Bo’s incredible comeback, so it’s exciting that we’ll get to see more of her personality shining through, even if only for a brief short.

There are some Mater’s Tall Tales vibes happening too. It’s great to get to see a snippet of a character’s life that didn’t quite fit into a feature length movie, even if some of the snippets may or may not be entirely true.

“That all happened?!”

“Well…more or less.”

Here’s to January 31st!

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Looping through colors and sounds

SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • January 21, 2020

When “Loop” premiered on Disney+ a few weeks ago, I watched it three times in a row. (As of this posting, my view count is now at five). It’s the first Pixar release of 2020, and I can’t think of a better one to hold that distinction. It represents another first as well: one of the protagonists is autistic and nonverbal. Her name is Renee. I remember really liking her design the first time I saw the poster last year. All that hair!

“Loop” is Pixar’s second SparkShort about autism, but this time, there are no metaphors or magic. Renee’s autism isn’t portrayed as a mysterious gift. This short is extraordinarily simple – we spend one bright and sunny afternoon with two teenagers in a canoe. Marcus is Renee’s partner. He is not autistic and seems nice enough, although he is reluctant to be paired off with Renee, referring to her as “that girl who doesn’t talk.” Their continuous loop around the lake is fairly uneventful at first, but that’s why I find it so compelling. It’s just two kids with vastly different experiences of the world learning to communicate with one another.

Also available on Disney+ is “The Making of Loop.” It details how the filmmakers, led by director Erica Milsom, worked with The Autistic Self Advocacy Network to bring this story faithfully to the screen. One way they achieved authenticity was with the casting of Madison Bandy, a nonverbal autistic actress, as Renee. Girls are largely under diagnosed with autism, and we might be tempted to associate it with boys only. But for a Pixar film to center a nonwhite autistic girl is really making strides in the realm of representation for both the studio and media in a broader sense. It’s also cool that both characters in “Loop” are nonwhite, with Marcus having dark brown skin.

It’s evident just how passionate Milsom and her team were to tell this story in such an honest way. Marcus is well intentioned, but his plans go awry, and he becomes frustrated. He doesn’t know how to communicate with Renee, but he does give her some space. He learns to be patient. We’re able to sympathize with him. Not once are we meant to pity Renee; rather we identify with her; see and hear the world through her eyes and ears. A great moment in “Loop” occurs when Marcus tells her, “I hear you.” Just because she can’t talk doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen.

One of my nieces is on the autism spectrum, and she struggled a lot with sensory overload when she was younger. That scene in the short where Renee claps her hands to her ears was so immediately recognizable to me, because my niece would always do the same when she was overwhelmed by noise. I am not autistic, but Renee hiding under the canoe was deeply relatable to me. I’ve never done that, but I understand the need to. The comfort she draws from listening to her ringtone, a continuous looping sound, is also something I could relate to: I’ve listened to the same song on repeat when I need comfort, or need to calm myself down.

“Loop” just radiates so much compassion, color, and warmth.

“Loop” is dedicated to Adam Burke, who also has a story credit on the film. Read this Forbes interview with Milsom and producers Michael Warch and Krissy Cababa for more insight on this beautiful little story.

Click the banner below for more of our SparkShorts reviews. 

 

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Onward – More Posters Revealed

Onward, Poster

Posted by Joanna • January 16, 2020

Believe it or not, we are now a mere 50 days away from the release of Pixar’s next movie, and first of the decadeOnward.

Today, new character posters were revealed, including the one we were all waiting for: the Dad poster! Or the ‘weird, detached legs’ poster.

Just legs, and yet so much personality.

In addition to these, there are also some new UK Onward posters, featuring familiar characters but with different backdrops, and some new poses. The Ian and Barley poster is just precious – let’s just wait and see if Ian actually puts up with his big brother so patiently when the film is released.

In the background of Ian and Barley’s mom’s poster, you can just make out the sign for ‘Pizza Realm’, a clever reference to Toy Story’s Pizza Planet! Now that we’re into the final countdown to the movie’s release, keep checking back for more updates and insights into the making of Onward. We can’t wait to share more with you!

 

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The Non Magical Quest for Onward’s Story

Behind The Scenes, Dan Scanlon, Interview, Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • January 14, 2020

 “If something has happened to you, and you have real questions about it, chances are people in the world are gonna have similar questions even if they don’t have the same story.” 

-Dan Scanlon

That bit of insight perfectly encapsulates Pixar’s films and according to Dan, are also why they have stood the test of time. He added that the new SparkShorts program allows filmmakers to tell stories that are unlike anything the studio has done before. Onward, his second directorial feature, is yet another Pixar first. 

I was so fortunate to visit Pixar for the third time last October to learn about the making of the film and to cross paths with more passionate storytellers. One of my favorite things about this event was the filmmaker conference with Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae.

The Onward Long Lead press days, including a press conference with Kori Rae and Dan Scanlon, as seen on October 30, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

The two have a genuine camaraderie that makes them a winning director-producer duo, and it’s no surprise that they teamed up once again after Monsters University in 2013. One other MU alum on Onward is story supervisor Kelsey Mann. We got to see a photo of the trio on Day 1 of Onward, where there was just a single lonely post-it on a big stretch of whiteboard. As Dan recalled: “It’s just so tricky to come up with something from nothing. Kelsey and Kori and I went back on that first day and I don’t know what we did other than pin up that one thing and it’s terrifying.” His words echoed Kelsey’s about the terror of a blank page. 

The Onward Long Lead press days, including Madeline Sharafian and Kelsey Mann, as seen on October 29, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Marc Flores / Pixar)

But of course, that page is filled eventually, and Dan is helped by a team of dedicated story artists, led by Kelsey. In a presentation with him and one of the story leads Maddie Sharafian, we learned all about the storyboarding process for Onward. After clearing the initial hurdle of the blank page, the fear began to dissipate. As Kelsey noted, he and Kori Rae were there to help Dan through the process, which Dan was quite vulnerable about:

It’s a really scary thing and it’s a very private and lonely thing, even though you do have a lot of help, you do have to dig into yourself and your life and talk to people, talk to your friends…it’s like therapy.”

Kelsey Mann’s involvement at the start of the project is actually unusual. Most of the time, it’s just the director or the director and the producer in the early stages of the film. The three of them were joined by a handful of others to put the story up in cards and just talk through the scenes and story beats. Dan and his co-writer Jason Headley wrote a script which was then handed to the story artists. They all read it individually and then came together as a group to discuss what worked and offer critiques about what didn’t. When a scene is finished, the temporary voices are added, and it’s sent to editorial, which mixes in the sound effects and music. Now the artist’s initial pitch is strengthened by the music and atmosphere. 

Screenings are held for 35-40 scenes in the studio’s theater, and there are brain trust screenings for the crew, along with people who aren’t working on the film. And what’s really cool is that people will help out on the ideas for the film even if they’re working on other projects. The collaborative spirit really does animate the studio’s artists. 

But the real exciting part of this whole process are the storyboards. We actually got to see them for one scene in the film! And this was after the film screening we had viewed with all the finished animation. The boards were just as compelling. For the film crew, watching each artist’s storyboard pitch is similar to watching the actual movie. Kelsey described it as a play with multiple people presenting the scenes they worked on in succession. 

It’s definitely quite a challenge to find the right story, but what I really appreciated learning about this process was how certain decisions strengthened the story and the journey of Ian and Barley. We got to see how the story artists think through those decisions, with their writing and drawings. Kelsey and Maddie actually demonstrated for us how they do this by drawing on their iPads so we could see how the storyboarded scene was edited. A tiny glimpse into one of Pixar’s story rooms!

Onward story team members, including Madeline Sharafian, Louise Smythe and Rosana Sullivan, work in the “fishbowl,” a common work space for everyone to be together while working, as seen on November 8, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

 

Onward story team members work in the “fishbowl,” a common work space for everyone to be together while working, as seen on November 8, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Dan also praised Onward’s story artists for their ability to understand Ian, who was a tough character to figure out. Because he’s so much more comfortable in the background, it was difficult for the team to find something ‘playable’ that they could all work on. He mentioned how a story artist was able to turn Art from Monsters University into a character everyone was familiar with, all thanks to the iconic line, “I can’t go back to jail!” For Ian, “It wasn’t until we got to the more blundering awkward stuff that Tom Holland does so well, that we said ‘he’s all of our horrible 16 year old selves’; all of us artists who want to hide and not be seen; he’s every awkward moment you’ve ever had embodied in a character and then he’s also the opposite of Barley. Barley is super confident and wild, he’s everything we wish we were in some way.”

Speaking of Barley, we even got to draw him with some help from Maddie!

The Onward Long Lead press days, including Madeline Sharafian and Kelsey Mann, as seen on October 30, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

 

Now you may be wondering how certain story elements are kept or discarded. Although Dan and Kori joked that he ultimately had the final say, his answer reflected a lot of thoughtfulness and humility. 

“…what makes it really hard is that everyone here is very smart and are all great filmmakers and I respect their opinion and that makes it difficult to make a choice because it’s not like I go, ‘hmph, that person’s wrong!’ I usually think ‘Wow, why are they saying that? There’s gotta be a good reason for that.’”

“It’s amazing how open Dan is and everyone is during the process because we really just want to make the best choices for the film. There are times we will debate things and we’ll leave a review. Afterwards people will go up and … [say] I’m still not sure about this decision and we will keep talking about it. That’s all we do all day long is make choices and decisions and try to move everything forward. It’s fun, it’s great, but we really do try to listen for the best idea, the thing that’s really best for the film. Dan is incredibly open. If anybody is questioning any decision that we make, we encourage them to talk to us about it. We’ve changed our minds on stuff.” – Kori Rae

While the story underwent many revisions, the core of it remained unchanged. It was always going to be a deeply personal film for Dan, one that still allows audiences to connect with it, even if they don’t share his experiences. 

Stay tuned, because more posts on this film awaiteth!

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Congratulations to Pixar on Three Oscar Nominations!

Animation, Awards, Josh Cooley, Oscars, Randy Newman, Short Film, Shorts, SparkShorts, Toy Story 4

Posted by Nia • January 13, 2020

This morning storytellers and film aficionados alike gathered around their TVs, cradled their smartphones, and hunched over their computer monitors awaiting the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominations. Despite some obvious snubs and a few shockers, the broadcast concluded with a solid list of nominations, including THREE for Disney/Pixar.

The studio snagged a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category for Toy Story 4, the Best Original Song category for Toy Story 4, and in the Best Animated Short category for Kitbull.

A lot of time and hard work goes into making any kind of animated content and we wanted to congratulate EVERYONE who was involved in Toy Story 4 and Kitbull. Great work!

Now… it’s time to begin the official award show countdown. We can’t wait for the Oscars, which airs on Sunday 9th of February!

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A Breakdown of Toy Story 4’s Award Nominations

Academy Awards, Annie Awards, Awards, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • January 8, 2020

Toy Story 4 has been picking up nominations from all over the place this awards season, as is often the case for Pixar movies. It can get a little difficult to keep track of them all and work out when we’ll find out the results for each of the awards ceremonies. With Toy Story 4 recently gaining a couple more nominations this past week, we’ve compiled a list of the more notable nominations plus when the winners will be announced.

Let’s start with the most recent nominations:

BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts): ceremony date February 2nd

Best Animated Film
Toy Story 4
Frozen 2
Klaus
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

VES (Visual Effects Society): ceremony date January 29th

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature
Toy Story 4
Frozen 2
Klaus
Missing Link
The Lego Movie 2
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature
Toy Story 4 (Bo Peep)
Frozen 2 (The Water Nøkk)
Klaus (Jesper)
Missing Link (Susan)
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature
Toy Story 4 (Antiques Mall)
Frozen 2 (Giants’ Gorge)
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (The Hidden World)
Missing Link (Passage to India Jungle)
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature
Toy Story 4
Abominable
Frozen 2
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project
Toy Story 4
Alita: Battle Angel
The Lion King
The Mandalorian

And now onto nominations that were revealed last year. Missing Link won Best Animated Feature Film at the Golden Globe Awards, but we’re sure the whole Toy Story 4 team are beyond pleased with their nomination against such strong contenders.

Annie Awards: ceremony date January 25th

Best Feature
Toy Story 4
Frozen 2
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Klaus
Missing Link
Best FX For Feature
Toy Story 4
Abominable
Frozen 2
Missing Link
Weathering With You
Best Music – Feature
Toy Story 4
AWAY
Frozen 2
I Lost My Body
Spies in Disguise
Best Voice Acting – Feature
Toy Story 4 (Tony Hale – go, Forky!)
Abominable
Frozen 2
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Best Writing – Feature
Toy Story 4
Frozen 2
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Weathering With You
Best Editorial – Feature
Toy Story 4
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Klaus
Missing Link
The Secret Life of Pets 2

Academy Awards (SHORTLISTS): ceremony date February 9th

The nominations haven’t been revealed yet, but Toy Story 4 has been shortlisted for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (for I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away by Randy Newman).

Critics’ Choice Awards: ceremony date January 12th

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 4
Abominable
Frozen 2
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Missing Link

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