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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

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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Pixar Appears Twice In Oscars Shortlists

Awards, Oscars, Shorts, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • December 17, 2019

The 2020 Oscars shortlists have been revealed for 9 categories: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects. Pixar appears in the shortlists twice, and we couldn’t be more happy and hopeful for the teams involved.

Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4 has been shortlisted for Best Music (Original Song). Newman’s music always evokes such a strong sense of nostalgia in me, partly because it brings me back to watching Pixar movies on VHS tapes, but also because the lyrics are always so thoughtful.

The wonderful Sparkshort Kitbull, directed by Rosana Sullivan and produced by Kathryn Hendrickson, has also been shortlisted for Best Animated Short Film. It’s great to see one of the Sparkshorts gaining attention in the awards season, especially with them missing out at the Annie Awards nominations. Out of all the Sparkshorts that Pixar released on YouTube, Kitbull currently has the most views, and holds the record for the most tears I have shed while watching an animated cat.

Good luck to all those that have been shortlisted! As ever, we’re intrigued to see how the awards season plays out.

So far this season, Toy Story 4 has been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes, and at the Annie Awards it gained 6 nominations: Best Feature, Best FX (Alexis Angelidis, Amit Ganapati Baadkar, Greg Gladstone, Kylie Wijsmuller and Matthew Kiyoshi Wong), Best Music (Randy Newman), Best Voice Acting (Tony Hale as Forky), Best Writing (Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton), and Best Editorial (Axel Geddes, Torbin Xan Bullock and Greg Snyder).

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The second official Onward trailer is here!

Onward, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • December 17, 2019

Holy Tooth of Zadar! What a marvelous two minutes and 25 seconds it is!

There’s even a new poster too.

I can’t say anything just yet about the Onward screening I attended back in October, but would you believe that this new trailer inspired the same emotions in me? Mostly awe tinged with sadness. My eyes started welling up, and I’ve watched the trailer three times already. Imagine how much of a mess I’ll be when the actual movie is released!

This new footage reveals quite a bit more, but much of the plot mystery remains intact. Some of the new footage includes the Manticore sending Ian and Barley on their quest. It turns out the mighty and fearsome creature has evolved into a frazzled restaurant manager. And while manticores are usually depicted with the face of a man, Corey the Manticore Manager, is a woman!

Corey however, forgot to warn Ian and Barley about the curse, so now the Lightfoot brothers are in mortal peril! Their mother Laurel sets out after them, and we even get to see her wield a sword! Not since Brave in 2012 have we had a Pixar mom play a vital role and carry a sword!

I found my favorite character. Did I mention she has a sword?

We also see one of the newly unveiled characters from yesterday, Colt Bronco, attempting to escort Ian and Barley home in a police cruiser. There’s a lot of action sequences, but none of it overwhelms.

But it’s not all high speed car chases, sword wielding moms, fire breathing dragons, and tough biker pixies; there’s tender scenes too, and even a baby picture of Ian and Barley.

It’s clear from this trailer and the screening from a few weeks ago that Onward will have quieter moments. Considering the themes of death and grieving, that’s only to be expected. I’m anticipating how the filmmakers strike a balance between this wild fantasy world and the more familiar, human aspects. All while being uproariously funny and sad.

The trailer also treats us to stunning scenery, colors, backgrounds, and landscapes. I’m swooning just thinking of that color script.


Onward will be in theaters in almost three! months – March 6, 2020.

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New Onward Character Posters, New Cast Revealed, New Trailer!

Onward

Posted by Joanna • December 16, 2019

A new Onward trailer is arriving tomorrow, and to tide us over, Pixar have provided us with some character posters and new cast reveals.

Check out the new posters below:

Most of these characters are familiar to us at this point, but the police officers seem new: Gore, Specter, and a centaur cop whose name is unknown, but that thumbs up tells us he’s a friendly guy. These characters will be voiced by Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, and Mel Rodriguez respectively.

Update: the unnamed centaur cop is Colt Bronco. (Somebody at Pixar is a football fan).

We’re still holding out hope for a character poster featuring just Dad’s legs, but we’ll have to wait and see.

March 6th! Suddenly it doesn’t seem so far away.

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Float: a magical story of acceptance

Bobby Rubio, Disney+, Float, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • December 15, 2019

Please don’t ask if I have a favorite SparkShort. I just can’t choose. (Maybe it’s “Kitbull.” But again, don’t ask)! But if you asked me which one is the most special to me, I’d have to choose “Float.” That’s the one I was lucky enough to watch in Pixar’s beautiful theater, where the ceiling glitters with gold stars. In fact, I was so excited about the prospect of seeing any one of the SparkShorts on a big screen that I gasped aloud when it was announced. And I was sitting in the front row, so Chris Wiggum, our host that night, heard and immediately singled me out. One of my finer moments, to be sure! 

The SparkShorts series came at a pivotal moment in Pixar’s history. At a time when Hollywood at large has reckoned with abuses of power, Pixar has had to do the same. This short film program aims to level the playing field by giving opportunities to diverse voices behind the camera. “Float” was the first to premiere on Disney+ a few weeks ago, and it was also the first thing I watched when I downloaded the app. Nothing could replace the experience of seeing it in Pixar’s theater, but I just had to watch it over and over, and be enveloped by all the emotions it stirred in me. 

“Float” is story artist Bobby Rubio’s first directorial effort. He’s Filipino, as are the characters in the short. In fact, it’s a deeply personal project inspired by Rubio’s relationship with his son. “Float” opens on a warm and golden afternoon. A father and his son enjoy the beautiful day, with the little boy taking a few wobbly steps. As the father blows on a dandelion, the delighted boy breaks into a smile and floats in the air. It’s a moment of innocent magic, and by that point, I was already in love. I just expected to be smiling contentedly for the rest of it, soaking up the warmth.

But then two parents pass by with their daughter, and their reaction to the boy in the air is one of confusion and alarm. That was the moment that my warm and fuzzy bubble burst. Uh, what’s the matter with these people? I thought. This boy can fly! The father did not share my feelings. He grabs his son from the air and holds onto him, retreats into their house, away from the neighbors’ stares. 

The interior of the house is gray and drab, the golden haze gone. The years have passed and the little boy is a bit older now, drawing on the ceiling since he can float up there. His father is grim faced with lanky long hair and a beard. It’s clear that he hasn’t shaved or gotten a haircut in quite a while. He’s also frustrated by his son’s unique ability. He grabs him out of the air and places a backpack loaded with rocks onto him so he’ll remain on the ground. That’s his way of achieving some sort of “normalcy.” 

But his son doesn’t stay earthbound for very long. Despite his father’s best efforts, he still continues to soar. 

I had suspected that “Float” was a metaphor for autism. Bobby Rubio confirmed it for us during a panel with the SparkShorts filmmakers, and hearing him describe his experiences raising his son, struggling to accept his differences, made me choke up just as much as I did watching the short. “Float” may be about a father learning to accept his son, but I found another meaning in it. Autism is so misunderstood, and “Float” doesn’t shy away from that reality. But it also presents it as something magical like flying. Isn’t that amazing? This thing that makes you different, that other people find weird, is actually wonderful. It could be autism or anything else, and that’s also what makes “Float” so significant.

There’s just one line of dialogue spoken, and it’s devastating; I’d rank it up there with some of the most heart wrenching moments in Pixar’s full length films. That’s one of the things I love about these SparkShorts: they tell a lot of story in such a brief amount of time, and none of the poignancy is lost. 

Be sure to watch the The Making of Float, also on Disney+. There’s some beautiful concept art and more background on the short.

 

Click the banner below for all of our SparkShorts reviews.

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The bleak immigration story in Wind

Short Film, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • December 14, 2019

Pixar’s latest SparkShort is now streaming on Disney+. “Wind” is a tale unlike any other at the studio. Of course we watch Pixar films expecting to cry, but rarely do they leave us so winded (pun not intended) without the promise of a happy ending. Toy Story 4 was the first to end on a bittersweet note, but the ending to “Wind” is actually heartbreaking.

The short begins with warm lighting that envelopes the characters, a young boy and his grandmother, in soft, gold light. It’s comforting. But that warmth just vanishes when they step outside. The two of them live in a vast ruin of darkness with massive boulders and debris floating through the air. It’s mostly gray out there; cold and harsh.

I was wondering throughout how this cavernous landfill came to exist, and why these two people should be living on such inhospitable terrain. Those questions weren’t answered but that doesn’t matter: this is a place no one should call home. And so, the boy and his grandmother collect the floating trash as they build a rocket to escape.

Brilliant touches abound in “Wind.” The visual storytelling communicates a wealth of emotions and the tenderness between grandma and grandson without dialogue. I’m sure it qualifies as a silent film, as do the majority of Pixar’s shorts. The visuals are also stunning even in this colorless and bleak environment. The story is one that will resonate with so many real world families making their journeys to a better life. “Wind” is a fantasy that nevertheless reflects the harsh realities of immigration. It’s the kind of story that could be told in a full length feature, but the runtime is one of its strengths. It’s no small feat to tell a meaningful story in ten minutes or less, especially one with protagonists enduring hardship.

“Wind” was directed by Edwin Chang, a simulation technical director. His family’s experiences inspired the short, which echoes other directors and their projects at the studio. The personal always lends these films even more potency. You can read a brief interview with Chang and producer Jesus Martinez at SFGate

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Pixar debuts a new Onward still

Onward

Posted by Simoa • December 11, 2019

At Brazil’s Comic Con Experience (CCXP) over the past weekend, attendees were treated to clips of Onward. Deadline reports that one bit of new footage was screened, where Ian and Barley meet biker pixies, who have only appeared briefly in the film’s trailer. Check out the latest image of the elf brothers below.

Dan Scanlon also spoke some more about the film’s inspiration, which he drew from his own experience. Ian and Barley growing up without their father mirrors Scanlon and his older brother as well. They were both still babies when their father passed away, so neither remember him. But they were able to hear their father’s voice on a recording, which was also played at CCXP. Scanlon described it as magical. So it’s no wonder that there’s a scene in the film of Ian listening to his father’s voice on a cassette tape. It’s so lovely that Scanlon could hold onto that memory and build an entire film around it.

Onward cometh to theaters on March 6, 2020.

 

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