MENU

Author

The Story of Coco: Finding Miguel’s Passion

Adrian Molina, Coco, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • September 9, 2017

“Pixar movies are always meant to be.”

Director Lee Unkrich and Co-Director Adrian Molina during a Coco art review on February 18, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

A truer statement can’t be made about the animation studio and its films. During my August visit, learning about the upcoming Coco through various presentations proved to be immensely rewarding as well as informative. Co-director Adrian Molina and lead story artist Dean Kelly led the presentation for The Story of Coco.

COCO – Concept art by Armand Baltazar and John Nevarez. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Research is always a necessary component to Pixar films, and in some cases, research trips too. As with 2012’s Brave, with Scotland as the destination, the film crew traveled to Mexico in order to make the film and its depiction of Dia de Los Muertos as authentic as possible. They studied the customs of the holiday and found that the traditions were built into the film on a fundamental level.

Members of the Latino community visit Pixar Animation Studios on May 12, 2016, for a roundtable session with Coco filmmakers. (Photo: Virginia Mae Rollison / Pixar)

The initial seed of the film was planted in 2011. The basic premise was that of a boy trapped in the Land of the Dead. Like the most bold of ideas, this was one story that could only be told through the vibrant medium of animation. The one major challenge that arose was communicating Miguel’s passion for music. As Molina pointed out, Pixar artists could relate to Miguel. That passion for something he loves is what they feel innately. Molina added a personal touch to the film, drawing on his own experiences as a young boy fascinated by animation.

Molina used to watch old Disney shows that explained the process of animation. He recorded them painstakingly and watched them repeatedly, teaching himself before the age of the internet. This personal touch informed Miguel’s own journey. He has a VHS tape of Ernesto de La Cruz interviews and clips that he watches often and in secret, away from his family. Once this touch was added, the response from the brain trust meetings were more favorable and enthusiastic. The story team overcame the hurdle of making Miguel’s desire palpable to the audience.

COCO – Concept art by Zaruhi Galstyan. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Music is the air Miguel breathes. He’s not meant to join the family business. In fact, Coco mirrors another Pixar film, La Luna. The struggle for him to pursue his passion against family tradition is sure to play out just as beautifully.

Read article

The first 30 minutes of Coco

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • August 28, 2017

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – a visit to Pixar! In anticipation of Coco, which will be released in November, Disney invited bloggers and various outlets to the Emeryville studio for a press event on August 3rd and 4th. We got to see the first thirty five minutes of Pixar’s latest Lee Unkrich helmed feature.

Few things can compare to watching a Pixar film in Pixar’s very own theater! As Unkrich announced on twitter recently, Coco is now completed. The version we saw was unfinished. There were completed sequences, rough sketches, and unlighted animation. Yet the film was still engrossing and quite beautiful.

After we settled in our seats, the Disney logo appeared onscreen, its familiar theme played by a mariachi band.

Coco tells the story of twelve year old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez). The Riveras are shoemakers, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations from matriarch Mama Imelda, Miguel’s great-great grandmother. Miguel is not at all impressed with the family’s chosen occupation. He would have preferred something much more exciting and fun. As we learn at the start of the film, Mama Imelda became a shoemaker in order to support herself and her daughter after her husband abandoned the family for his music career. Miguel explains that she didn’t have time to feel sad or sorry for herself.

But Mama Imelda, stung by her husband’s betrayal, forbids music in the Rivera family. No one is allowed to play or listen to music and certainly not to pursue it for a career. Miguel’s great-great grandfather is also never mentioned or seen; Miguel doesn’t even know his name.

As we arrive in present day Mexico, the no music rule has been strictly enforced by Miguel’s abuelita (Renee Victor). The Riveras are the only family in Mexico that will have nothing to do with music. Perhaps it’s because they fear abuelita’s wrath that the Riveras do not question or challenge the ban on music. They are all content to make shoes. All except Miguel, that is. He desperately wants to become a musician and has taught himself to play the guitar. He’s also built a shrine to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.

Once the most popular singer in Mexico, de la Cruz appeared in movies and enjoyed great fame before his untimely death in the 1940s. Miguel is convinced that music is his destiny, the same as it was for de la Cruz. But unfortunately, his secret ambition is revealed to his family.

Coco is a unique film from the start. From just the first half hour, it’s clear that Pixar has crafted another heartwarming portrayal of family life. Though Miguel must hide his passion for music, the Riveras are a close knit bunch. Abuelita is formidable and won’t hesitate to hit someone with her chancla, but she’s a warm, loving grandmother.

Miguel is likable immediately. His desire for music is communicated so strongly that it’s unimaginable that he would make shoes or do anything else. The audience believes that music is part of his destiny as well.

And this is only the Land of the Living. There’s another world in Coco, one bursting with life and color, despite its name. Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead and it’s here that he meets the Rivera family members that have died. They are as funny and vibrant as his living family.

The Land of the Dead is run like a typical government agency, with workers who sit at desks behind computers.

Pixar’s worlds have always been a visual and technical marvel. They’ve captured wonder in worlds both real and imagined. With Coco, Mexico becomes a character too, though it never overwhelms the human ones. We become fully immersed in both worlds of the living and dead, as well as the language, music, and culture.

From what I was lucky enough to see, I am eagerly anticipating the completed film!

I’ll have plenty more posts about my incredible two day trip at Pixar and all that I learned about Coco. Check back here for more!

Read article

Brand new international Coco poster + trailer!

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Poster, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • August 7, 2017

Lee Unkrich has shared the newest international poster for Coco on twitter.

More characters are featured; Miguel’s family, both living and dead and his spirit guide, Hector. Our hero is front and center, beaming as he holds Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar. The poster signals a triumphant moment, as the Rivera family looks at their youngest with pride, although music has been forbidden in the family for generations. This lovely poster comes to us just days after the latest Spanish language trailer was released, which you can watch below.


The central conflict, the Rivera family’s aversion to music, is briefly explored in this trailer, for the first time. We’re also treated to a brief glimpse of Miguel’s abuelita, who wields a powerful shoe (chancla, in this case). Hector, Miguel’s spirit guide in the land of the dead, is also given some lines and has a funny interaction with Miguel, who tries his best to imitate a skeleton walk.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to visit Pixar and watch the first 35 minutes of the film. Some of that footage was included in this trailer, which is the best one so far.

Check back here for more Coco updates and some special posts all about the Pixar screening and more!

Read article

Details on The Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4 and more at D23

Coco, D23, Dan Scanlon, Josh Cooley, Lee Unkrich, Suburban Fantasy Film, The Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • July 14, 2017

The d in D23 should stand for dream, because it’s a dream come true for anyone lucky to attend. While your faithful writers here at Pixar Planet weren’t at the convention center in Anaheim, we do have plenty of news that’s sure to get you pumped for Pixar’s upcoming slate!

Coco

Lee Unkrich’s tribute to Mexico’s most famous holiday will be released on Thanksgiving. Coco “explores the universal themes of family bonds as well as celebrating the past.” A new image of main character Miguel with Hector, his guide in the spirit world, was revealed at D23. Anthony Gonzalez, voice of Miguel and Benjamin Bratt, who voices Miguel’s idol Ernesto de La Cruz, performed a song at the panel’s conclusion. It was penned by the duo behind the music of Frozen, Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

The Incredibles 2

The Parr family returns to the big screen on June 15, 2018. Less than a year away folks! The original cast is back with newcomer Huck Milner voicing Dash. The film picks up just minutes after the events of the first, which means The Underminer gets much more screen time. And in this sequel, Elastigirl has a much more prominent role. This is what we’ve come to expect from Pixar sequels, a focus on new and returning female characters. More details about the film from Coming Soon.net:

“Bob is watching Jack-Jack, but falls asleep on the couch. On the TV, there’s an old black and white movie with cops chasing robbers. Jack-Jack sees a masked bandit on TV and then looks outside to see a raccoon digging through the trash. Thinking that the raccoon looks like the burglar, he confronts it. At first, the raccoon tries to scare the baby off, but Jack-Jack’s powers activate and he chases the critter through the yard Jack-Jack appears to have way more powers than in the short, too! Bob wakes up and finds his son fighting the raccoon and is super excited to learn that his son has powers.”

Check out this video celebrating fashion’s most intrepid designer, Edna Mode!

Toy Story 4

John Lasseter announced that the fourth installment will be directed by Josh Cooley. Cooley shared a director credit with Lasseter, but now the film is being solely directed by him. We’re excited for his debut!

And that’s not all. A new film with was also announced today. Fans should be delighted to learn that Dan Scanlon will be helming this feature, his first since 2013’s Monsters University. “The Untitled Pixar Film That Takes You To A Suburban Fantasy World” blends magic with ordinary life. It’s a world inhabited entirely by fantasy beings, but no human ones. One of the clips featured unicorns scavenging for trash. Not the ethereal creatures we usually imagine! Per Variety:

“…the untitled Pixar project will follow two characters who must go on a quest to track down their lost father, a man they known nothing about.” The project has some personal undertones for Scanlon, who lost his father at a young age. Hopefully this newest film will quell any lingering worries about Pixar’s reliance on sequels, and the persistent belief that they no longer are capable of original stories. No release date has been set.

A big thanks to our friends over at The Pixar Times for their coverage! Let us know which films you’re looking forward to most.

Read article

Review: Cars 3 Pays Homage to the Past and Looks to the Future

Brian Fee, Cars 3, Review

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

The Cars trilogy is quite unique among franchise films. The first film in 2006 chronicled Lightning McQueen’s growth from arrogant rookie to humble racer with a deeper understanding of the road. Five years later, Cars 2 shifted gears and protagonists entirely. This time Mater was thrust into the spotlight, the unlikely hero of an international spy adventure. Now Cars 3, from director Brian Fee, has centered #95 again. It echoes the first film in a beautiful, wholly distinct way.

Lightning McQueen (voiced dependably as always by Owen Wilson) is older now – a fact no one refuses to let him forget. A new generation of racers have arrived on the scene, and with their advanced training technology, begin to phase out the veterans. It’s a rapid process as these young cars replace all the older ones, baffling Lightning as he watches all his friends retire. Constantly asked if he’s considering retirement himself, his defiant refusal leads him to declare, “I decide when I’m done.” No one is pushing Lightning McQueen out of the sport he loves, not even ultra-fast Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).

Storm dominated the previews and trailers for this film. He’s less of a rival and more of a threat to Lightning. It’s as if McQueen can’t even compete with this brazen hotshot. If you compared the Lightning of the first Cars with Jackson Storm, you would find that they’re both incredibly cocky, but Jackson is more insufferable and unlikable by far. Lightning and his rival Chick Hicks (who makes an appearance in this film, voiced by Bob Peterson this time), both traded insults and boasted of their skills in Cars. Jackson Storm cuts a little deeper. For him, it’s not only about winning – it’s about pushing these older cars off the road and reminding them at every turn that they don’t belong anymore.

This is what our beloved #95 is up against. Can he master the new technology? Will he make a grand comeback? Is he finished or is he only just beginning?

A devastating crash is the turning point, forcing Lightning to retreat in seclusion to Radiator Springs and reflect on his options. He decides that retirement is still out of the question, and with some much needed encouragement from Sally (Bonnie Hunt), sets out to begin training. Lightning gets a brand new, state of the art training center, complete with the very same racing simulator that all the rookies train with. His new sponsor (say goodbye to Rusteze!) is the shrewd Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who is later revealed to be more concerned with building the McQueen brand.

His new trainer is bubbly and irrepressible Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonso), as sunny as her bright yellow paint.

Cruz is an experienced technician and trainer, eager to work with her idol, whom she dubs her senior project. (Lightning is old and never hears the end of it). Her senior project proves to be a little too impatient to use the new equipment – which results in damage to the simulator. What’s more, Sterling doubts whether Lightning can race at all. He’s prepared to just market the McQueen legacy but Lightning sets an ultimatum. He’ll train with Cruz – the old fashioned way – for the Florida 500. Whatever the outcome of that race, he still decides when he’s done.

Cars 3 is really not your typical comeback story. From the previews, it looked as if Lightning would need to adapt in order to keep up with this new crop of rookies. This is a story about learning to evolve and it offers a grounded, realistic approach to dreams, quite a mature outlook for a film series that’s been derided as mere kids stuff.

The futuristic tech, as enticing as it looks, takes a backseat to the traditional. Lightning and Cruz actually race outside as opposed to the simulator, driving on dirt and sand. This film isn’t anti-technology, but it does caution against relying on it too much. As we once learned from The Incredibles, “there’s no school like the old school.”

The old school figures prominently in Cars 3, with its frequent flashbacks to Lightning’s late mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Hearing Doc again, seeing him briefly, is one of the most emotionally fulfilling aspects of this latest installment. His spirit is truly alive in this film and his role lends added meaning to the story, as he inspires Lightning on his journey. Hud as he’s called (perhaps a reference to Newman’s 1963 film, Hud?), was once the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, the greatest ever. McQueen discovers that he’s at the same point in his career as Doc was following his career ending crash. Doc never retired of his own free will; he was forced out and told to make room for the younger cars. Lightning is determined to avoid that fate. And avoid it he does.

There is a moment in Cars 3, one so glorious, that it caused the audience at my screening to erupt into cheers and applause. I never would have thought it possible, that any film in this series could elicit such a response. For many of us fans, Pixar films are still excellent, including the less critically acclaimed. Once considered the best in American feature animation, the studio is now underestimated, because of its sequels, because Cars 2 is their unforgivable misstep, according to many. This trilogy has drawn tepid responses at best and flat out antagonistic ones at worst. But Cars 3 more than justifies its existence, and not only because of that pivotal scene.

Do not underestimate Pixar.

And do not underestimate Cars 3! A recent IndieWire feature on animator Jude Brownbill highlighted the film’s theme of female empowerment. Cruz isn’t merely there to guide Lightning to victory. She’s got a story as well, a sobering one that wakes McQueen up to how much he’s taken for granted. Making Cruz such a central character further solidifies Pixar’s commitment to bringing well rounded female characters to the screen.

Cars 3 boasts gorgeous animation and art work as well. Some might think it’s not one of Pixar’s most visually inventive films, but glossy paint jobs that gleam, rigging character models of cars so they’re just as expressive as human characters, is really no small feat. Even the designs are impressive, with little touches of human characteristics. When looking at McQueen and Storm side by side, their contrast is quite stark; the rookie is youthful and sleek, much more angular in appearance.

We’re treated to lovely scenery too, a dazzling array of color palettes, bright and warm hues, sparkling water surfaces, and thrilling action set pieces that set the heart racing.

Brian Fee delivered on his promise of making this film return to its roots. It showcases a reverence for the culture of racing and cars that was so keenly, vividly realized in the original film. Randy Newman’s score is another throwback, transporting us to this weird, wonderful universe. The complaints that the world of Cars lacks logic strike me as very odd. Character is what counts, and the filmmakers have always imbued these anthropomorphic cars with abundant appeal and personality.

Cars 3 is an unexpected film, just brimming with heart and passion. As I said, it’s really not a typical comeback story. It’s something much more inspiring.

See it in theaters this Friday!

Read article

Review: Lou is Compassion, Lost and Found

Cars 3, Dave Mullins, Lou, Review, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

A lost and found box on the school playground looks very ordinary on the outside, but it’s teeming with life and magic within.

Like most of Pixar’s canon, Lou personifies an inanimate object, or in this case, a handful of lifeless, every day objects. All the lost toys and clothes are assembled into a playground guardian, who is otherwise invisible beneath. Lou is one day challenged by a bully who swipes the belongings of the other children. What begins as a funny battle between Lou and J.J. (the bully), evolves into a tender, moving story about compassion. Bullies hurt others because they’ve been hurt themselves. But rather than simply excuse J.J.’s behavior, Lou offers him the opportunity to give and receive compassion.

A wordless short, Lou is one of the studio’s most innovative creations. As Dave Mullins revealed at the press junket last week, the character was animated entirely by hand, with “no computer shortcuts or simulations.” The animation here is truly impressive, as Lou morphs into a variety of clever shapes and disguises.

You can catch a glimpse of Lou’s immense charm in the exclusive clip below.

See Lou with Cars 3 this Friday!

Read article

Get connected to the newest Coco trailer!

Coco, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • June 7, 2017

“No living person has ever visited their world. Until now.”

This is the story of young Miguel, who journeys to the land of the dead in Lee Unkrich’s Coco. The newest trailer for the film debuted today, and in Pixar’s usual custom, packs a lot of story and detail in less than two minutes. Although new information hasn’t been revealed and some earlier footage is recycled, we are treated to a glimpse of Miguel’s family and a possible connection to his singing idol, Ernesto De La Cruz.

The gags in the trailer are fairly typical, but Pixar usually saves the juiciest and funniest moments for later ones. So we can expect tons of new character appearances (like Miguel’s guide in the spirit world, Hector) closer to the release date. As always, the world of Coco looks to be one of Pixar’s most ambitious and immersive yet! The sets created for the land of the dead are simply breathtaking.

We’ll be eagerly awaiting more photos, posters, and trailers as Coco‘s November 22nd release date draws near.

Read article

Cars 3 interview with story team

Bob Peterson, Cars 3, Interview

Posted by Simoa • June 1, 2017

Do you spend a lot of time pondering the logistics of the Cars universe? While the filmmakers at Pixar have never addressed most of the burning questions surrounding these films, the writing team for the latest installment, Cars 3, did! The full interview can be found on Slash Film, along with plenty more excellent content on the film and its development.

These interviews are always great fun to read, allowing glimpses into Pixar’s story process and giving fans the opportunity to gain insight into each stage of production. They always prove to be illuminating, and we’re grateful whenever the directors, animators, and writers share behind the scenes facts. And hearing from our favorite Pixarians just sweetens the deal!

The Cars 3 writing team includes everyone’s favorite versatile Pixar voice, Bob Peterson, story supervisor Scott Morse, Mike Rich (credits include Finding Forrester, The Rookie, and Secretariat), and Keil Murray.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

Slash Film: So was it always a Lightning McQueen comeback story where he has to find himself as the world changes around him?

Kiel: I think comeback came with [Mike].

Mike: Yeah, it did come with me. It was always McQueen searching for himself, because he’s confronted with that first moment where he’s going “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this forever. I don’t want to retire. I do want to come back. I want to stay competitive.” But he just didn’t know how to get to the answer of that question. Worse yet, he was making the mistake of just trying to do it just like the [younger racers]. “I’ll get fast again. I’ll do what they’re doing. And I’ll be fine.”

Scott: He’s looking outward and not inward for the answers.

Bob: Mike, you had a one sentence sort of summation which is interesting, in reference to comeuppance, which was “life worth living.”

Mike: Oh, yeah. It’s just kind of a theme of a life worth living is a life that’s constantly evolving. And if you stop or just try and look back, or worse yet, try to go back, then it’s not a recipe for happiness.

Bob: We’ve seen a lot of comeback stories, so we strive to make an emotional and unique one that you may not expect.

On whether the new generation of hot shot racers who threaten Lightning McQueen was at all mirrored at Pixar:

Bob: No, we’re very nurturing and accepting of these young people coming in. Like I always say, there’s no way as a story editor I’d get hired now. You hope that they’re much better. We embrace the technology and all that. The trick for us is to not feel threatened and to welcome in this young crop of kids who have such a developed sense of art and cinema. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s not quite so much what we used to guide us in this film. It mainly grows out of McQueen unable to accept the truth that he’s a little older and obsolete and the rest of the world reminding him of that and forcing him to deal with it. So you want a nice crop of very young cars who are fast and very contrasted to him. Even Cruz, who’s with him, is very technological and is fast, and is just different. He’s from an older generation, and it’s all gotta point him into learning what he needs to learn. So that’s why they’re there, to really throw him off balance.

Finally, how are cars born in the films?! Is there religion in the Cars universe? Bob Peterson offers a very simple and succinct answer.

Bob: Luckily we get to spend our time thinking about these stories which are very much universal human stories, and if we find ourselves pondering this kind of stuff, then we’re probably not doing our job very well.

North America, get ready to gear up! Cars 3 opens nationwide on June 16th.

 

Read article

App-Enabled Ultimate Lightning McQueen by Sphero

Cars 3

Posted by Simoa • May 28, 2017

Lightning McQueen doesn’t only come to life onscreen. Now the legendary race car zooms right into your home thanks to toy and robotics company, Sphero. Star Wars fans will be familiar with the BB-8 app-enabled droid Sphero launched last year, and now they’ve announced an app-enabled Ultimate Lightning McQueen! This is not merely a talking toy car, but a brilliant replica with animated eyes, animatronic mouth and emotive suspensions.

“From the beginning, we wanted to make Ultimate Lightning McQueen feel as real as he does in the film. In order to create a scaled down version of his big personality, we worked closely with the team at Pixar to ensure we were getting his nuances just right – such as leaning into turns and expressive facial and body movements.” -Paul Berberian, CEO of Sphero

The Ultimate Lightning McQueen app is available on iOS and Android devices. Fans can play games and enjoy a variety of interactive features. You can even watch Cars 3 with Lightning and he reacts to the movie in real time!

Product Details

  • Driving: emotive suspension allows Lightning McQueen to move like a champion
  • Drifting: drift and do donuts with authentic movement
  • Reactive touch: master Ultimate Lightning McQueen‘s latest moves with a simple tap
  • Build strategy: match wits and sharpen your skills through a pit stop inspired mini game
  • Acting studio: build custom scripts that bring existing animations to life

 

Ultimate Lightning McQueen is available for purchase on Sphero.com and Disney Store for $299.99.

Read article

Newest Pixar in a Box story lesson!

Pixar in a box

Posted by Simoa • May 11, 2017

Pixar’s collaboration with Khan Academy is truly valuable for learners and fans of all ages. The storytelling courses offered are free and provide a rich opportunity for fans to gain coveted knowledge about Pixar’s famed approach to the art of story. The newest lesson is focused on story structure. Watch the brief clip below for a preview.


Story Structure is the third unit in the course, which can be found here. Be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!

Read article