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A new trailer (+ reviews) for Soul!

Soul, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • October 15, 2020

The reviews are in! Soul has captivated the critics following its premiere at the London Film Festival. It’s being hailed as Pixar’s “most existentially ambitious film,” one that will have adults sobbing “until their muscles ache,” and it’s going to nourish your own soul, too. After watching partial footage last month at the virtual press event, I wholeheartedly agree with everyone’s glowing reviews. And it’s made me, somehow, even more eager to see the rest. I’m also very encouraged by what Kaleem Aftab wrote on IndieWire:

Joe’s blackness isn’t relegated to a side issue; it’s baked into the essence of the character, and treated as a crucial aspect of his humanity. To this end, “Soul” manages to juggle the surreal humor of “Inside Out” in tandem with its most grounded, socially-conscious narrative ever, and it’s a real wonder to watch those ingredients congeal.

That certainly is just one more thing to look forward to. And though we still have to wait another two months to watch Soul, there is a brand new trailer to tide us over until then!

Soul will be streaming on Disney+ this Christmas.

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The journey of a soul – there and back again

Aphton Corbin, Kristen Lester, Michael Yates, Pete Docter, Pixar Employees, Soul, Soul press day

Posted by Simoa • October 9, 2020

A trip to Pixar was out of the question this year, due to COVID-19’s travel and gathering restrictions. It definitely was a bummer, although minor in the grand scheme of things. But even if I couldn’t visit the studio in person, I was able to talk to the filmmakers of Soul and learn about the film virtually. As always, I’m grateful for the opportunity to go behind the scenes.

Soul has been in production for five years, but the story has been with Pete Docter for a lifetime. It all began 23 years ago, when his son was born. Docter marveled at his newborn child’s personality.

“I thought your personality developed through your interaction with the world. And yet, it was pretty clear that we’re all born with a very unique, specific sense of who we are.”

Pixar movies so often create something out of nothing, dazzling worlds vibrant with color and detail. They are either places we’ve never been or can only imagine. Soul‘s Great Before surpasses anything we’ve seen before, since the artists at Pixar outdo themselves every time. But no matter how mesmerizing the look of a film is, the characters within should take precedence. Enter Joe Gardner.

Playwright Kemp Powers joined the production in 2018 to write the script and was made co-director. His script pages were brought to the story department, where the artists were tasked with drawing them. Story supervisor Kristen Lester led this process, with a team that included Michael Yates and Aphton Corbin. According to Lester, Powers’ script contained a lot of history and authenticity, which really helped to inform Joe’s backstory.

There was a staggering number of storyboards drawn for this film – 73,611 to be exact! Take a look at just two of them below. Absolutely stunning!

Of course, not all of the boards made it into the final film, but those discarded ideas were still vital in establishing Joe and his background. We know that he’s a middle school band teacher with more lofty aspirations of a career in jazz music. Joe’s never realized these dreams, and Michael Yates was concerned with why that was the case. Joe is a talented pianist without any delusions, so why wouldn’t he have found success? Yates thought about people he knew who hadn’t achieved their dreams and was able to envision the obstacles standing in Joe’s way. In each instance, Joe misses an audition because he’s helping out his family, friends, and students. Through these sketches, we learned that he’s a selfless person who put his dreams on hold.

The sketches and script were then boarded by Aphton Corbin. One of the sequences she worked on was Joe’s life in the Hall of You, an exhibit that showcases a person’s life on earth and their achievements. Corbin “imagined it as a dark space with moments of Joe’s life playing in beams of light that characters could walk through, kind of like a museum.” Joe’s is distinctly unimpressive, a series of unexciting moments combined with failures. From this vantage point, his life is disappointing. This was intentional, as Corbin explained:

“We wanted Joe’s Hall of You to feel more like an exhibit of his failures rather than his successes. We piled on rejection after rejection to build our case and placed the moments where he decided to become a band teacher at the end, so Joe falling down the manhole felt like the perfect coda to his sad life. It was our goal at this point to get the audience on Joe’s side. We wanted them to feel like he needed to return to his body to finish living his dream as a jazz musician.”

Corbin also included Joe’s first encounter with jazz, a moment where he discovers the passion that now defines his life. His face was the focus in that scene – it’s one of the most wonderful in the film’s trailer. Joe’s face is lit up with love and wonder, aglow in the colors from the jazz club. We all have moments like that in our lives, no?

The completed storyboards were then sent to editorial, where music was added. Editorial is where the story artists watch how their drawings come together for the overall film. They watched the entire film from beginning to end about eight times in Pixar’s theater.

Mainstream animated and live action films rarely feature nonwhite characters as the heroes of the story. Too often they’re shunted into supporting roles. Audiences hardly ever watch films with Black protagonists that they can relate to and root for. I think people will definitely see themselves reflected in Joe’s Hall of You as I could, a place where our failures and dim moments eat up all the spotlight.

For Pete Docter, making this film was less about failed dreams, but questioning his purpose. He’s directed acclaimed films and won numerous awards, but still the question nagged at him.

“Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing with my limited time on Earth? In fact, in darker days, around now, I wonder sometimes, is there any point to it? If I had a choice, would I decide to be born and come live?”

I was so shocked to hear him admit that. We’re usually discouraged from sharing such thoughts, but I think it’s a universal feeling, especially with a world that’s constantly in turmoil. And with 2020 going on record as possibly the most disastrous year ever, this film’s release could not be any more timely.

Who would want to live if they were given that choice? But Soul seeks to both answer that question and dispel the doubt that surrounds it. This is a journey we’re all going to take with Joe, by asking ourselves the same questions.

There’s still so much more that I learned about this stunning film. Stay tuned to read all about it! But in the meantime, delve into Joe’s world with more gorgeous artwork.

Soul will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on December 25. This is the third time the film has been pushed to a later date. Theatrical release dates are pending. Surely whenever pandemic restrictions are eased, audiences will have the opportunity to be dazzled by it on the big screen.

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Pixar Fest Spotlight: Onward and Quests of Yore board game

Dan Scanlon, Merchandise, Onward

Posted by Simoa • September 6, 2020

Onward was the first Pixar movie with a limited theatrical run after COVID-19 halted regular daily life and forced the closure of movie theaters. It’s also the first to be featured in the new Pixar Fest Spotlight.

Just what is Pixar Fest? Like the name suggests, it’s a festival, but a virtual one from the comfort of home! Every Saturday all month long, fans can tune in to watch a Pixar movie on Disney+ and livetweet with the studio’s official account. But that’s not all: fans can also win prizes, enter giveaways, and get exclusive merch inspired by Pixar Fest. New products will debut each week, so be sure to follow along for updates! (The alien remix ones are my favorites).

As Onward was the first in the series, take a look at the awesome plush collection.

 

 

Pixar’s livetweet of the film also included gorgeous artwork and behind the scenes facts.

Artist credit: Brittney (prismaviolet_ on Instagram)

Laurel concept art by Maria Yi

The bittersweet origin of Onward is captured lovingly in these illustrations by Dan Scanlon:

 

There’s yet another Onward first: a roleplaying board game! Quests of Yore was developed by The OP Games with lots of insight from Dan Scanlon and the film crew.

What makes this game so unique is that it is Barley’s copy – all of his notes are in it, and it was important that the game reflected his personality, particularly the way he encourages and supports Ian. Quests of Yore is also meant to inspire players in the same way. To learn more about the development of the game, check out this video with Game Design Manager Pat Marino and Dan Scanlon.

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LUCA: Pixar Announces a Brand New Film for Next Year!

Enrico Casarosa

Posted by Simoa • July 30, 2020

We are living in some particularly challenging times, but what a comfort it is to still be surprised by new Pixar movies! The studio has just unveiled charming artwork for Luca, pictured below.

This image is so lovely, its gorgeous colors and background recalling Ghibli art. I like that it evokes a sense of tranquility, while the two young boys suspended in euphoria above the glassy sea are anything but! And who are these boys? One of them is our titular Luca and the other is his best friend. EW has provided a splendid synopsis of the film:

The film centers on a young boy named Luca who is secretly a sea monster from another world that lies just below the surface of the water. Appearing as a human, he meets a newfound best friend with whom he shares an unforgettable summer at a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, filled with gelato, pasta, and endless scooter rides. But Luca’s secret threatens this idyllic experience.

Everything about this is already unbelievably exciting! A sea monster in disguise! That’s another first for Pixar, along with its Italian Riviera setting. I’ve always wanted to visit Italy and I’m already imagining the seaside in animated form. My favorite film Roman Holiday, also set in Italy, features a very famous scooter ride, so I’m happy that Luca put me in mind of it. The film’s star Audrey Hepburn adored Italy and her son Luca is half Italian as well!

Luca is directed by Enrico Casarosa, who made his directorial debut with the gorgeous “La Luna” (2011) short film. This will be his first full length movie. The movie’s producer is Andrea Warren, whose credits include “Lava” and Cars 3. Casarosa also explained the story’s roots and its major theme:

“This is a deeply personal story for me, not only because it’s set on the Italian Riviera where I grew up, but because at the core of this film is a celebration of friendship. Childhood friendships often set the course of who we want to become and it is those bonds that are at the heart of our story in Luca. So in addition to the beauty and charm of the Italian seaside, our film will feature an unforgettable summer adventure that will fundamentally change Luca.”

The film’s logo is also brilliant, with the lettering in the sea’s blue-green colors and the waves underneath Luca’s name. It’s got a childlike quality, as if it was written with chalk.

Italy was one of the countries greatly impacted by the coronavirus, so it seems like this film will pay a beautiful tribute at just the right time. Luca premieres on June 18, 2021.

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Pixar Scores Two Emmy Nominations

Awards, Coco, Disney+, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • July 28, 2020

Emmy nominations were announced earlier today. Disney+ received an impressive total of 19 nominations, and two of those belong to Pixar.

“Forky Asks a Question: What is Love?” was nominated for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program. I’m glad Forky is getting the recognition, as the entire series is delightful. “What is Love?” is also noteworthy for its legendary cast: Mel Brooks, Betty White, Carol Burnett, and the late Carl Reiner.

A Celebration of the Music from Coco, the live concert which premiered on Disney+ earlier this year, was nominated for Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program. Have you ever heard of that category before? I know I haven’t!

Tune in to the 72nd Emmy Awards (online!) on September 20, 2020.

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The gem of Onward

Onward, Opinion Piece

Posted by Simoa • April 17, 2020

Nobody could have predicted that a deadly pandemic would sweep the globe this year, shuttering businesses, schools, restaurants, churches, and movie theaters. COVID-19 has halted life as we know it. So how could we have known that Onward‘s theatrical release would last just a week? What I could have predicted though, is the critical response. I was hoping that Dan Scanlon’s second film would avoid Monsters University‘s fate. How could it not? An “original” Pixar film, when most think the studio has lost what made it so exciting and innovative in the great before; a 1980s tinged fantasy adventure; and Pixar’s first with siblings.

Of course those elements aren’t enough to make a good movie. And Onward has a gem of its own to be one. I guess it’s going to join Pixar’s other offbeat treasures, the ones that are perfectly good but not apparently up to Pixar’s ultra high standards: A Bug’s Life, Cars, Brave, Monsters University, and The Good Dinosaur.

Some spoilers ahead!

(more…)

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The newest Soul trailer is dazzling

Soul, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • March 12, 2020

“Is all this living really worth dying for?”

It definitely recalls Inside Out, but there’s still something totally unique about Soul. For instance, there’s a regular outside world juxtaposed against a stunning interior one. The animation and character designs are also ones we’ve never yet seen in a Pixar movie. Those, along with the premise, are what I find most exciting about Soul. This trailer is also gorgeous: the vibrant colors make me want to jump right into this world. Already seems like a harmonious blend, and in a film with jazz music to boot!

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before—a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

With the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Questlove, Soul will be in theaters on June 19th of this year.

 

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A Q+A with Onward’s filmmakers

Dan Scanlon, Kori Rae, Onward, Onward press day, Pixar Employees

Posted by Simoa • March 6, 2020

At Pixar last fall, I was given the incredible opportunity of talking to story artists Kelsey Mann and Maddie Sharafian, and the director-producer team of Dan Scanlon and Kori Rae! That was my first time speaking to Pixar filmmakers face to face. I think it goes without saying that I was nervous – so much so that I was trembling. But they all made me feel so comfortable and at ease. And I got to gain even more insight into Onward through our conversations. So read on and learn about the film which is playing in theaters now.

UP: What are you most excited about in the film?

photo by Alex Kang

Kelsey Mann: I would say a lot and then very little. The part I’m most excited about is the very little. Initially, we didn’t have anything and then Dan started to think about his own experiences and what makes him unique. Part of it was growing up without a father. His dad passed away when he was just a baby, so he has no memory of him. So he started to think about how that shaped him and this is where we start with a lot of these movies. We look inward. “What have I felt in my own life? What are the things I’ve learned?” And he came to this realization about himself. He thought that would be a good thing to make a movie about and that’s really the reason we’re making this film and what he’s learned in his own life. At the first screening, we storyboarded that ending, and that ending has remained the same since day one. That is unique. I can’t think of a film I’ve worked on where we knew where we were headed from the beginning. Everything else changed a lot but not the ending.

KM: Maddie worked a lot with Ian and his introduction. Every screening, we had a different Ian. It wasn’t until halfway through – “There he is!” There’s a perception that we had the movie figured out because we always had that ending.

visual development art by Huy Nguyen

UP: What was it like balancing the silly with the heartfelt?

KM: That’s the type of film Dan wanted to make; that’s Monsters University and the films he made before he came here; that’s the way he usually makes films. He really wanted to make a fun comedy that hits you with emotion.”

UP: How did you come up with the concept of the unicorns?

KM: That was Dan’s idea early on.

photo by Alex Kang

Maddie Sharafian: It’s funny but it’s also sad. You can tell with the world, something’s a little bit off. You’re laughing at it but you also wish there was something better, which is sort of the way that Ian stands in his life. He wishes he had his dad but something’s not quite right.

UP: Was Onward more challenging to direct than Monsters University because it was a personal film or did that make it easier?

Dan Scanlon: They have their own challenges and benefits. Doing a sequel was nice because people love those characters and were excited to see them. Doing an original was nice because you could change the characters drastically to fit the story and even get rid of them if you needed to, and in a sequel you’re beholden to what you have. So it really became this push of benefits over losses for the two. And I don’t know that I can say that one was harder than the other. It’s nice to have a little experience under our belts for this one.

Kori Rae: Having done Monsters University really helped us have a little more confidence.

UP: Not that science and technology are bad, but the movie seems to be criticizing our world where people don’t care about finding whimsy or having an imagination.

DS: It’s more about finding balance. You’re right. It is more about making sure that we’re still challenging ourselves; still finding the potential in ourselves; still enjoying the nature around us and not getting too comfortable in every day things. It’s not meant to be a hard social criticism – certainly there’s some of that in there and it reflects Ian; the fact that he is too scared to get out of his comfort zone; afraid to take risks. He just wants to blend in and throughout this journey he comes out of his shell and I think the world mirrors that.

UP: You two have been a duo since MU; what’s it like working together?

KR: On the first film we were figuring each other out and as we figured the film out, we’ve always had great respect for one another and I think on this film we were able to teach one another what our areas of expertise were. I was super interested in story and being in the story room and Dan was interested in how the production works.

DS: General leadership and inspiring people and artists. We started to learn from each other.

KR: We got to know each other better working this closely together.

DS: We knew that we wanted to work together again, so from day one, Kori and I were talking and working on ideas and getting her support to make sure we could grow this story. It’s interesting because we’ve learned a lot from the other film and it’s nice to continue to grow and learn and I think the film benefits from it.

UP: Besides the lion for Corey the manticore and horses for the centaurs, what were the other animal references?

DS: That’s a good question.

KR: Goats for the satyrs.

DS: Antelopes too. With Blazey the dog, they looked at – she’s so cartoony but she has a lizard-y, snake quality to her. The fun of this movie is that fantasy characters are treated pretty realistically and this was fun to get a more cartoony take.

As an aside, Blazey the dragon is a girl! Everyone thinks she’s a boy.

UP: Did you find it difficult to strike a balance between the silly and more heartfelt moments?

DS: I think life is so funny and so emotional and – this is going to sound really pretentious – but they’re the same thing. The reason something is emotional is because it was funny first. The reason you love a character and you cry is because they made you laugh. I feel like it’s all interwoven. You cry because they said something funny. To me, emotion and comedy always stick together.

UP: What was the most difficult thing about directing this film?

DS: The story is always hard. We always had our ending, but trying to earn that ending. It meant a lot to us to get this point across. I think the burden of wanting to honestly and entertainingly get audiences to that point was really hard. You take it home when it’s a personal thing.

Read our review of Onward here, and be sure to spread the love for this very wonderful movie!

an early sketch by Dan

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A New Kind of Magic

Behind The Scenes, Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • March 5, 2020

The world of Onward has roots in the ancient. The mythical creatures of yore still exist, but they’re watered down versions of themselves. There is no myth or mystery in the quaint little town of New Mushroomton. In this world without magic, Ian and Barley venture to reclaim it. But first, filmmakers had to create the magic that the two brothers set out to find and master.

One group at Pixar was formed for the sole purpose of bringing authentic fantasy to the film. They were called The Fellowship. A deep love and knowledge of the genre led them to meet frequently and share their favorite things about fantasy; things they wanted to see in Onward and others they were happier to leave out! One of the Fellowship members who led a presentation last fall at the studio was Louise Smythe. She’s a story artist with boundless enthusiasm for fantasy that hasn’t left her since childhood. As a story artist, she works with Dan Scanlon to develop the script.

There was one crucial question that guided the script wrting and drawing process:

What is the Onward and Pixar version of magic?

The answer lay in three components:

  1. Every spell must originate with heartsfire, a fancy magical term for self confidence. You can’t cast spells without it!
  2. The higher level spells have magic decrees which require a certain mental/emotional state in order to work.
  3. The most advanced spells require the above factors and an added assist element. An example is the phoenix gem that’s used to conjure Ian and Barley’s dad.

Spells in Onward all incorporate emotions, materials, movement, and verbal commands. As always, everything in the film serves the characters and stories. Ian’s character development was influenced by magic. The crew wanted to draw him out of his comfort zone, so the gangly, awkward teenage elf would have to do really awkward poses. He’d even grit his teeth and strain to complete spells. That was fine, but it didn’t provide much of an emotional response. The solution to that arrived in one of the film’s most pivotal scenes, where Ian has to take a leap of faith, quite literally. That’s when the audience is meant to become even more invested in his journey.

In addition to the Fellowship was the Spell Squad. They were tasked with naming the spells. Dan had a couple rules they needed to follow:

  1. Each spell had to be short and to the point.
  2. You can guess what it is by hearing it.
  3. No gibberish.

The magic of Onward doesn’t only concern the spells, it even functions as a character. It’s meant to support Ian, echoing what we learned about his character development. Effects supervisor Vincent Serritella approached the task of personifying magic by studying magicians whose tricks are invisible. Visualizing the magic onscreen was informed by its size – the larger the spell, the more screen space it inhabits. When the boys conjure their dad, you can see how powerful it is because it disrupts the environment. Certain spells were also strong enough to affect Ian and Barley’s performances by the animators.

Since Onward is also inspired by the aesthetics of roleplay fantasy games- most notably in Barley’s passion for them – it was a really fun exercise for art director Paul Conrad and the graphics department. The artists in this department will often sneak in a good chunk of Easter eggs. They’re also responsible for decorating the sets and creating the world’s logos and brands. Graphics contribute another layer of authenticity. Moviegoers may miss some of the details embedded within the film, but they will notice the little ‘magic touches’ in the designs. You’ll note one detail on the parchment below – see how aged it looks?

the visitation spell by Paul Conrad

What I found cool about this particular session was learning about Barley’s beloved Quests of Yore book. It doubles as a game and a historical document. It might even be actual merch! The book was designed for 3D and it has no blank pages.

Ultimately, what the filmmakers really wanted to create is a version of magic that would be as memorable as Tinkerbell’s pixie dust.

You’ll be able to see for yourself if it reaches that high standard when Onward hits theaters tomorrow!

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Creating the Wonderful World & Characters of Onward

Behind The Scenes, Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • March 4, 2020

There are 240 characters in Onward – an eclectic mix of make believe creatures numbering 13 species. Rest assured that the vast majority are background characters. Still, these characters, be they trolls, centaurs, goblins or sprites, had the major responsibility of making this world feel authentic. They even had an impact on the design of the protagonists.

Jeremie Talbot is a supervisor in the character department. On this film, he and his team had the unique challenge of designing a pair of legs as an actual character. Dad is more than just his bottom half, but the crew really had to get creative in order to convey that without his top part. They made the choice of showing Dad’s ankles because that was the only way he could emote, which of course led to that remarkable scene where he taps his foot to communicate with each of his sons. The animation department had further work to do here which I’ll get to later.

So what about the characters who actually have heads, arms, torsos, and speaking lines? What did the character development process entail?

Jeremie and his team were responsible for creating the final render from Dan Scanlon’s ideas and the art designs. It’s a constant collaboration between the character and art departments that results in the final image. But long before that is the initial computer sculpt that undergoes revisions in art and which Jeremie’s character team continuously rebuilds.

 

brothers by Matt Nolte

As Jeremie pointed out, the Art Of books, as immensely beautiful and informative as they are, rarely show the continuity between the original and final images. This presentation avoided that. I’m a huge fan of concept art and often find that I like certain early designs that never make it to the finished film. We got to see why and how this happened in Onward

The initial designs of Ian and Barley were compelling to Dan Scanlon. At the most basic level. the brothers’ appearance reflected their personalities. Ian was skinny and awkward while Barley was burly and confident. One of the main concerns was if those first designs could convey emotion and range. So the designs were always evolving to reach that goal. The other family designs also helped to influence Ian and Barley’s.

by Maria Yi

by Grant Alexander

by Bert Berry

Ian looked a little too mischievous at one point. He no longer seemed like the gawky teen who’s unsure of himself. His design was then modified by enlarging his features. making his hair much messier, and putting him in oversized clothes. The story changes as the designs do, lending much more specificity to the characters and plot. Ian’s poofy cloud of hair makes him all the more endearing and further sets him apart from Barley. His bigger clothes also ensure that he neither “fits in” in his skin or in the world at large.

The characters are next brought to the shading department, but at this point, they look like gray plastic, as shading lead Ana Lacaze noted. Physical attributes of the characters are further defined, and shading is also tasked with determining the texture of skin and hair. A really cool detail that emerged was how they were inspired by the way light bounces off succulents: they stayed true to that principle with Ian’s curls.

by Zaruhi Galstyan

Shading works closely with art, lighting, modeling, rigging, and animation. Their work with the materials, such as surfaces and clothes, also helps with character transformations. The most prominent example is Corey the manticore. She loses her restricted clothing and hairstyle, and fully embraces her true identity that has been stifled for so long. The same is true of Ian, although his journey to confidence is a lot more subtle.

by Matt Nolte

Below are Matt Nolte’s character notes for the Lightfoot brothers:

Details like those above aren’t the only crucial ones. The crowds in Onward add a lot more depth and context. They provide richness to this world, making it much more expansive. Sequoia Blankenship played two film clips that showed just how necessary the crowds were. They make the film come alive, and they function as characters too. The tavern scene with Corey perfectly visualized this: once her fierce warrior side is unleashed, the patrons in the tavern become a single character connected by their collective shock.

character lineup by Matt Nolte

A balance had to be struck though, so that some of the characters, like the huge trolls, didn’t overwhelm any scenes or distract the audience. The trolls blend in so well that you might not even notice them!

Colt Bronco by Chris Sasaki

There was a lot of study that went into how the fantastical creatures moved. Directing animator Allison Rutland led a team of 85 to create performances and movements. Because these characters all have histories that informed how they evolved, the animators had to incorporate those into the ways they moved. Corey in her high heels, as opposed to walking on all fours, was a lot more awkward. Once she ditches the shoes, the animators borrowed from lion footage to base her newly powerful and fluid movement on.

For the centaurs, the animators relied on footage of horses indoors – and it was important that they remained true to horse physicality and the difficulty horses have sitting down. And their overall difficulty moving around in enclosed spaces. The history of centaur aggression also affected their physicality. They’re as wild as untamed horses, but they’ve evolved into tame versions of themselves. Colt Bronco drives a car instead of running majestically. Allison described him brilliantly: “swaggering confidence of a cop in a horse body.”

It makes perfect sense that there’s a character in this film that is still much more bizarre than the others. Thanks to the effort of everyone involved, these elves, mermaids, and unicorns aren’t out of place in a modern setting. A pair of legs detached from the rest of the body…not so much.

When it came to Dad, the goal was to make him funny and sincere. A tall order that the animators achieved with just as much care and detail as the other characters. Animation and simulation were the two main components. Animation was concerned with his lower and upper half along with posing, while simulation dealt with his physicality. There were other factors involved, like how the pants get up without an upper body and what happens when they get pulled. Animation tests of Dad’s upper body, after Ian disguises him in clothes and sunglasses, were also incredibly useful. More of his personality came through in the way his top half would flop over.

They used reference footage for Dad too: Dick Van Dyke! In his prime the actor possessed “tremendous physicality.”

Just the few seconds of Dad in Onward‘s trailer were emotionally potent. That emotion combined with humor elevates his role further.

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