MENU

Author

Kitbull Might Be Pixar’s Cutest Short Yet

Short Film, Shorts, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • February 18, 2019

Pixar’s series of SparkShort YouTube releases is coming to an end with their latest short “Kitbull”, and it’s absolutely the cutest one out of the bunch. Even the YouTube thumbnail is enough to make my heart grow a couple sizes.

The most immediately noticeable thing about “Kitbull” is the fact that it’s 2D – it has joined the small and highly respected group of 2D-animated Pixar shorts. It’s not often we get to see Pixar tackling hand-drawn projects (and so beautifully!), but this isn’t the only thing that makes “Kitbull” special.

“Kitbull” follows a tiny stray kitten who is independent but frightened of the unfamiliar. The kitten is also a strong contender for Pixar’s cutest creation to date. You can tell the animators took inspiration from the internet’s wealth of cute cat videos: its playful behaviour, clumsy, unpredictable movements, and ridiculously dilating pupils are all spot on.

The kitten meets a dog – a pit bull – but is too scared to approach it at first. This is partly, and understandably, due to the enormous size difference, but also because of the kitten’s fear of anything new or unexpected. It takes a vital moment of brave empathy and vulnerability for the kitten to finally extend a paw of friendship to the poor dog – a moment that ends up improving both of their lives for the better.

It’s difficult to put into words how delightful “Kitbull” is. The digitally hand-drawn style is beautiful. When you see storyboards and colour scripts from Pixar movies, there’s always this wonderful sense of fluidity and ease to them, and “Kitbull” feels like a collection of these brought to life. Obviously the 3D-animated movies Pixar are famous for are stunning in their own way, but it feels special to see something different, especially when it’s done so well. The kitten is also quite abstract in its design, which is something I feel makes the world of animation so magical.

“Kitbull” is unique in its animation style, but also in its use of darker themes. On the surface, it’s heart-achingly cute, which makes it memorable in itself, but also cleverly adds to the impact of the moment you realise the pit bull is a victim of animal abuse.

As with the other SparkShorts, you can see the Behind the Scenes and Meet the Filmmakers videos for “Kitbull” on YouTube too. It looks like the team had a lot of fun on the project! Writer and director Rosana Sullivan clearly found the whole thing incredibly rewarding, and I think that really shows in the end product. This quote from her was particularly lovely:

“At first, I just wanted to draw something that made me feel good and was fun, but it evolved into something more personal for me eventually. I realised that growing up I was always very sensitive and shy and had actually a lot of trouble kind of making connections…making friendships. So I related to this kitten. Because it never really stepped outside of its comfort zone to be vulnerable and make a connection. So that’s eventually what the story became.”

“Kitbull” is the last of the SparkShorts that we’ll be seeing for a while. At the end of the year, Pixar plan to have them all available on Disney+, along with three other SparkShorts that are already complete – “Loop”, “Float”, and “Wind”.

Read article

Bo Peep Stars In New Toy Story 4 Flashback Clip

teasers, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • February 15, 2019

A new Toy Story 4 clip was shown today during a short interview with Annie Potts (voice of Bo Peep) on ‘Good Morning America’.

The short clip is a flashback – Bo is still in her original outfit, as opposed to her recently revealed new look, and you can see that the classic gang of toys are in Andy’s sister Molly’s room. We see the toys carrying out a rescue mission (something that we’ve all grown quite familiar with by now): RC is stuck outside in a rainstorm, and Bo and Woody quickly snap into action.

Bo addresses her sheep by name – Billy, Goat, and Gruff – and orders them to open the blinds, then calls the Barbie dolls into action to propel Jessie up onto the window latch. The clip really shows off Bo’s leadership skills, something that her and Woody clearly have in common.

What do you think of Bo’s new look? And is this a flashback to how Bo and RC got separated from the gang? We’re looking forward to the release of more Toy Story clips and trailers now that summer is steadily approaching!

Read article

Incredibles 2 Receives 2 Annie Awards

Annie Awards, Awards, Incredibles 2

Posted by Joanna • February 4, 2019

Awards season is officially here, and Incredibles 2 has already received acclaim at the Annie Awards. Having picked up 11 nominations, it was in with a good chance of at least one category win, so I’m sure the crew are ecstatic to have walked away with awards in both Music in an Animated Feature Production and Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production.

You can find the full list of winners and nominees on the Annie Awards website.

Michael Giacchino is famously the composer for both The Incredibles and Incredibles 2, and the sequel’s score somehow packed even more of a punch than the original.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees at this year’s Annie Awards! It’s always the highlight of the awards season to see the fantastic array of animated features, shorts, and series that we’re lucky enough to co-exist with at the moment.

Read article

Purl – Pixar’s First SparkShort Is Full Of Surprises (And Knitting Puns) And Hope!

Purl, Short Film, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • February 4, 2019

Pixar released their first SparkShort on YouTube today, which you can watch below:

“Purl” is full of surprises. And knitting puns. And hope! It follows the story of an enthusiastic ball of yarn, Purl, facing her first day in a new workplace. Right from the beginning, it’s clear that the company’s current employees are all practically identical. Pixar’s SparkShorts could be described as creative ‘side-projects’ (but you can tell they’ve been made with just as much love and care as Pixar’s full-length features, if not more). With the shorts being made on a limited budget and schedule, it’s to be expected that some shortcuts will have to be made, but the current male employees all being essential clones of themselves seems like a very deliberate choice: Purl immediately feels out of place.

The more we see of Purl, the more she stands out. First of all, she’s a ball of yarn. All her belongings are beautifully knitted. But even her animation is slightly different to that of her colleagues – she moves a little more ‘choppily’. She behaves differently. She has fresh ideas. Her fellow employees don’t think that’s a good thing, and eventually, neither does Purl herself. Soon, her frustration is literally tying her in knots. The lack of acceptance and understanding is breaking her down.

Purl ends up doing what seems to be the only solution – she attempts to fit in by making herself a clone of the clones. It works, but that’s obviously a bad thing. By suppressing her true self, she suppresses her new ideas and her originality – the company can’t move forward, and life can’t move forward like this either. Finally, it takes a new employee, another bundle of enthusiastic yarn, to make Purl see what’s truly important.

The story of “Purl” will feel eerily familiar to many of us: women being stifled in a male-dominated work environment; people of colour feeling isolated in a predominantly white community. Amazingly, the short could easily be applied to Pixar Studios itself with its recent changes in staffing. The short couldn’t have come out at a more fitting time, and its ending is brimming with hope and diversity. Let’s hope Pixar’s first SparkShort sparks a positive change across the industry, and the world! Every workplace could do with a better balance of knits and purls.

You can even watch Behind The Scenes of “Purl” and Meet The Filmmakers on YouTube! We’re being treated to two more SparkShorts in the next two weeks too – next week we’ll see “Smash and Grab”, and the week after is “Kitbull”! We couldn’t be more excited.

Read article

Woody’s Round Up 01/30/19

Pixar, Toy Story, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • January 30, 2019

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

Heimlich Finds A New Home

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

Tempting New Toy Story Merchandise

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

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

Pixarpalooza Origins

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

Two Toys With A Twitter Account

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

Read article

The Blue Umbrella – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Pixar Short of the Week, Shorts, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Joanna • January 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some fun facts about “The Blue Umbrella”:

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

Concept art by Harley Jessup

Read article

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

Short Film, Shorts, Smash and Grab, SparkShorts

Posted by Joanna • January 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 16/01/19

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

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

Read article

Geri’s Game – The Pixar Short Of The Week

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

Posted by Joanna • January 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concept art by director Jan Pinkava

Some fun facts:

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

Read article

Oscar-Shortlisted Bao Available On YouTube For One Week

Bao, Oscars, Shorts

Posted by Joanna • December 18, 2018

A lot has been said about “Bao”, Pixar’s most recent short, this year. It’s Pixar’s first short directed by a woman (Domee Shi), and has been deservingly praised for its personal and heartfelt representation of Chinese culture. It has also sparked a lot of conversations – the story of “Bao” is equally beautiful and weird, which is probably exactly the feel Shi and the crew were going for.

It’s not surprising, then, that “Bao” has been shortlisted for the 2019 Oscars. The final list of nominees for the “Best Animated Short” category will be released on January 22nd.

In other news, while Incredibles 2 did pick up some Annie Award nominations, “Bao” has been overlooked.

If you’re needing a reminder of “Bao”‘s unique story, then you’re in luck! It’s currently available on YouTube for one week. This is something that doesn’t happen very often. The only other short that Pixar have released on their YouTube channel is “George and AJ” back in 2009.

It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a trend. For now, though, we’ll just have to savour this one week of “Bao” in YouTube form – including the comment section! The YouTube comment section can sometimes be a dangerous place, but it’s great to see so many comments full of interesting insights, praise and adoration.

Read article

“Onward” – Title And Cast For 2020 Original Pixar Feature Announced

Dan Scanlon, Suburban Fantasy Film

Posted by Joanna • December 12, 2018

Pixar have announced the title for their next original feature releasing on March 6 2020 – Onward. 


Up to this point, Onward (which has been described as a ‘modern fantasy’ film), directed by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) and produced by Kori Rae, has been under the working title “The Untitled Pixar Film That Takes You To A Suburban Fantasy World“. It was first announced at the 2017 D23, and takes place in a world where fantasy has almost become mundane. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland will play the teenage elf brothers who set out on a journey together in the hopes of rekindling magic and spending one last day with their late father.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer have also been revealed as cast members. This isn’t Louis-Dreyfus’ first time lending her voice to a Pixar character – she voiced Princess Atta in A Bug’s Life way back in 1998!

The film is inspired by Scanlon’s own life and relationship with his brother – Scanlon’s father passed away when he was only a year old. Now that the title has officially been revealed, we can all look forward to more plot and character details being released.

Following the official release of the title, Pixar employees on Twitter have been expressing their excitement about working on the film. Pixar animator Austin Madison compared Onward to a Tolkien story, suggesting that this is a kind of fantasy that the studio has never explored before.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if John Hughes directed a Tolkien story, you may want to join our quest.

Tolkien stories tend to have epic journeys, incredible amounts of lore, strong bonds between characters, and a lot of heart. We never knew that Pixar tackling a Tolkienesque fantasy feature was a thing that we needed, but this news has made the wait for Onward (or at least some more news on it) all the more excruciating.

Read article