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Pixar President Jim Morris Gives Insight Into The Studio’s Creative Process

2D Animation, 30 Years of Pixar, Animation, Behind The Scenes, Ed Catmull, Interview, Jim Morris, The Good Dinosaur

Posted by Nia • February 9, 2016

Courtesy of Time Out: Hong Kong and Disney/Pixar.

Jim Morris has been president of Pixar Animation Studios since 2005. He came to Pixar after working for a lengthy period at Lucas Digital. While at LucasFilm, he helped make a slew of films including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars; just to name a few. During a recent interview with Time Out: Hong Kong, Morris gave readers a little glimpse behind the scenes of Pixar and what it takes to create the animated films the studio is most famous for.

One of the main discussion points during the interview was the fact that Pixar, for the first time in the studio’s history, was able to release two feature length films in 2015. According to Morris, Pixar’s original plan was to have at least one original film every other year, followed by a sequel every other year.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge this year. We’re actually finishing films every eight months. We have enough production capability, but unfortunately that is not the issue! The issue is having the stories developed to the right point so we have enough content to make the films. That is the tricky part. It’s worked out fine so far. It does make a crunch with publicity; everyone gets spread a bit thin. But we’re feeling okay, we’re not at the point of regret, yet!”

The most important aspect behind every Pixar film is undoubtedly the story. Each Pixar film has been able to stand alone because of the unique characters that come along with the blend of animation and technology. In the scheme of storytelling at Pixar, the first step to launching a thousand feels is the emotional core behind each story.

“Usually the first thing that comes is an idea that engages the director. I would say there is some emotional core that motivates them to want to tell a story, and later we can infer a theme from that. Inside Out is an easy one to talk about – [director] Pete Docter was wondering why his daughter had changed. It started out as that core idea, but it evolved. It went through so many iterations. After we have that starting point, the characters get forged from that, and then more about the setting and the world gets forged from that.”

Storytelling aside, actually getting the film up on it’s feet after the initial concept is approved is tough enough. Most of the hours put into a film at Pixar exceed Walt Disney’s standards for his classic, 2-D animated films.

“Something most people don’t realize about our films actually is that, even though the computers are doing the animation, our average film takes 20,000 person-weeks to make. And that is probably a little bit more than most traditional, hand-drawn Disney films took. The amount of labour it takes to make a film like this is huge – the textures and scenes are painted by hand. Our joke used to be that we are where high-tech and low-life collide.”

There has been some criticism towards Pixar for it’s lack of women directors. Brenda Chapman has been the only female director to take the helm of a feature film for 2012’s Brave, but due to creative differences she was replaced by Mark Andrews halfway through production. Morris brought up that Pixar is indeed trying to fix this problem and make the company more diverse in regards to more opportunities for female storytellers.

“One thing we’re trying to do is to expand the roster of directors. We’re trying to build the next generation and make the company more diverse, to get a breadth of voices to tell a range of stories. We’re 37 percent female at the moment, and we’d like to be 50 percent. We don’t have a lot of turnover at Pixar though, which makes that somewhat challenging!”

Before concluding the interview, Morris was able to dish that there is some NEW original content in the works for a series of films on top of the already scheduled (and very anticipated) studio line-up.

“We have a bunch of confirmed titles. There’s Finding Dory later this year. We’re working on The Incredibles 2Cars 3 and Toy Story 4. Dan Scanlon, who did Monsters University is working on an original film. Mark Andrews, who directed Brave, is working on one, too. We have a new director called Brian Phee, who is working on a new movie, and we have a few shorts that are in the works. I can’t say much more than that or I’ll get in trouble!”

It’s certainly strange thinking that far into the future about films at Pixar, but exciting to know there is some awesome content brewing at the studio and a new director in the loop. Be sure to check out the rest of the interview with Jim Morris over at Time Out!

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Pixar at the Oscars

Academy Awards, Animation, Inside Out, Interview, John Lasseter, Jonas Rivera, Lava, Michael Giacchino, Pete Docter, Pixar, Sanjay's Super Team, Short Film, The Good Dinosaur, UP

Posted by Nia • January 16, 2016

Congratulations to the talented folks at Pixar for receiving not one but THREE Oscar nominations during Thursday’s announcement. Inside Out was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and also scored a nomination for Best Original Screenplay; it will be the only animated film competing in that category. Sanjay’s Super Team took home a nod for Best Animated Short Film.

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"Sanjay's Super Team" Comes to the Con ? Director Sanjay Patel and producer Nicole Grindle are taking Pixar Animation Studios' new short to San Diego's Comic-Con International next month for its North American premiere and a peek behind the scenes of the production process. The Super Story Behind the Pixar Short "Sanjay's Super Team," slated for Thurs., July 9 at 11 a.m. in the Indigo Ballroom, Hilton Bayfront, reveals the unique inspiration for this incredibly personal film that features superheroes like never before. The short debuts in U.S. theaters in front of Disney-Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" on Nov. 25, 2015.

Via Disney/Pixar

It was indeed great news hearing that Pixar was nominated for several awards, but it’s also hard not to acknowledge the slight disappointments regarding snubs to both The Good Dinosaur and Lava. In an ideal world, all four films released from the studio would have been nominated for Oscars. They all followed the Pixar standard of challenging both art and technology, paving the way for future animated films. The Good Dinosaur alone was revolutionary in it’s technical aspects and successful blend of animation against hyperrealistic backgrounds. Lava also showcased stunning backgrounds that were brought to life through the use of song; depicting the romance between two volcanoes without dialogue but only through a love ballad. Lava‘s catchy song was clearly absent from the Best Original Song nominees. Also missing from the Best Original Score category was Michael Giacchino’s beautiful work on Inside Out.

In the past, an animated film has even been nominated for Best Picture, such as Pete Docter’s last film Up. If an animated film can be nominated for Best Picture, then it’s director should also be recognized in the Best Director category. Inside Out was incredibly inventive and something we haven’t seen before. It cleverly took us inside the mind of a young girl and created relatable characters out of her emotions… not to mention simultaneously hitting us all with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Docter spent 4+ years working on the film; from writing the screenplay, approving every minute detail most audience members might miss, to even guiding a brilliant team of artists into crafting his vision. That time frame is longer than most live action directors work on a film.

In an interview with Screencrush, Pixarian Kelsey Mann explains why animation directors are just as worthy as notable live action directors in receiving acknowledgement from The Academy:

“From the ground up, directors at Pixar are in charge of everything from the story to the individual blades of grass. We start from nothing. Literally nothing. And it all has to be built from the ground up. And Pete is involved in every decision.”

Slowly audiences (and even The Academy) are beginning to realize that animation isn’t only for children, but it’s an art form entirely of it’s own; crafting stories a thousand times better and more original than most of the live action films released in Hollywood. Here’s hoping that one day an animated film will not only be nominated for Best Picture again, but will win it too.

We will definitely be keeping our fingers crossed for Pixar to take home all of the awards on the February 28th Oscar ceremony.

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Pixar Animator Guilherme Jacinto’s Story

Animation, Pixar, UP, WALL-E

Posted by Martin • June 14, 2009

Have you ever dreamed of working at Pixar? I’m just going to guess and say that many of our readers do so every day, this is Upcoming Pixar after all!

Anyhow, Guilherme Jacinto achieved his dream straight out of college! The young animator is sharing his story in an inspiring interview with Tampa Bay’s Examiner. "During my third year of school I got an internship… When I graduated, [Pixar] called me and offered me a job." He gives us insight on his background and what he’s been doing ever since he got to Pixar!

I really like interviews of this type because, not only do they introduce lesser known animators to fans but they also inspire prospective Pixarians to work hard on reaching their goals. Maybe one of these articles will inspire a future Pixar animator…

Check out his art blog right here.

Did you find this interview inspiring? Do you like reading interviews with Pixarians (I know I do)? Tell us what you think!

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Up Display

Animation, Disney, Pixar, UP

Posted by Martin • March 1, 2009

The Magic of Disney Animation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in Walt Disney World, has a brand new display featuring Pixar’s 10th feature film, Up!

Studios Central has some pictures of the collection of knick knacks that includes balloons, binoculars and exotic leaves as well as reproductions of original storyboards, concept art and promotional materials from the movie. In the display case, you can see pictures of Carl, Russell, Kevin and Dug in early and final forms, you can also see first looks at Ellie, Carl’s wife; Muntz and his dogs; the jungle, the house and blimps. Don’t forget to check out the 3D models of Carl and Russell and the posters scattered throughout the park. Look carefully to get every little detail scattered into this I Spy-like clutter of awesome stuff!

Scroll down on this page until you see the big Up banners to see the Pixar related pictures. There’s some really cool stuff in there!

* Click on the image to view larger.

(Thanks, Jason)

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Empire Names 500 Greatest Movies of All Time

Animation, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Pixar, The Incredibles, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, WALL-E

Posted by Thomas • October 6, 2008

Empire Magazine has let 10,000 voters decide on another Top/Great list. They’ve taken it to epic proportions this time with the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, and I was set with the task of tracking down our favourite Pixar movies to see where they rank. 

Funnily enough, only six out of the nine Pixar films made it into the list with only one making it into the top 100. Here is how they ranked in ascending order:

  • 99Toy Story
  • 179Toy Story 2
  • 343Monsters, Inc.
  • 373WALL•E
  • 379 – Ratatouille
  • 400The Incredibles
  • 413Finding Nemo
Now this order and placement may be surprising for some, but the surprise factor wears off once you see a film like Jaws ranked at #5. You can see the full list here. (If I have missed any Pixar films, please let me know and I will add it to the list.)
What do you think of this list, and where you would place each Pixar film in your top 500 films of all time? (Roughly speaking, of course, unless you want to exactly place them.)

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Animation is Not a Genre, Apple!

Animation, Brad Bird, Steve Jobs

Posted by Thomas • September 10, 2008

I was looking through the files in iTunes 8 today and found all the images for the different Genre’s that appear now if you sort by Genre. I noticed that Apple had labeled Animation as a Genre in the picture (Click for a larger view).

Brad Bird would not be impressed. Let’s hope he doesn’t punch Steve Jobs in the face.

NB: For those of you who are unaware, in the director’s commentary on The Incredibles DVD, Brad Bird made it clear that animation is not a genre and that he would punch the next person that came up to him and asked "What’s it like to work in the animation genre?"

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Exclusive: Discussion with Pixar Technical Director Bill Polson

Animation, Interview, Pixar, Pixar Employees

Posted by Martin • August 22, 2008

My good friend Stephanie got the chance to visit Pixar Animation Studios in "fashionable" Emeryville, CA. While there, she got the chance to interview Technical Director Bill Polson. He’s been Supervising Technical Director on such shorts as One Man Band and Jack-Jack Attack. Here’s what he had to say:

——-

What steps would you suggest to pursue a career in this field?

A) Become familiar with the various roles in making animation, and figure out what excites you. There is art, story, technical, animation, setdressing, cinematography, etc. Once you have an idea what you want to do, the steps to get there are clearer. 

For example, to be a cinematographer, you should probably go to film school.

To work in technical fields like shading and effects and rendering you should probably study computer science.

B) Make a killer portfolio. Again, what is in the portfolio depends on what you want to do.
If you want to be a story artist, you should create your own comic book. Or perhaps a set of story boards for a short film.

To be an animator you should get a model off the web and animate it doing a set of real world things, like walking, sitting, or drinking a cup of coffee. If your character is executing flying ninja kicks it’s not as impressive. It looks more impressive to the untrained eye, but that’s not what we do. Even in a movie like The Incredibles, in most scenes Bob is walking, talking, arguing with his family, sipping a glass of champagne, etc. In very few scenes is he fighting off the killer robot.

C) Read the websites of the places you want to work. They all have submission guidelines. Follow them exactly. Send in your killer portfolio and follow up with the recruiting folks — nicely and professionally — and let your work speak for itself. If you are good you will get hired.

[Computer] generated clothing… is incredibly in demand. We have only 3 people out of 1000+ who can generate clothing. If you can demonstrate ability in this area you
are almost instantly hirable.

What influenced you to choose this career?
I studied physics and math in college, then went to work as a software developer. I stumbled into this in 1988 before there were any CG movies, and found this was the one thing that combined all my interests.

What are the up sides and down falls to your career?
I am in a technical discipline, which means I focus on HOW we’re going to do something rather than WHAT we’re going to do. For example, I don’t decide what the story is, who the characters are, etc. But I get to decide how they are made and animated and shaded and lit and etc.

What is the most difficult part of your job?
People. The best and worst parts of every job are related to people.

What different occupations are involved with your job?
In a given week I will write some software, create a web page or two, prepare and give several presentations, interview one or two potential new hires… mediate an argument, apologize to somebody for a bad decision, get a presentation about a new idea and make a decision that I hope is right, and so forth.

What benefits do you get?
Salary, health benefits, stock options, access to Pixar facilities (pool, gym, etc.)

How does your job affect your social life?
Most of my friends are related to my hobbies: swimming, hiking, bluegrass music. I don’t socialize much outside of work with my co- workers. I’m unusual in this — most of my friends at work are constantly hanging out after work with the same folks they hang out with AT work. I think that is a big danger in this career. It can take all your energy if you let it. Fortunately I had a pretty full life before I came to Pixar. For many of my co-workers, Pixar is their first and only job out of college and they’ve never created an identity away from work.

Have you had a successful job so far?
So far, so good. I’ve made it a point to try something new every few years, even if it meant doing something I wasn’t any good at. This has kept me excited about work. A year ago I was burned out and wanted a new job, and Pixar wouldn’t give me one, so I left. I took a leave of absence and started looking at other things to do. They called me back and offered me the switch from production to tools. I went from being a user of the software to being in charge of the team that writes it. I’m new to this and frankly, I’m not as good at it as I was in my old job. But I’m getting better every day and that is really keeping me excited about things.

Would you have any suggestions in order for one to make it into this field?
My biggest suggestion for "breaking into the field" is to get to work on some computer generated animation. Get to work now. Make some images. Figure out what excites you, and dig really deep into it. Do things that you think cannot be done.

Every year we see a bunch of portfolios that have incredible pictures of water surfaces, with beautiful waves, sunlight glinting off the whitecaps, etc. And if we’d seen that 10 years ago we’d have hired that person. Because 10 years ago the software couldn’t do that. But nowadays that kind of thing can be done by a plugin that you can download off the web. So anybody can make that picture, and thus we’re not interested in that picture anymore.

Show me something that is not easy! Something super technical, or funny, or beautiful.

Every one of our movies is impossible on the day we start it. We know we’ll have to figure out how to do it as we go. But we are confident because we basically only hire people who have the knack of doing the impossible.

Do something impossible.

——-

Thanks again, Stephanie for such an interesting article, the questions were really informative! I hope this helps anyone and everyone who wants to work at Pixar!

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Film Animation’s 100th Birthday

Animation

Posted by Thomas • August 17, 2008

The medium of film animation today celebrates its 100th birthday, marking century since animation pioneer, Emile Cohl debuted Fantasmagorie. 

Here’s to another one hundred years!

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Number One Animated Movie of the Year

Animation, Box Office, WALL-E

Posted by Thomas • August 15, 2008

Yesterday WALL•E passed Kung Fu Panda‘s total gross to become the number one animated movie of the year so far.

WALL•E: $211,834,786

Kung Fu Panda: $211,577,666

For all of you who have been worried, remember, Kung Fu Panda came
out three weeks before WALL•E. Competition was fierce the last few
weeks but as you can see from the totals, the legs are really starting
to show.

There’ are still a few big animated movies coming our way so our
favorite little robot’s title is subject to change, let’s hope for the
best.

Article by martini833, an Upcoming Pixar intern.

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Pixar Not Doing Special Effects says Catmull

Animation, Ed Catmull, Live Action, Pixar, SIGGRAPH

Posted by Thomas • August 12, 2008

Instead of tech-talk, SIGGRAPH veteran, Ed Catmull is back at the convention he calls his “home community” to talk about managing Pixar’s creative environment.

He spoke at the convention about the early days and how he’s tried and failed and learned from his mistakes to build such an outstanding company (Pixar) to what it is today. Catmull says Pixar’s success comes from change, and how they always do something new.

One thing the technical guru and WDAS/Pixar president says will not change anytime soon, is the fact that Pixar is an animation studio, and they plan to focus on that. As you may know, Pixar directors Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton are venturing into the live-action medium and involving Pixar in some way. Just like in WALL-E, Catmull shares that Pixar won’t do the special effects or live-action on these films: “…we don’t want to turn Pixar into a live action studio. In fact, the intent is that the special effects will not be done at Pixar.” Instead, Pixar plans to support the directors vision in any way possible.

In which way will this be? We’ll find out in time. Read this article from AWN for more information on Ed’s keynote speech.

Article written by martini883. Thanks martini883.

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