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Love in the Details of Toy Story 4

Behind The Scenes, Pixar, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • June 19, 2019

There is something Ling Tu, the Sets Shading Lead on Toy Story 4, said during the It’s All in the Details presentation at the studio back in April that I think is very important. She hoped that we could feel the love that was put into the sets. The intention and purpose of Pixar films are not only the result of painstaking research, but painstaking love too! And that love extends to the locations as much as it does to the characters. The level of detail in Toy Story 4 is so intricate that even the sharpest eyed viewers might not notice – and that’s exactly the point. Regardless, each detail is both deliberate and necessary.

Tu was joined by Characters Shading Lead Alex Marino and Graphics Art Director Craig Foster to give us an in depth exploration of all the details.

As we’ve learned, the goal of the Toy Story films is to allow audiences to see everything from a toy’s perspective. Achieving that in Toy Story 4 relied on a number of factors, like making the sets characters with their own backstories and conveying the journeys of the toys through subtle visual hints. Something that was emphasized throughout were the imperfections in each detail, which allowed for greater authenticity and added a richness that would otherwise have been missing if the filmmakers aimed for perfection.

While it might be impossible to spot them all, here are some details (and Easter eggs!) to keep an eye on when you watch Toy Story 4.

Top 5 Sets Details

  • The leaves in the reunion scene between Woody and Bo Peep make Woody appear smaller and toylike. Pay attention to their texture, as they have the same veins and holes as real leaves do.
  • The reunion scene takes place in a dried creek bed. There’s a sprinkler box there to remind the audiences that this is still happening in the human world.
  • Dust in the antique store is very specific and just the right amount had to be applied. Take a look at the comparison image below – there’s a clear difference between them. The final frame still conveys the store’s age and unique history, but the dust isn’t distracting as it is in the first one.

©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  • Another crucial element of the antiques store is that it makes Woody feel out of place. It’s also the last place any toy wants to be, which is why Gabby Gabby is so eager to leave. The subtleties make it feel that way, without the filmmakers being obvious about it.
  • As Tu explained, carnivals draw you in with flashy lights and colors, but they’re actually shabby when you take a closer look. One of the ways they zeroed in on the shabbiness was the carnival prize grid where Ducky and Bunny spend all their time. The image below is fascinating because it’s something we take for granted and it’s distinctly unglamorous. But the filmmakers still took the time to include it for that extra layer of credibility!

©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. Lots of Easter Eggs here too!

Top 5 Characters Details

Photo by Marc Flores. ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Just like the antiques store, it was important to show how our toys have aged too. This was achieved by taking their journeys and motivations into account. Alex Marino also explained that subtle updates helped integrate the characters into the new settings.

  • Pay attention to Buzz’s stickers – they’re peeling. He’s no longer the glossy space ranger in mint condition.
  • Woody we know, has been through a lot. The micro scratches on him clue us into that and remind us that he and Buzz aren’t new toys.
  • Bo Peep’s porcelain isn’t as pristine as it was before, which makes sense considering that she’s been living as a lost toy. Her garments are a little shabby too.
  • Gabby Gabby is inspired by dolls of the 1950s and 1960s which were mass produced, but her hand painted features and the nylon quality of her hair are a contrast to the more generic features.
  • Since Gabby has been sitting on a shelf for so long, her dress is desaturated. She’s often in the dark, which would explain why her eyes are ominous rather than soft and inviting.

The Toy Story 4 art gallery, as seen on March 18, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Top 5 Graphic Design Details and Easter Eggs

Here’s something you won’t see in Toy Story 4: Woody’s Round Up. Craig Foster was deliberate about that because Woody is meant to feel out of place wherever he goes. To that end, no Western style fonts appear in the film either. Here’s a handy list of (more than) five Easter eggs to be on the look out for instead! And these are just the ones we were told about. A good chunk of the 8,000 graphics in the film reference past Pixar films.

Photo by Marc Flores

  • A Victrola in Second Chance Antiques has a record of Ernesto de la Cruz songs.
  • Paintings in the film include one of Alpha which is reminiscent of  John Singer Sargent; the classic ‘dogs playing poker’ with Dug, Muntz and the other hounds of Up; Riley’s dad as a conquistador (?!); and Angel Kitty from “Toy Story That Time Forgot” in Margaret Keane’s signature style.
  • Fun ads in the film include 1940s Triple Dent Gum (and now I’m humming the jingle of course); 1950s era Eggman Movers from the first Toy Story; Hud’s Garage, a reference to Doc Hudson; and “Small Fry’s” Poultry Palace, also from the ’50s.
  • The pinball machine has a tiki theme and naturally, the tiki heads from Finding Nemo are there.
  • A really cool graphic is Duke Caboom‘s maple leaf. Not only is it a symbol of his Canadian heritage, it looks like an explosion too!

As always, this visual storytelling expertly reinforces the film’s main themes. The labyrinthine aspect of all these details doesn’t overwhelm the characters; they blend into the background of the story and beckon us to take a closer look.

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Pixar Heroines: A Spotlight on Dot from A Bug’s Life

A Bug's Life, Andrew Stanton, Behind The Scenes, Pixar Heroines

Posted by Nia • February 7, 2019

In honor of Little Bo Peep’s fabulous new look in Pixar’s upcoming Toy Story 4, we’re starting a new series dedicated to the countless Pixar heroines who’ve graced the silver screen. From Elastigirl to Merida, we want to highlight them all; not only focusing on their strengths, but their weaknesses too; it’s every little bit about these heroines that makes them so empathetic, so powerful, and why they mean so much to us.

We’re starting off the series by focusing on Dot from the often overlooked and severely underrated A Bug’s Life. Dot is rut of the family, the young princess ant, and sister to Princess Atta. She’s small and she hates it. Because of her size, and her position in the royal family, she’s often overlooked and made fun of. It’s also established early on in the film that Dot is trying to fly, but she can’t quite grasp how her wings work yet; it might be her obvious inexperience or her lack of confidence, but either way, that’s one obstacle she struggles to overcome throughout the film.

It also doesn’t help that Dot is constantly punished for her lack of flying and her failed attempts are deemed dangerous; she feels distraught and her free spirit is crushed under the pressures of her family. No wonder she finally feels at home, at peace with herself, when she meets Flick. She finds his inventions fascinating, even when the other ants in the community think they’re ridiculous and a waste of time. Flick ends up giving Dot some stellar advice about her size and how it doesn’t matter how small she is, “you might not feel like you can do much now, but that’s just because, well, you’re not a tree yet. You just have to give yourself some time; you’re still a seed.”

Dot stays loyal to Flick, even when the other ants in the community show their obvious distaste for him after he knocks the food they spent months gathering, for the villainous grasshoppers, into a stream. When Flick decides to leave the colony in search for bigger and tougher bugs to help protect the colony against the grasshoppers, Dot eagerly awaits his return, using his telescope invention to keep watch for him. Dot’s friends make fun of her for using his inventions and siding with Flick, but she has tough skin and ignores their mockeries. She’ll do anything for Flick.

Why Dot is inspiring:

It’s safe to say Dot is the sole ant who helps save the day in A Bug’s Life. She’s a cutie that packs a punch, despite her youth she’s wise and optimistic and helps move the main cast of characters through even the darkest moments in the film. Her determination alone is inspiring; not once does she give up and sulk at the fact that she can’t fly or that she’s small and incompetent. She has her bad days, but she keeps on moving forward. She keeps trying, again and again, and doesn’t stop until she gets the results she’s satisfied with.

Dot also isn’t afraid to speak her mind, even if it means hurting someone else’s feelings in the process. She doesn’t let her age or her size get in the way when the people she loves are in danger, even when she knows it could be a risk. Despite being part of the royal family, she doesn’t hesitate to put herself out there and to show initiative; she is at her bravest while her sister and Queen Mother are in hiding.

After the grasshoppers return to the ant colony and take over their land, demanding the extra food that they weren’t given on their last visit, Dot goes into hiding with the other young ants. When she hears that Hopper, the ruthless leader of the grasshoppers, is going to murder her mother, she comes up with a plan: find Flick and get him to help. As soon as she leaves the hiding spot, she’s chased down by Thumper; the ravenous grasshopper who nearly tore her to shreds at the beginning of the film. Thumper chases Dot and she escapes only when she falls off a nearby cliff. For an instant, we think it’s over for Dot, but she suddenly reappears on screen – her eyes shut tight and her wings finally fluttering, albeit frantically. She uses her newfound ability to track down Flick where she gets him to return to the colony just in time to help save her family.

Dot continues to grow during the final beat of the film, constantly learning and moving out of her comfort zone to get her colony to safety. She works with Flick, gathering the other young ants on to a fake bird that they built in order to scare off the Grasshoppers. As Flick drives it, Dot gives instructions and even makes fake bird cries. She steps into more of an adult roll, accepting her duties and putting herself last to save everyone else. Even when she is captured by Hopper again after their failed attempts at scaring him away, she never backs down or even hints at surrendering; as everyone looks on in horror, she looks back with fire in her eyes and is ready for a fight. As Thumper confronts her at the end, ready to start where they last left off after their chase, she shouts at him and slaps him, treating him like a bad dog.

At the end of the film, Dot is a changed ant. When Atta, her sister, is crowned the new Queen of the colony, Dot receives her tiara and has officially moved up the ranks in her royal family. (Honestly, after Dot’s bravery, she’s the one who deserves to wear the crown at the end, but I’m willing to let that go…) Regardless, the tiara is a much earned badge after her triumphant display of courage.

Some behind-the-scenes fact about Dot:

  • Andrew Stanton, who worked on the story of A Bug’s Life, discussed creating Dot because his daughter had just been born at the time of production. He was inspired by his daughter and wanted to have a little girl character depicted in the film.
  • Dot was voiced by Hayden Panettiere, but Ashley Tisdale originally tried out for the part.
  • You can find Dot, along with the other characters from A Bug’s Life, in Toy Story 2; they’re all on Al’s abstract painting that’s on the wall of his living room.

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How Pixar Employees Utilized Their Archives for The Incredibles 2

Behind The Scenes, Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Pixar, Pixar Archives, Pixar Employees, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • May 31, 2018

During my most recent visit to Pixar for an Incredibles 2 press event, which was a massive thrill in itself,  I was given an exclusive tour of their new archive facility. And it was definitely the cherry on top of a very fabulous two days at the studio. Inside the archives I learned how Brad Bird and his team went back in time to research the designs and characters for the Incredibles 2.

© 2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Pixar itself is a magical place, and I don’t have enough room in this post to write about how it meant to visit the studio for the first time (stay-tuned for an upcoming post about just that), but the archives are really something special.

Just think of your favorite Pixar film and then think about all the hard work that went into making it. All of the designs that were created in the 3+ years of developing the film are all archived in their new 15,000 square foot facility.

Originally the building was just a raw cement warehouse, but the folks at Pixar spent a few years making it perfect and customizing it to accommodate all of the designs. The facility is now a working space where employees from Pixar can come to visit and pull designs for their research.

The archives is so big that it could get a little creepy when you’re there by yourself; every time someone enters through the main door there’s a cute little doorbell that rings, which alerts whoever’s working that someone has entered the premises. *Cue dramatic music*

I wanted to spend days, hours, WEEKS in that building looking at each and every piece of art work but alas, I only had less than an hour inside.

Archives Manager, Juliet Roth, led the tour and has been with Pixar for 15 years. Everyone who works in the archives has a master’s degree in library science with an archive focus, or something similar. According to Juliet, “this is as much my job as a story artist is an artist that draws storyboards, we work really closely with the art and story teams in production, that’s where the majority of the materials are coming from. We also collect scripts from editorial, some animation drawings, and we also have a historical collection; which is more about the history of Pixar as a company, sort of what is culturally unique. What makes Pixar Pixar?”

(Photo by Marc Flores)

So, what does the Pixar Archives house exactly? And how did going back through the old designs help the artists prepare for the Incredibles 2?

  • The archives hold molds and maquettes of some of your favorite characters, like Mr. Incredible; some are full body while others showcase a range of emotions and expressions for the animators to study as they work. Artists were able to come into the archives and use these old designs as a starting point when re-creating the characters for the sequel. “They make the sculpts so they can sit on the animators desks and they can reference it as they’re animating all the smile lines, teeth and tongue and eye shapes, so we have a lot of them for all the main characters in The Incredibles. You can draw a character all you want, the drawings are really wonderful, but there’s nothing like bringing a character to life in 3 dimensions.”
  • The archivists work with the production team to integrate themselves into their pipeline. Once a design has served its purpose in production, such as going through art reviews and being approved by the director, it slowly makes its way into the archives. But it doesn’t stop there: the archivists spend time with the team, making sure the artists hand off important information, such as the context of the artwork that was created. It’s even important to know about the characters who didn’t make it in the final film or a character who might’ve started off as the villain but ended up the hero; whatever it is, they like to get the contextual information because the archivists are the “information experts in the future.”
  • The archives also hold all the concept art that was created during The Incredibles and the rest of Pixar’s feature films. In relation to the world of the Incredibles we saw heaps of collages from the first film, pieces assembled from copious magazines and other materials created for character and costume designs; there were also color scripts from Lou Romano; background roughs, character sketches, and original Tony Fucile model packs, which is basically a blue print of the main characters; Ralph Eggleston and Lou Romano gouache paintings; different versions of Edna Mode’s concept art, in each one you could see her attitude, despite it being completely different to what made it on film; and finally the tour included Tony Fucile’s Edna designs and expressions. It was pretty neat seeing what Edna could have looked like and how all of these different artists initially pictured her in their minds.

    (Photo by Marc Flores)

    (Photo by Marc Flores)

  • Ralph Eggleston and his team came to the archives prior to starting their work on the sequel 3 years ago. Eggleston was trying to work out designs for the Incredibles 2, particularly for all of the background characters. Since they had done so much work on the first film with unused characters and villains, they decided it was a good place to start and pull from, maybe even re-using old designs. You’ll definitely see a lot of the initial forgotten supers and background characters in the Incredibles 2 next month.

    (Photo by Marc Flores)

    (Photo by Marc Flores)

Some other fun things I found in the Pixar archives worth noting:

  • The building houses a collection of press clippings from the early days of Pixar, including clips from when Pixar was first founded and when Steve Jobs bought it; those artifacts go back to Juliet’s earlier quote of “what makes Pixar Pixar?” That thought alone blew my mind because the posts I write for Upcoming Pixar, and even this post, *might* somehow end up in the archives one day.
  • Before Pixar started making movies they sold software and hardware and they made some commercials; like the dancing Life Savers holes in Babies and the boxing Listerine in Boxer, which were both Pixar’s claim to fame before Toy Story. They had copies of the original software and items from the commercials mentioned on display. Those items all come from Pixar’s “historical collection.”
  • They even saved original crew gifts from the wrap parties of each feature film; for the first Incredibles they had given out t-shirts. I asked for a shirt but unfortunately they were out of stock.
  • The walls of the archive facility were decorated with original concept art from Brave, Up, Monsters Inc., and an even original character line-ups from Inside Out.
  • At the end of the building there were display cases that showcased a squash and stretch maquette of Sulley from Monstes Inc., samples of different Sulley concept art, a maquette of Woody’s original character design which was a ventriloquist dummy, and a maquette of Buzz Lightyear AKA Lunar Larry’s original design. There was even a printed card that showed a bunch of potential titles for Toy Story, my favorite being Toys in the Hood. The best part was seeing some of the bronze statues the employees at Pixar get after being there for 5, 10, 20 years, etc.

    (Photo by Marc Flores)

You could get lost in the Pixar archives and honestly, if that happened to me I’d be content living inside the building for the rest of my life. Although it was only a tour, I could see how important the archives are to the employees at Pixar and the company’s legacy. It’s amazing that the everyone at the company has a place like the archives to escape to, where they can venture into the past to study previous films and pull designs for research. It not only makes them stronger artists, but it makes the content coming from Pixar even more important and relevant. The more Pixar grows, the more designs and artifacts the archivists have to help continue to build the company’s legacy.

Don’t forget to grab your tickets to the Incredibles 2, which comes to cinemas on June 15th. Only 15 more days to go!

P.S. Do you have your super-suit packed and ready to go?

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The Making of Bao: Story, design inspiration, and more!

Bao, Behind The Scenes, Domee Shi, Interview, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Nia • April 23, 2018

Bao is Pixar’s new theatrical short that will be playing this summer in front of the Incredibles 2. It’s one of my favorite shorts from Pixar and it goes without saying – the film is full of scrumptious designs and a heartwarming story that will have you begging for more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out our review of the film.

During my most recent trip to Pixar I learned some fantastic things about the making of Bao from director Domee Shi, production designer Rona Liu, and producer Becky Neiman-Cobb.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

  1. Bao has two meanings in Chinese: steamed bun and to treasure something precious. Domee thought it would be the perfect title for a story about “a precious little steam bun.”
  2. Domee’s #1 obsession in life, outside of animation, is obviously food (and I don’t blame her – I think about food 24/7). “I love food, not just eating it, but drawing it as well.” Before the days of Bao, Domee was making art about food and posting it online. You might remember some of the food related gags and little food-centric comics from her My Food Fantasies
  3. Domee was also inspired by food folk tales because “they’re so cute and strange – like the little gingerbread man and that one song, there was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” With Bao, she was inspired to do a Chinese version of all those folk takes she loved.
  4. According to Domee, the first ingredient to Bao was obviously food and the second ingredient was what she knew best: growing up as an only child. Domee’s family was a small immigrant family that moved from China and lived in Toronto. Domee’s father worked a lot and because of that she spent a lot of time with her mom growing up. Her mom would hold her close whenever she could and treated her like a “delicate little dumpling.” When Domee started growing up and doing things on her own, it was hard for her mom to let go and she’d tell Domee,“I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I’d know exactly where you were at all times.” Domee even said, “It’s that creepy sweet love of a mom who doesn’t want to let go of her little dumpling that was the spark that became the heart of the story.”

    ©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  5. Domee wasn’t only inspired by her relationship with her mom, but she was inspired by her. She is a “dumpling Queen.” Food was how Domee’s mom showed her love for her and they formed a special bond making dumplings together over the years for numerous holidays and events. “In Chinese culture, food and family go hand in hand. When you want to show that you care about someone and that you love someone, you don’t say ‘I love you’ you say ‘have you eaten yet?'”
  6. Her mom was involved in the research for Bao. She’d come in to do “dumpling making demos” for the animators and effects and simulation artists.

    (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

  7. The third ingredient for this short was Chinatown, specifically Chinatown in Toronto where Domee grew up. She wanted to honor that setting and the equally vibrant Chinatown grannies. “I wanted to celebrate their bold colors, their keen eye when it comes to picking out the freshest produce, and their determination to get the best deals in town.”
  8. The style of Bao was inspired by 2D Japanese animation, especially the visual styles of My Neighbors the Yamatas and One Piece. Domee “loved how squishy the characters looked and how pushed their expressions were.”

    ©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  9. Though translating 2D designs to 3D was the biggest obstacle Domee and her team had to get past. Some poses and expressions didn’t translate as well when it was created with 3D software, since 3D itself is its own medium. Some of the design aspects Domee wanted to pull from My Neighbors the Yamatas or One Piece were going to be an challenge, like the mother’s massive head and exaggerated limbs, but there’s nothing that a little planning can’t solve, especially in animation production. In the end, after trial and error, they were able to combine 2D graphic design and 3D modeling, which gave Domee range to achieve what she wanted.
  10. Production designer Rona Liu “oversaw all the visuals in the film.” Her job was to work with the different departments to make sure the look was cohesive and adhered to Domee’s vision.
  11. According to Rona, Domee wanted the short to look and feel very, very cute. It was also heavily influenced by Japanese folk art. She loved the “simple and graphic designs and the fact that a slice of life was the main subject… she wanted to borrow some of that philosophy with Bao, while keeping focus on the characters as much as possible.”
  12. The patterns on the mother’s clothes supported her emotional journey throughout the film. When the mother is unhappy and lonely, Rona used muted colors. When the mother is happy, the colors were “bold and red and auspicious.”
  13. The environment also played a supporting role to the characters. The background designs used throughout the short are not perfectly straight; if you look closely at some of the sets in the trailer and even when you see the film this summer, you’ll find that none of edges actually meet perfectly together, lines are wibbly wobbly. The mother’s house in particular had to reflect that she was an immigrant, a “blend of East meets West.” Rona had decided all the built-ins in the mother’s kitchen would be Western, while all the things the mother buys would be Chinese. 
  14. According to producer Becky Neiman-Cobb, the pork filling was the hardest thing for the effects artists to figure out. “It took two months for them to master the look and feel of the pork filling for the short.” What made the food effects so challenging was that, “we’re all experts as to what food looks like.” And food is the star in Bao, so “if it didn’t look perfect or believable it would pull the audience out of the story.”

Make sure you save lots of room for dessert because Bao is coming to theaters June 15th!

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Pixar Launches New Experimental Shorts Department

30 Years of Pixar, Behind The Scenes, Luxo, Jr., Short Film, SIGGRAPH, Smash and Grab, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B

Posted by Nia • May 28, 2017

It was recently revealed that in August, Pixar will be hosting a panel at SIGGRAPH titled, “Smash and Grab: Off-The-Rails Filmmaking at Pixar.” The summary of the panel gave us some insight into what some of the talented folks have been up to in between projects at the studio:

“Pixar launched an internal, experimental storytelling initiative to create short films without executive oversight, to explore new creative visions and increase studio opportunities. This talk shares Pixar’s six-month journey of creating seven-minute shorts, with limited resources, amidst the backdrop of a busy studio, juggling multiple feature productions.”

Cartoon Brew reported the first film produced through this new division is aptly titled Smash and Grab, and will be directed by Brian Larsen. Larsen himself has plenty of experience at Pixar in the story trenches – serving as Story Supervisor on Brave and Head of Story on Piper, just to name a few.

Pixar’s first few short films, The Adventures of André and Wally B and Luxo JR., initially put the studio on the map and showcased what was to come with technology driving animation. The fact that the studio is continuing to push the boundaries of storytelling with their famed short films, and finding time to make new projects with an already grueling film schedule is quite impressive and inspiring.

We can’t wait to find out more about Smash and Grab, and their new shorts unit.

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You Can Now Take A Pixar Storytelling Course Online For Free!

Behind The Scenes, Khan Academy, Mark Andrews, Pete Docter, Pixar in a box, The Art of Storytelling

Posted by Nia • February 24, 2017

Have you ever dreamed about being able to learn from some of the greatest storytellers in the industry? Or what about gaining specific insight in animation from some of your heroes like Pete Docter and Mark Andrews? With Pixar’s new online course, you will be able to do just that.

This month Pixar launched the first course of their 6-part online curriculum on “The Art of Storytelling.” The program will be helmed by Docter, Andrews, and a plethora of other top notch animation talent from the studio. The course is aimed to guide anyone who is interested in learning more about the Pixar storytelling process – the segments will give tips on how to create original stories, captivating characters, and diverse worlds. The courses will also offer a variety of techniques other than your typical video and reading assignments; there will be firsthand exercises that will even teach some newcomers the ABC’s of taking an original idea and seeing it through to the story boarding phase. Pixar’s online class will disperse their different lessons throughout the year, so stay-tuned for more production wisdom from the studio!

Pete Docter’s own statement on the course should give you enough motivation to give it a try: “We hope that by sharing how we tell stories, we’ll inspire students all over the world to tell their own stories.”

“The Art of Storytelling” can be accessed through the online-education website Khan Academy.

Have you already taken the course or are thinking about trying it out? Let us know on Twitter and in the comments below.

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The Incredibles 2 Sequel Happily Moves Through Production

Behind The Scenes, Brad Bird, Interview, sequels, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • September 12, 2016

incredibles-2-update-main

It’s insane thinking about how its been 12 years since The Incredibles first premiered in cinemas. For some of us old folk, it only feels like yesterday when we sat in the dark, jaws agape, and inspired as we traveled through dangerous territories following the Parr family. With that being said, fantastic news, as always, regarding one of the most anticipated sequels from Pixar to date! Happy to report, straight from Brad Bird himself, that The Incredibles 2 continues to move smoothly through the production pipeline. From our friends over at Entertainment Weekly, we’ve found that Brad Bird dished some small insights into the upcoming film, careful not to give away any key plot points:

“I don’t like unwrapping presents before Christmas… It’s very actively moving, and we’re excited about it. We’re trying to take it in some new directions. Hopefully it’s the same characters and feel, but going in a new direction. I mean, that’s the trick with a sequel. It’s repeating yourself, without repeating yourself.”

Considering how Hollywood seems to be pushing out superhero films in an assembly line fashion these days, we’re curious to see what new spin on the genre Bird and team will create this time around. We’re also eager to see how the Parr family has been faring all of these years since we’ve last seen them on screen. It’s great to know that despite it being a sequel, Bird is conscious of that aspect and is trying to create a film that will stand alone from the first installment. Back when The Incredibles was released in 2004, Bird helped shape a new form of storytelling both in animation and in the superhero universe; delving into the familial side of superheroes, getting into their psyches, while straying from the cliches that have been notorious with Hollywood’s representation of anyone who wears a cape. Thank God Edna banished those fashion statements long ago. Perhaps this even inspired the darker side of superheros seen in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy? Regardless, 2019 can’t come soon enough.

The Incredibles 2 is scheduled for release on June 21, 2019.

 

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Finding Dory Press Junket Exclusive

Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Behind The Scenes, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Interview

Posted by Nia • June 17, 2016

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Last week Upcoming Pixar was invited to a Finding Dory press junket in Beverly Hills. There we got to see the fantastic cast of the film discuss their experiences while working on the project. The room was buzzing with excitement as the cast walked on stage. After watching a screening the night before at the Walt Disney Studios, we were excited to have a few hours set aside to hear about the making of the film and find out more about the new worlds depicted. It was certainly thrilling to get an opportunity to be in the same room as some of the talented folks apart of this film, ask them questions, and hear first hand about their time channelling their characters. The cast in attendance consisted of Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill, and of course, Ellen DeGeneres.

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Every cast member on stage contributed something wonderful and added to the story of Dory trying to find her parents. The junket was structured in a way where the audience members were able to ask questions to anyone on stage, which opened up some insightful inquiries. The cast was also very playful during the questions and were quick to bounce back for any comedic opportunities.

Some of our favorite moments: 

  • Ed O’Neill offered some light on his beloved new character Hank, the octopus. One of his major character quirks in Finding Dory was that he’s missing a tentacle and he’s desperately trying to find a way out of the aquarium. He refuses to go back in the ocean and O’Neill offered that reason is because “he had a bad experience in the ocean. We’re guessing that something bit off one of his tentacles.”
  • When asked how the cast prepared for their roles, Ty Burrell mentioned how he had created a distinct voice that he thought would match the character perfectly. He wanted to channel the character like “a whale with a cold” since Bailey looked rather congested. After pitching the idea and voicing a few lines, Andrew Stanton politely insisted on Burrell doing “the whole film in his voice” rather than the fun little voice he had created. Albert Brooks pitched in that he kept his co-star Hayden Rolence, who voiced Nemo, “in a small tank for six months” as inspiration.
  • Ellen discussed that if she were to have any trait from Dory, she’d want to have all of them. “I try to have as many traits as she has: optimism, perseverance, non-judgement, not having any resentment, or holding on to anger, not feeling like a victim; I think that’s why she’s such a lovable character because she really thinks everything is possible. She never for a second thinks that anything is wrong with anybody else or herself. She just keeps swimming.”
  • Albert Brooks’ new philosophy to life was revealed, after he was asked if he solves problems more analytically like Marlin or spontaneously like Dory: “Thank God my memory is great. As you get older, you do forget little things. I’ve come up now with a new philosophy of life: if something is bothering me, I ask myself to check back in 30 minutes. If it’s still bothering me, I deal with it; but a lot of it I don’t remember.”
  • Eugene Levy’s secret to being a great movie dad is “acting.”
  • Destiny and Bailey’s relationship in Finding Dory is more focused on them being like siblings rather than best friends or a married couple. “They’re really very close, but they annoy the heck out of each other. I feel there’s a theme in this film where Destiny can’t see very well, Bailey’s radar is all messed up, and Dory can’t remember but somehow friendship can make you complete. Their relationship in the institute was sort of about that, them trying to take care of each other. It’s creating your own kind of family.”
  • And finally, we even got to ask Ellen a question! “You’ve helped shape Dory’s personality from the very beginning in Finding Nemo, did you have a particular connection with Dory’s desire for belonging and finding her family?” And Ellen’s response: “Well I think everybody is searching for their home, whatever that is, I think home is different for everybody. I understand what a sense of belonging is, I understand when you want to say ‘why am I who I am?’, ‘where did I come from’, and ‘how did I end up where I am?’ Yeah, I can relate to that. I think everybody can.”

In a previous conference that same day, director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins shared some fabulous insight on how they were able to successfully revisit the world of Finding Nemo and also some of the obstacles they faced in production.

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Some of our favorite moments:

  • It was in 2011, when Andrew Stanton was watching the 3D release of Finding Nemo, that he left “very worried about Dory and couldn’t stop thinking about how she needed closure”, thus sparking the idea to delve into a sequel. Andrew and Lindsay Collins kept that idea to themselves for a while, until they were 100% sure they wanted to re-visit the world and Dory, and perfect the story. “Once you say ‘Finding Anything’ they’re going to want to make it.”
  • Andrew Stanton’s song choices (Beyond The Sea and Unforgettable) in both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory were thematic. It was Robbie Williams singing a version of Beyond The Sea that inspired him to go the route of choosing a classic song but with a twist for the end of his films.
  • Andrew’s new favorite character is Hank because he’s spent the most time with him, in terms of working with O’Neill during the records and dealing with all the technicalities with the character in production. Lindsay Collins loves Bailey and Destiny.
  • A normal character in a Pixar film takes six months, but it took two years to make Hank. “It took six months just to animate the first shot with him. We would still be making the movie right now had we not learned how to do that a little faster.”
  • Stanton’s goal for Dory was to be universal with Dory’s disability, “I was using her disability to represent everybody. It works for anybody, because nobody is perfect. Everybody has a flaw that they maybe mislabel as such. It’s a reflection of my age. I’ve reached middle-age and you start to recognize that I’m not really going to change. I am who I am, and I got to own that. I’ve got to learn to start enjoying that fact; the good and the bad.”
  • The environment in both films have different meanings. In Finding Nemo, the vast ocean that Marlin and Dory traveled through was more like a desert. In the sequel, Andrew decided to have it set near the aquarium because he wanted more of a forest setting he couldn’t explore in the first film. “It’s more like a forest, a fairy tale. In fairy tales things are hidden, secrets are hidden there, and things are discovered in the forest.”

It’s always inspiring listening to the filmmakers and cast talk firsthand about how they were able to collaborate and create such a fantastic film. Many thanks to the cast and crew for their time during the junket, and Disney/Pixar for letting us have the opportunity to be there.

It’s highly recommended that you check out Finding Dory, which is finally released in cinemas today. We hope you’re as excited as we were to check out the film. And always remember… just keep swimming!

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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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The Science of Pixar

Art, Behind The Scenes, Pixar, Science Behind Pixar

Posted by Simoa • August 9, 2015

Buzz1Back in June, Boston’s Museum of Science opened The Science Behind Pixar, an interactive exhibit that gives guests the chance to learn about the math and science in Pixar films. I was lucky enough to attend this weekend, and it was quite an enriching experience!

The exhibit was set up to focus on each aspect of Pixar’s production and animation process. There are sections devoted to modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, surfaces, simulation, and more. It’s all presented in a unique, eye catching way. Visitors not only get to see how the films are created firsthand, but it’s also hands on. Since the Science Behind Pixar deals with STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering, math), it was all informative and educational, but like Pixar films, it was also a lot of fun. Those who may not be interested in math or science could find their opinions changed when visiting. The same was true for Colin Thompson, a Pixarian who is responsible for painting surfaces. He was never a fan of math in school, but changed his mind when he saw how it could be applied in a fun, useful way at Pixar.

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Thompson is just one of many Pixarians sharing their experiences of working at Pixar and what their jobs entail. Video of Pixarians are stationed throughout the exhibit, and these can be played alongside the actual sets. One familiar face is Jerome Ranft, a sculptor at Pixar.

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Early Finding Nemo color scripts, by Pixar veteran Ralph Eggleston.

The artwork is impressive as ever. Seeing Eggleston’s work above, as well as others, stays true to that famous John Lasseter quote: “Art challenges technology. Technology inspires the art.” The Science Behind Pixar is the perfect blend of both. It not only seeks to educate, but also to inspire wonder.

This exhibit will remain in Boston until January of 2016 and other cities will soon be added to its five year tour.

Official website

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