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Inside Pixar – The Tour We All Need Right Now

Disney+, Inside Pixar, Review

Posted by Maya • February 17, 2021

Pixar fans have plenty to look forward to these days: a trailer for Luca; more information about Turning Red; details about new projects in development. Now we can add another item to that list: the third batch of episodes for the Disney+ docuseries “Inside Pixar,” set to premiere March 26th.

After a three-month wait, the second batch of episodes was released this past week, and to say they were a delight to watch would be an understatement. While the first five episodes to air were grouped under the heading “Inspired,” episodes six through 10 were categorized as “Portraits.” As the grouping might hint, the newest episodes took a different angle to investigating the workings of Pixar studios.

Each episode, averaging around 10 minutes, profiles one Pixar employee and the specific role they occupy. The first five episodes focused on an artist’s creative process, giving directors and designers the floor to explain how they find the spark for a story or take the time to develop their individual voice. The ground covered in the “Inspired” episodes was exciting to see, particularly to understand how and why the messages of certain scenes or an entire film are shaped. At the same time, whether it be through special features on DVDs or production videos shared before and after a film’s release, footage of creatives like character designers and screenwriters at work are easy to find. Those are the jobs we expect to see front and center; without them, films wouldn’t happen.

But there are many other people at the studio just as important to the creation of a film. The episodes in the “Portraits” batch celebrate employees of the studio we don’t often get to appreciate. There are so many dimensions to the filmmaking process at Pixar. After all, to even create a film, you need a workplace. So, who takes care of that place? Who works behind the scenes to make the campus a place where employees are happy to sit down and spend their day, whether at their desks or in the café?

These are the kinds of questions audiences don’t often think to ask because we can get lost in the details of film production and fail to see other sides to the inner workings of a studio. But to ignore the contributions of each and every employee ignores how and why Pixar has cultivated an environment where collaboration and community are celebrated. It also hides the fact that creativity is a requisite for every role.

Whether that role is of a temporary music editor or the director of facility operations, the people at Pixar are dedicated problem solvers. In episode six, we watch as Cynthia Lusk, who oversees the translation process for foreign market distribution, finds ways to translate various visuals, from the last line of Wilden Lightfoot’s letter in Onward to a warning sign in Inside Out. It’s an eye-opening look at one of the myriad ways Pixar films are created to be accessible for a global audience. In episode seven, Marylou Jaso guides us through her work as the lone pastry chef in Pixar’s kitchen, crafting the treats that the employees look forward to every day. The specialty desserts Jaso comes up with to commemorate occasions like a film release are charming and reveal that inspiration becomes a feedback loop at Pixar.

Of the batch, the highlight for me was episode eight, where the spotlight on production assistant Rachelle Federico illuminated a great deal about the dream of working at Pixar. Jobs are hard-earned and can be demanding, but watching Federico find all the positives in her work, it’s clear they are also rewarding. It certainly seems that the joy of working at the studio comes through in the optimism of the studio’s films.

The next five episodes in the series will be grouped under the heading “Foundations.” They will be titled: Recipe for a Movie, Creating Characters, Through the Lens, Animation and Acting, and Color, Light, and Emotion.

From the episode briefs that have been shared, it seems the new batch will focus on exploring the technical wizardry of Pixar films. The first 10 episodes have kept one employee in focus to explain the workings and culture of the studio, so I hope the next five follow suit. Whatever the approach is, I cannot wait to see more of the talented individuals who help make Pixar an animation studio that stands apart.

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New Pixar movies and Disney+ Originals!

Disney+, Domee Shi

Posted by Simoa • December 12, 2020

Disney Investor Day on December 10th was an overwhelming day filled with all sorts of exciting announcements. New Pixar films were unveiled, along with a new series exclusive to Disney+. Now that we’ve had time to digest all the fantastic news, here’s what’s upcoming.

Dug Days (2021)

This series about our favorite talking dog arrives in the fall. Featuring the ‘dangers of suburbia,’ like fireworks, puppies, and squirrels.

The other Disney+ series include Pixar Popcorn, a second season of Inside Pixar, and a new Cars spinoff, with a road trip across the country starring Lightning McQueen and Mater.

Turning Red (2022)

Investor Day

The red panda is out of the bag! Domee Shi’s feature directorial debut follows the adventures of 13 year old Mei, a girl navigating adolescence with all of its confusion and awkwardness. Mei is a regular teenager, but with a twist: she turns into a red panda whenever she gets too excited! The fact that Domee came up with this idea is only to be expected. “Bao” was such a surprise, adorable and poignant all at once. I can’t even imagine what Turning Red has in store. I love Mei already, in both human and animal form. She looks a bit like I did when I was her age.

Lightyear (2022)

A Buzz Lightyear origin movie?! It will debut in theaters. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, considering it seems like it would work more as a series, but you can watch the trailer below. Chris Evans will voice the space ranger.

Win or Lose (2023)

Pixar’s first animated series will premiere on Disney+ in February of 2023. The stories will focus on a middle school softball team and each episode will explore the view of a different character.

It feels great to have all this new Pixar content to look forward to, and with Soul just a few weeks away. Hopefully theaters will reopen so we can enjoy these great films on the big screen. Let us know what you think!

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Pixar Scores Two Emmy Nominations

Awards, Coco, Disney+, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • July 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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Toy Story 4 Short ‘Lamp Life’ Coming To Disney+

Disney+, Shorts, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • January 22, 2020

It feels like Disney+ is slowly but surely filling up with Pixar shorts, and we couldn’t be happier. Between the pioneering SparkShorts (you can read our review of the latest SparkShort – Loop – here), the classic shorts that premiered before Pixar’s feature films, Pixar Toons, and originals like Forky Asks a Question, Disney+ is accumulating quite the collection.

A new Disney+ exclusive Toy Story 4 short has just been revealed, and it’s going to be released in just over a week on January 31st. The new short is Lamp Life, and it’ll give us an idea of how Bo Peep lived her life as a lamp between leaving Woody and becoming a lost toy.

We’re still a little blown away by Bo’s incredible comeback, so it’s exciting that we’ll get to see more of her personality shining through, even if only for a brief short.

There are some Mater’s Tall Tales vibes happening too. It’s great to get to see a snippet of a character’s life that didn’t quite fit into a feature length movie, even if some of the snippets may or may not be entirely true.

“That all happened?!”

“Well…more or less.”

Here’s to January 31st!

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Float: a magical story of acceptance

Bobby Rubio, Disney+, Float, SparkShorts

Posted by Simoa • December 15, 2019

Please don’t ask if I have a favorite SparkShort. I just can’t choose. (Maybe it’s “Kitbull.” But again, don’t ask)! But if you asked me which one is the most special to me, I’d have to choose “Float.” That’s the one I was lucky enough to watch in Pixar’s beautiful theater, where the ceiling glitters with gold stars. In fact, I was so excited about the prospect of seeing any one of the SparkShorts on a big screen that I gasped aloud when it was announced. And I was sitting in the front row, so Chris Wiggum, our host that night, heard and immediately singled me out. One of my finer moments, to be sure! 

The SparkShorts series came at a pivotal moment in Pixar’s history. At a time when Hollywood at large has reckoned with abuses of power, Pixar has had to do the same. This short film program aims to level the playing field by giving opportunities to diverse voices behind the camera. “Float” was the first to premiere on Disney+ a few weeks ago, and it was also the first thing I watched when I downloaded the app. Nothing could replace the experience of seeing it in Pixar’s theater, but I just had to watch it over and over, and be enveloped by all the emotions it stirred in me. 

“Float” is story artist Bobby Rubio’s first directorial effort. He’s Filipino, as are the characters in the short. In fact, it’s a deeply personal project inspired by Rubio’s relationship with his son. “Float” opens on a warm and golden afternoon. A father and his son enjoy the beautiful day, with the little boy taking a few wobbly steps. As the father blows on a dandelion, the delighted boy breaks into a smile and floats in the air. It’s a moment of innocent magic, and by that point, I was already in love. I just expected to be smiling contentedly for the rest of it, soaking up the warmth.

But then two parents pass by with their daughter, and their reaction to the boy in the air is one of confusion and alarm. That was the moment that my warm and fuzzy bubble burst. Uh, what’s the matter with these people? I thought. This boy can fly! The father did not share my feelings. He grabs his son from the air and holds onto him, retreats into their house, away from the neighbors’ stares. 

The interior of the house is gray and drab, the golden haze gone. The years have passed and the little boy is a bit older now, drawing on the ceiling since he can float up there. His father is grim faced with lanky long hair and a beard. It’s clear that he hasn’t shaved or gotten a haircut in quite a while. He’s also frustrated by his son’s unique ability. He grabs him out of the air and places a backpack loaded with rocks onto him so he’ll remain on the ground. That’s his way of achieving some sort of “normalcy.” 

But his son doesn’t stay earthbound for very long. Despite his father’s best efforts, he still continues to soar. 

I had suspected that “Float” was a metaphor for autism. Bobby Rubio confirmed it for us during a panel with the SparkShorts filmmakers, and hearing him describe his experiences raising his son, struggling to accept his differences, made me choke up just as much as I did watching the short. “Float” may be about a father learning to accept his son, but I found another meaning in it. Autism is so misunderstood, and “Float” doesn’t shy away from that reality. But it also presents it as something magical like flying. Isn’t that amazing? This thing that makes you different, that other people find weird, is actually wonderful. It could be autism or anything else, and that’s also what makes “Float” so significant.

There’s just one line of dialogue spoken, and it’s devastating; I’d rank it up there with some of the most heart wrenching moments in Pixar’s full length films. That’s one of the things I love about these SparkShorts: they tell a lot of story in such a brief amount of time, and none of the poignancy is lost. 

Be sure to watch the The Making of Float, also on Disney+. There’s some beautiful concept art and more background on the short.

 

Click the banner below for all of our SparkShorts reviews.

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Pixar sneak peeks at D23

D23, Dan Scanlon, Dana Murray, Disney+, Onward, Pete Docter, Soul, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • August 26, 2019

D23, Disney’s official fanclub, hosted its bi-annual expo this past weekend. There’s been a drought of Pixar news recently, barring Toy Story 4‘s billion dollar box office earnings, but now we’ve got a nice trickle of news! Attendees were treated to previews of the newest Pixar films in theaters next year: Onward and Soul. And that’s not all, since the expo is always packed with lots of celebrations and giveaways for fans. This year, there were booths for a sculpting demo with longtime Pixarian Jerome Ranft, the Pixar archives, and designing toys. Guinevere, the truck from Onward, also made an appearance.

Here’s what we can look forward to in 2020!

Onward

Described by director Dan Scanlon as a modern fantasy quest, the film follows two elvin brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, living in a fantasy suburbia that has lost much of the former. Pixar’s films usually bring magic into the real world, but this time they’re taking audiences to an imaginary one where magic has faded.

I absolutely love this poster’s design. I’m a rookie pin collector, but I’d love to get my denim jacket on this level! Notice the cassette tape simply marked with Dad. It’s not as flashy as the others, but my eyes are drawn to it anyway. The Disney Store could even sell some of these pins; I covet that unicorn.

If you’d like to read more about the storyline, Collider has a great write up but beware of spoilers! Knowing how personal this film is for Dan Scanlon, those brief details about the footage screened at D23 is quite moving.

Soul

Pete Docter’s latest venture after probing the human mind in Inside Out will now plumb the depths of the soul. This film is already a challenge since many people don’t even believe in the existence of a soul. Pete hasn’t disappointed us yet though. And it’ll be the studio’s first ever full length film with a black protagonist! The synopsis over on Polygon also has a handful of plot details if you’d rather avoid those.

Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), on a quest of his own like the Lightfoot brothers, but an entirely dissimilar one. Tina Fey also joins the cast as 22, along with Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Questlove. The soundtrack will be provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Jazz musician Jon Batiste. The newly unveiled character art:

Tina Fey as 22

concept art

Forky+

Pixar’s got a new shorts collection debuting on the new streaming service, Disney+, starring Forky! In “Forky Asks a Question,” Tony Hale reprises his role and revealed the other characters who will be joining our favorite spork as he unravels the answers to life’s questions. 

The Forky series will be available on Disney+’s November 12th premiere, but we still have many months to go before Onward and Soul. Looks like the drought is over!

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