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In Depth: Why These Female Pixar Characters Mean So Much To Me

30 Years of Pixar, A Bug's Life, Brad Bird, Brave, Brenda Chapman, Cars 3, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Pete Docter, Pixar Heroines, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • October 20, 2017

It’s been over two weeks since the New York Times article on Harvey Weinstein was published and the dam finally burst in Hollywood. It seems almost unbearable to comprehend all the allegations that are still stacking up against Weinstein, not to mention the plethora of other men in the industry and beyond. The “me too” movement on social media has also shown a disturbing amount of women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by co-workers, friends, and family members.

This past week I’ve found it hard to focus and carry on with my life, job, and day-to-day activities.  It’s empowering seeing women come together, but also distressing to learn how it’s happened to us all, one way or another.

I needed inspiration and I needed something to lift my spirits up so I turned to what I know best to help me in troubled times: Pixar films.

Over the years not only has Pixar produced some of the greatest animated films of all time, but they’ve also created some of the strongest and most relatable female characters in the business. I was going to try and talk about all of them, but then realized how long the post would be (actually this would make a wonderful book some day). Instead, I decided to pick my three most important female characters and share why they mean so much to me both as a woman, and as a professional working in the animation industry.

Merida

Brave came out at a perfect time in my life, I was a sophomore in college and I was struggling with trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I was feeling the pressure of comparing myself to other people my age; be it with work, relationships, and even school.  I was even feeling pressure from certain family members about my love life and if I was going to be getting married anytime soon (this is a true story for any Greek woman).

Then Merida arrived, with her ridiculous hair goals, amazing horse-riding skills, and sassiness I wish I had when I was a teenager.

Merida broke the mold when it came to princesses – she had her own goals and her own motivations that she wanted to achieve in life, even if it went completely against what her family has wanted for generations. She didn’t care what her family thought and she was ready to fight against her mom if it meant being able to do what SHE wanted to do in life. Maybe she didn’t really have any dreams or goals at the moment, and that was OK – as long as she wasn’t stuck being a princess and fitting the mold, then she was content. That was Merida’s life, and she wanted to pursue those dreams of being free and exploring the countryside with her horse.

I also really appreciated how independent she was and how she didn’t need romance in her life to be successful. She was content with being alone, even if that meant being isolated from her own family or off in the forest basking in her solitude, that didn’t matter to her; she didn’t need a man in her life to tell her what to do or to be content.

I was the biggest tomboy growing up, I got dirty rolling around and play fighting and spent most afternoons playing sports with the other kids. But I still liked to dress up and get pretty; that didn’t mean I had to do it all the time. I really appreciated how Merida didn’t always need to be pretty or dainty or wear fancy dresses and spend her time curtsying to all the men; she wanted to roll around in the mud, dance in the rain, ride on horseback, climb mountains, and shoot arrows. I loved that adventurous side of her and I loved that she didn’t let anyone tame her.

I wish I had Merida to look up to when I was that young tomboy.

 Cruz Ramirez

It’s a shame Pixar wasn’t able to create a character like Cruz until now. She is one of the better things to come from this summer’s Cars 3 release and she might actually be one of my all-time favorite characters now.

Like Merida, I wish I had someone like Cruz to look up to when I was growing up and dreaming about coming to work in the animation industry in Los Angeles.

What I love the most about Cruz is that she showed me it doesn’t matter where you were born or who your family is, if you set your mind to what you want to achieve in life then you can fulfill your dreams.

People might keep telling you no, no, no; and you might continue to get rejection letter after rejection letter, but you have to keep going, to keep pushing forwards; hearing no or getting a rejection letter does not mean you’ve failed, but giving up does. It’s okay to have doubts, to feel bad about yourself, but you can still carry on and push forwards.

I also really loved the signal she sent to boys and girls alike, how it’s OK to be a girl and be really interested in boy things (like racing cars) or vice versa. In a typical male dominated world, it’s important to show young children that you can do whatever you want; it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.

Cruz is the type of female character we need in film and TV now – a woman who stands up for herself, who goes against the norm, and who never gives up her dreams when obstacles are in the way.

Helen Parr AKA Elastigirl 

Helen is important to me, not only because I’ve always dreamed of being a superhero and kicking all sorts of butt, but because she’s a wonderful mother and person to look up to.

At the start of The Incredibles she’s living a pretty normal life, only having to deal with the typical mom duties that come with any parent. But soon it’s clear that Helen can balance both the mom and superhero life when she’s forced to follow and rescue her husband, Bob Parr AKA Mr. Incredible, when he’s off trying to deal with his midlife crisis.

It turns out that Helen actually saves her husband, brings her family closer together, and in turn, is a huge part in actually saving the world from the supervillain Syndrome. Where would we be without her? I’m really excited for The Incredibles 2 and having some more focus on Helen; which is a good sign that Pixar is definitely moving in the right direction regarding female characters.

One of my favorite things about Helen is that she doesn’t take crap from anyone, not her husband, children, or even Edna. She wasn’t about to sit around and wait for her husband to come home, making up different stories in her head as to why he’s been acting so strange lately. She was also not afraid to go against the societal norms at the time and take things into her own hands – she had every right to know what her husband was doing and to go and find him.

Helen is the type of woman and mom I aspire to be one day, with her, anything is possible. She gives me the confidence that I can balance both my work and home life completely if I chose to go down that path.  I work in the animation industry and have hopes of gaining as much experience as I can and moving on to different studios and jobs in the future. Thanks to Helen, I know that I don’t need to wait around for anyone to make the right decisions for me, and it’s possible to have a family and a career at the same time and be happy.

Each female Pixar character has taught me something different about myself throughout the years. What I love most about Pixar films, and the female characters they create, is that they provide a plethora of diverse characters from all ranges of life. Yes, fish and robots and superheroes are all incredibly different, but when you look at the stories that surround each character, and the struggles each woman (or ant) has to overcome, it’s all universal.

Who are some of your favorite Pixar female characters? And why are they so important to you?

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Editorial: Pixar in the Age of Trump

editorial, Finding Dory, in depth

Posted by Simoa • February 6, 2017

Last Sunday, January 29th, Finding Dory was screened at the White House, the first screening of the new administration. While this is a newsworthy item, it’s unfortunate that Dory was screened at all. Albert Brooks, the voice of Marlin, noted the particular irony, as did others.

 

There were protests around the country and the White House in response to President Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from several Muslim countries from entering the United States. Even legal citizens with green cards were detained at airports following the order. It’s a gross misuse of power, but nothing too shocking for anyone who has opposed the president from the beginning.

Dory herself, Ellen Degeneres, had words to say about the screening:

Although Degeneres kept things light with her trademark humor, focusing entirely on the film and its messages rather than the travel ban itself, she made her stance clear. First she mentioned the wall at the Marine Life Institute, which still doesn’t prevent Dory from going over, a nice reference to the wall that’s supposed to keep out “bad hombres” from Mexico. She also summed up one of the film’s themes which has become much more potent following these national events.

“Even though Dory gets into America, she ends up separated from her family, but the other animals help Dory. Animals that don’t even need her, animals that don’t even have anything in common with her. They help her even though they’re completely different colors because that’s what you do when you see someone in need. You help them.”

Finding Dory hasn’t garnered the critical acclaim of other Pixar features, but now the film has taken on even greater significance. It’s unfortunate that the film was screened at the White House at all and that this article has to be written, but this is a chance to highlight the good in opposition to the president’s policies.

Animator Cat Hicks also shared her thoughts on Trump’s ban.

When I think of Pixar’s newfound commitment to tell more diverse stories, of featuring nonwhite characters, how the upcoming Coco was described as a “love letter to Mexico in the age of Trump,” I can’t help but feel baffled that any Pixar film would screen in his White House.

Hopefully Finding Dory is the last.

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Oscar Nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards

Finding Dory, Oscars, Piper

Posted by Simoa • January 24, 2017

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Oscar nominations were announced earlier today, with some interesting results for Pixar. First, we’d like to extend a hearty congratulations to director Alan Barillo and his crew for “Piper”, which is up for Best Animated Short! The short film’s stunning technological strides paired with its sweet and simple story made it a likely choice. Finding Dory, however, wasn’t recognized in the Best Animated Feature category.

Joining “Piper” in the short film category is “Borrowed Time“, a somber and elegiac Western. Although it’s not a Pixar film, it was made by a handful of the studio’s artists and has won glowing acclaim for its mature themes and unsparing content. We’d like to congratulate directors Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj as well!

Pixar’s films have never been exclusively for children, but there’s a stark difference between the studio’s family friendly output and “Borrowed Time.” Nevertheless, the artists and animators were encouraged in their bold endeavor and it has gained well deserved buzz and now an Oscar nod.

There might be a tendency to compare “Borrowed Time” to Finding Dory, with an unfavorable bent towards the latter. That would justify Dory‘s lack of an Oscar nomination to some. While the sequel isn’t a stronger film than Finding Nemo, it did have plenty of merit, even if it was overlooked by Oscar.

This isn’t the first time a Pixar film has been shut out of the major animation category. Finding Dory‘s critical reception wasn’t as enthusiastic as previous Pixar features, more lukewarm, but the general consensus is that it was a solid effort. Nothing particularly noteworthy (a matter of opinion), so its absence in this year’s Oscar race is hardly an issue. Oscar wins may confer prestige on films, and certainly on the lesser known or foreign ones. Pixar has enjoyed that prestige many times over.

The 89th Academy Awards will air on February 26, 2017. Congratulations once again to Alan Barillo and his team for “Piper”!

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New Disney/Pixar Gallery Nucleus Exhibition Opens in Los Angeles

30 Years of Pixar, A Bug's Life, Art, Cars, Cars 2, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, John Lasseter, Monsters University, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, WALL-E

Posted by Nia • December 10, 2016

Have you ever wanted to see some of your favorite artwork from Pixar films in real life? Fear no more, as a new exhibition has just opened up at Gallery Nucleus in LA today. For the first time ever, the gallery will be showcasing brand new images from each of Pixar’s feature films. What makes it even more unique is that John Lasseter himself picked each design for the show. There will also be hand-signed limited edition prints for sale by each artist who worked on the pieces.

Thanks to Oh My Disney for providing the artwork that will be featured at the showcase.

By Bob Pauley

By Bob Pauley

 

By Tia Kratter

By Tia Kratter

 

By Randy Barret

By Randy Barret

 

By Pete Docter

By Pete Docter

 

By Ralph Eggleston

By Ralph Eggleston

 

By Teddy Newton

By Teddy Newton

 

By Bill Cone

By Bill Cone

 

By Dominique Louis

By Dominique Louis

 

By Ralph Eggleston

By Ralph Eggleston

 

By Lou Romano

By Lou Romano

 

By Robert Kondo

By Robert Kondo

 

By Harley Jessup

By Harley Jessup

 

By Steve Pilch

By Steve Pilch

 

By Rickey Nierva

By Rickey Nierva

 

By Ralph Eggleston

By Ralph Eggleston

 

By Sharon Calahan

By Sharon Calahan

 

By Daniel L Munoz

By Daniel L Munoz

 

Be sure to check out Galley Nucleus and celebrate the art of Pixar if you’re in town – it runs from today, December 10th to January 8th, 2017.

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Congratulations to Pixar on 4 Annie Award Nominations

Annie Awards, Awards, Finding Dory, Piper, Pixar

Posted by Nia • November 29, 2016

annie-awards

Yesterday the nominees for the 44th Annual Annie Awards were announced. Like every year, the Annie Awards are a celebration of all the hard work and fantastic accomplishments that are achieved in the animation community. So many different fields within the medium are honored, such as Character Animation in a Video Game, Storyboarding in both Feature and TV Production, Voice Acting, and even Best Student Film. There are so many unsung heroes of the industry that it’s inspiring to see everyone come together to honor the work that has been done. The awards have also been known to be a huge predictor as to what films take home the pivotal Golden Statue otherwise known as the Oscar.

Pixar landed a brilliant 4 nominations in crucial categories. Finding Dory was nominated for Best Animated Feature, Piper got the honor of being nominated for Best Animated Short Subject; while Finding Dory racked another 2 nominations in Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production and Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production. A lot of top quality films have been released from all of the major studios this year – so it will be rather interesting to see which production wins. Regardless, a massive congratulations to all who were involved with animated projects this year. Each film, TV show, or game released only opens up the doors to more possibilities. It’s truly exciting to see how animation continues to grow year after year.

You can find the rest of the Annie Award nominees and categories below:

Best Animated Feature

  • “Finding Dory,” Pixar Animation Studios
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika
  • “Kung Fu Panda 3,” DreamWorks Animation
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation

Best Animated Feature – Independent 

  • “Long Way North,” Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies, NorlumStudios, France 3 Cinéma and 2 Minutes
  • “Miss Hokusai,” GKids
  • “My Life as a Zucchini,” GKids
  • “The Red Turtle,” Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch, Why Not Productions
  • “Your Name.,” CoMix Wave Films

Best Animated Special Production

  • “Audrie & Daisy,” AfterImage Public Media in association with Actual Films for Netflix
  • “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll,” DreamWorks Animation
  • “Little Big Awesome,” Titmouse, Inc./Amazon Studios
  • “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,” CBS Films/J.P. Entertainment/Participant Media
  • “Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” Massive Swerve Studios and Passion Pictures Animation

Best Animated Short Subject 

  • “Blind Vaysha,” National FilmBoard of Canada
  • “Deer Flower,” Studio ZAZAC
  • “Path Title Sequence,” Acme Filmworks
  • “Pearl,” Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures
  • “Piper,” Pixar Animation Studios

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial 

  • “Duelyst,” Powerhouse Animation Studios, Inc.
  • “LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Trailer, Plastic Wax
  • “Lily & the Snowman,” Hornet
  • Loteria “Night Shift,” Passion Pictures Ltd.
  • “The Importance of Paying Attention: Teeth,” Bill Plympton Studio

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Preschool Children 

  • “Ask the StoryBots,” Episode: Why Do I Have to Brush My Teeth?, JibJab Bros. Studios for Netflix
  • “Peg + Cat,” Episode: The Disappearing Art Problem, The Fred Rogers Company/ 9ate7 Productions
  • “Puffin Rock – The First Snow,” Episode 59, Cartoon Saloon, Dog Ears, Penguin RandomHouse
  • “The Stinky & Dirty Show,” Episode: Squeak, Amazon Studios and Brown Bag Films
  • “Tumble Leaf,” Episode: Mighty Mud Movers / Having a Ball, Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children

  • “Adventure Time,” Episode: Bad Jubies, Bix Pix Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Frederator Studios
  • “DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender,” Episode: Return of the Gladiator, DreamWorks Animation Television
  • “Elena of Avalor,” Episode: A Day to Remember, Disney Television Animation
  • “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Episode: Trans-Dimensional Turtles, Nickelodeon
  • “Wander Over Yonder,” Episode: My Fair Hatey, Disney Television Animation

Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “Bob’s Burgers,” Episode: Glued, Where’s My Bob?, Bento Box Entertainment
  • “BoJack Horseman,” Episode: Fish Out of Water, Tornante Productions for Netflix
  • “Long Live the Royals,” Episode: Punk Show, Cartoon Network Studios
  • “The Simpsons,” Episode: Barthood, Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox Television
  • “The Venture Bros,” Episode: Hostile Makeover, Titmouse, Inc.

Best Student Film 

  • “Citipati,” Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • “FISHWITCH,” Adrienne Dowling
  • “The Abyss,” Liying Huang
  • “The Wrong End of the Stick,” Terri Matthews
  • “Twiddly Things,” Adara Todd

Animated Effects in an Animated Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Lead Effects Artist: David Horsley; CG Look Development Lead: Eric Wachtman; Senior Compositor: Timur Khodzhaev; Compositor: Daniel Leatherdale; Lead CG Lighter: Terrance Tomberg
  • “Kung Fu Panda 3,” DreamWorks Animation; Effects Sequence Lead: Matt Titus; Effects Sequence Lead: Jeff Budsberg; Effects Sequence Lead: Carl Hooper; Effects Sequence Lead: Louis Flores; Effects Sequence Lead: Jason Mayer
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Head of Effects Animation: Marlon West; Effects Lead: Erin V. Ramos; Effects Lead: Blair Pierpont; Foundation Effects Lead: Ian J. Coony; Effects Lead: John M. Kosnik
  • “The Red Turtle,” Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch, Why Not Productions; Special Effects Supervisor: Mouloud Oussid
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Effects Lead: Thom Wickes; Effects Lead: Henrik Fält; Effects Animator: Dong Joo Byun; Effects Animator: Rattanin Sirinaruemarn; Effects Animator: Sam Klock

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

  • “Deepwater Horizon,” Lionsgate; The Rig;  Effects TD Supervisor: Raul Essig; Digital Artist : Mark Chataway; Lead Digital Artist : George Kuruvilla; Digital Artist : Mihai Cioroba
  • “Doctor Strange,” Marvel, Mirror Dimension; FX Supervisor: Georg Kaltenbrunner; Digital Artist : Michael Marcuzzi; Digital Artist : Thomas Bevan; Digital Artist: Andrew Graham; Digital Artist: Jihyun Yoon
  • “Ghostbusters,” Iloura; Animator: Terry Bannon; Animator: Nicholas Tripodi; Animator: Daniel Fotheringham; Animator: Matt Weaver; Animator: Julien Boudou
  • “The BFG,” Amblin Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures; Lead Effects TD: Claude Schitter; Senior Previs Animator: Benjaman Folkman; Senior Effects TD: Gary Boyle; FX Supervisor: David Caeiro; CG Supervisor: Luke Millar
  • “Warcraft,” Legendary/Universal; Magic; Legendary/ Universal; FX Supervisor: John Hansen; Lead Artist: George Kuruvilla; Lead Artist: Alexis Hall, Lead Artist: Gordon Chapman; Lead Artist: Ben O’Brien

Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “Atomic Puppet,” Mercury Filmworks, Gaumont Animation, Technicolor; Character Animator: Barry Kennedy; Characters: Disastro, Phil Felt, Joey Felt, Old
  • Man, Atomic Puppet, Mookie, Vivian Felt, Smoke Monster, Principal Wartickle, Sword Sister (Paulina), Were-chicken, Chicken, Mr. Inkwood, Cornelius (Octopus), Atomic Android, incidental characters
  • “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” Episode: Becoming, Part 1, DreamWorks Animation Television; Character Animator: Mike Chaffe; Characters: Blinky, Aaarrrgghh!!
  • “The Snowy Day,”   Amazon Studios and Karrot Entertainment; Lead Animator: Rob Thomson; Character: Peter, Mom, Nana and other various characters
  • “Tumble Leaf,” Episode: Thinking Outside The Hoop / Fig’s HayMaze-ing Wander, Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment; Lead Animator: Dan MacKenzie; Characters: Fig, Hedge, Stick, Okra, Maple, Pine, Buckeye, Gourd, Chickens
  • “Tumble Leaf,” Episode: Mighty Mud Movers / Having a Ball, Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment; Lead Animator: Joe Heinen; Characters: Fig, Hedge, Stick, Buckeye, Pine, Beetles

Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Finding Dory,” Pixar Animation Studios; Character Development and Animation: Erick Oh; Characters: All Characters
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings” Laika; Animator: Jan Maas; Characters: Multiple
  • “Kung Fu Panda 3,” DreamWorks Animation; Animation Supervisor: Ludovic Bouancheau; Characters: Various
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Animator: Dave Hardin Charactes: Judy Hopps, Stu Hopps, Bonnie Hopps, Chief Bogo, Nick Wilde,
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Animator: Chad Sellers; Characters: Mr. Big, Koslov, Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde, Flash

Character Animation in a Live Action Production

  • “Captain America: Civil War,” Marvel Studios; Spider-man; ILM Animation Supervisor: Steve Rawlins; CG Lead Artist: Ebrahim Jahromi; Associate Animation Supervisor: Cedric Lo; CG Lead Artist: Stephen King; Digital Artist: Yair Gutierrez
  • “Games of Thrones,” HBO, Episode: Battle of the Bastards; Visual Effects By Iloura: Nicholas Tripodi; Visual Effects By Iloura: Dean Elliott; Visual Effects By Iloura: James Hollingworth; Visual Effects By Iloura: Matt Weaver
  • “The Jungle Book,”  Walt Disney Pictures; Animation Supervisor: Andrew R. Jones; Animation Supervisor: Peta Bayley; Animation Supervisor: Gabriele Zucchelli; Character Supervisor: Benjamin Jones
  • “The Jungle Book,” Walt Disney Pictures; Animation Supervisor: Andrew R. Jones; Senior Animation Supervisor: Paul Story; Animation Supervisor: Dennis Yoo; Motion Editor: Eteuati Tema; Senior Facial Modeller: Andrei Coval
  • “Warcraft ,” Legendary/Universal; Orcs; Animation Supervisor: Hal Hickel; Digital Artist : Jee Young Park; Digital Artist: Kai-Hua Lan; Animation Supervisor: Cedric Lo; Animation Supervisor: KimHuat Ooi

Character Animation in a Video Game

  • “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legends,” Ludia Inc.; Character Animator: Lucio Mennillo; Character: Donatello Vision; Character Animator: Martine Quesnel;  Character: Leonardo Vision; Character Animator: Alexandre Cheff; Character: Donatello LARP; Character Animator: Laura Gorrie; Character: Leatherhead LARP; Lead Animator: Guillaume Charrin; Character: Raphael Vision
  • “Titanfall 2,” Respawn Entertainment; Character Animator: Ranon Sarono, Character: Jack Cooper, BT-7274, Weapons; Character Animator: Shawn Wilson; Character: BT-7274, Creatures; Lead Animator: Mark Grigsby Character: BT-7274, Jack Cooper, Viper, Weapons; Lead Animator: Paul Messerly Character: BT-7274, Jack Cooper, AI; Character Animator: Moy Parra, Character BT-7274, Villains
  • “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” Naughty Dog; Lead Animator: Jeremy Yates Character: All; Lead Animator: Almudena Soria Character: All; Lead Animator: Eric Baldwin Character: All; Lead Animator: Paul Davies Character: All; Lead Animator: Tom Bland Character: All; Witcher 3 Expansion Packs – Character Animation Reel; CDProjekt Red Lead Animator: Sebastian Kalemba; Character: Directing role

Character Design in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production 

  • “Counterfeit Cat,” Episode: 28 Seconds Later, Tricon Kids & Family and Wildseed Kids; Art Director: Raphaël Chabassol;  Character: Full cast: Max, Gark, Betty, etc.
  • “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” Episode: Win, Lose or Draal, DreamWorks Animation Television; Character Designer: Victor Maldonado, Character: All Characters; Character Designer: Alfredo Torres, Character: All Characters; Character Designer: Jules Rigolle, Character: All Characters
  • “Pig Goat Banana Cricket,” Episode: It’s Time to Slumber Party, Nickelodeon; Character Designer: Jennifer Wood, Character: Various
  • “Rain or Shine,” Google Spotlight Stories/Nexus Studios; Character Design: Robin Davey, Character: Multiple
  • “Wander Over Yonder,” Episode: The Night Out, Disney Television Animation; Character Designer: Benjamin Balistreri, Character: Various

Character Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Character Designer: Shannon Tindle, Characters: Multiple
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Art Director Characters: Bill Schwab, Characters: Moana, Maui, Pua, Heihei, Tamatoa, Kakamora, Lalotai Characters (Realm of Monsters); Visual Development Artist: Jin Kim,  Charactesr: Moana, Maui, Gramma Tala, Sina, Ancestor Wayfinders, Lalotai Characters (Realm of Monsters), Te Kā
  • “The Secret Life of Pets,” Illumination Entertainment; Character Design by: Eric Guillon Character: All
  • “Trolls,” DreamWorks Animation; Art Director: Tim Lamb, Characters: Trolls; Character Designer: Craig Kellman, Characters: Bergens
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Character Design : Cory Loftis, Characters: Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, Flash, Chief Bogo, Clawhauser, Mr. Big, Fru Fru, Koslov, Bellwether, Yax, Finnick, Doug, Mr. and Mrs. Otterton, Duke Weaselton, Misc. Characters

Directing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “A Love Story,” Passion Pictures; Director: Saschka Unseld
  • “Adventure Time,” Episode: Bad Jubies, Cartoon Network Studios; Director: Kirsten Lepore
  • “Open Season: Scared Silly,” Episode: Open Season: Scared Silly; Sony Pictures Animation; Director: David Feiss
  • “Pearl,” Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures; Director: Patrick Osborne
  • “Wander Over Yonder,” Episode: My Fair Hatey, Disney Television Animation; Director: Dave Thomas; Director: Eddie Trigueros; Director: Justin Nichols

Directing in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Director: Travis Knight
  • “My Life as a Zucchini,”GKids; Director: Claude Barras
  • “The Red Turtle,” Studio Ghibli,  Wild Bunch,  Why Not Productions; Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
  • “Your Name.,” CoMix Wave Films; Director: Makoto Shinkai
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Director: Byron Howard; Director: Rich Moore

Music in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “Bob’s Burgers,” Episode: Glued, Where’s My Bob?, Bento Box Entertainment; Composer: Loren Bouchard; Composer: John Dylan Keith
  • “Disney Mickey Mouse,” Episode: Dancevidaniya, Disney Television Animation; Composer: Christopher Willis
  • “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” Episode: Becoming, Part 1, DreamWorks Animation Television; Composer: Alexandre Desplat; Composer: TimDavis
  • “Pearl,” Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures; Composer: Scot Stafford; Composer/Lyricist: Alexis Harte; Composer/Lyricist: JJ Wiesler
  • “Star Wars Rebels,” Episode: #2-24: Twilight of the Apprentice, LucasfilmLtd. / Disney XD; Composer: Kevin Kiner

Music in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,” Warner Bros. Animation; Composer: Kristopher Carter; Composer: Lolita Ritmanis; Composer: Michael McCuistion
  • “Sing,” Illumination Entertainment; Composer: Joby Talbot
  • “The Little Prince,” Netflix and On Animation Studios; Composer: Hans Zimmer; Composer: Richard Harvey; Composer/Lyricist: Camille
  • “The Red Turtle,” Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch, Why Not Productions; Composer: Laurent Perez del Mar
  • “The Secret Life of Pets,” Illumination Entertainment, Composer: Alexandre Desplat

Production Design in an Animated Television Broadcast Production

  • “Adventure TIme,” Episode: Bad Jubies; Bix Pix Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Frederator Studios; Production Design: Jason Kolowski
  • “Pearl,” Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures; Production Design: Tuna Bora
  • “Puffin Rock,” Episode: The First Snow, Cartoon Saloon, Dog Ears and Penguin for Netflix; Production Design: Lily Bernard
  • “Rain or Shine,” Google Spotlight Stories/Nexus Studios; Production Design: Robin Davey
  • “The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show,” Episode: The Wrath of Hughes, DreamWorks Animation Television; Production Design: Kevin Dart; Production Design: Sylvia Liu; Production Design: Chris Turnham; Production Design: Eastwood Wong

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Production Design: Nelson Lowry; Production Design: Trevor Dalmer; Production Design: August Hall; Production Design: Ean McNamara
  • “Kung Fu Panda 3,” DreamWorks Animation; Production Design: Raymond Zibach; Production Design: Max Boas
  • “The Little Prince,” Netflix and On Animation Studio; Production Design: Lou Romano; Production Design: Alexander Juhasz; Production Design: Celine Desrumaux
  • “Trolls,” DreamWorks Animation; Production Design: Kendal Cronkhite; Production Design: Tim Lamb
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Production Design: David Goetz; Production Design: Matthias Lechner

Storyboarding in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “Atomic Puppet,” Episode: Sick Day, Mercury Filmworks, Gaumont Animation, Technicolor; Storyboard Artist: Kyle Marshall
  • “Disney Mickey Mouse,” Episode: Road Hogs, Disney Television Animation; Storyboard Artist: Heiko Von Drengenberg
  • “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” Episode: Win, Lose or Draal, DreamWorks Animation Television; Storyboard Artist: Hyunjoo Song
  • “Milo Murphy’s Law,” Episode: Going the Extra Milo, Disney Television Animation; Storyboard Artist: Dan Povenmire; Storyboard Artist: Kyle Menke
  • “The Adventures of Puss in Boots,” Episode: Prey Time, DreamWorks Animation Television; Storyboard Artist: Ben Juwono

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Finding Dory,” Pixar Animation Studios; Storyboard Artist: Trevor Jimenez
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Storyboard Artist: Mark Garcia
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Storyboard Artist: Normand Lemay
  • “Trolls,” DreamWorks Animation; Storyboard Artist: Claire Morrissey
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Storyboard Artist: Dean Wellins

Voice Acting in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “BoJack Horseman,” Episode: Multiple Episodes; Tornante Productions, LLC for Netflix; Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen
  • “Open Season: Scared Silly,” Episode: Open Season: Scared Silly; Sony Pictures Animation; Will Townsend as Mr. Weenie
  • “Splash and Bubbles,” Episode: #102 I Only Have Eyespots/Double Bubbles; The Jim Henson Company and Herschend Entertainment; Puppeteer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as: Bubbles
  • “Star Wars Rebels,” Episode: #3-05: Hera’s Heroes, LucasfilmLtd. / Disney XD; Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn
  • “The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show,” Episode: Ponce de León; DreamWorks Animation Television; Carlos Alazraqui as Ponce de León

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Art Parkinson as Kubo
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Auli’i Cravalho as Moana
  • “Storks,” Warner Animation Group; Katie Crown as Tulip
  • “Trolls,” DreamWorks Animation; Zooey Deschanel as Bridget
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde

Writing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “Bob’s Burgers,” Episode: The Hormone-iums, Bento Box Entertainment; Writer: Lizzie Molyneux; Writer: Wendy Molyneux
  • “Gravity Falls.” Episode: Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls, Disney TV Animation; Writer: Shion Takeuchi; Writer: Mark Rizzo; Writer: Jeff Rowe; Writer: Josh Weinstein; Writer: Alex Hirsch
  • “Puffin Rock – The First Snow,” Episode: 59; Cartoon Saloon, Dog Ears, Penguin Random House; Writer: Davey Moore
  • “The Simpson,” Episode: Barthood, Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox Television; Writer: Dan Greaney
  • “The Simpsons,” Episode: The Burns Cage; Gracie Films in Association with 20th Century Fox Television; Writer: Rob LaZebnik

Writing in an Animated Feature Production

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika; Writer: Marc Haimes; Writer: Chris Butler
  • “My Life as a Zucchini,” GKids; Writer: Céline Sciamma
  • “The Red Turtle,” Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch, Why Not Productions; Writer:Michael Dudok de Wit; Writer: Pascale Ferran
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Writer: Jared Bush; Writer: Phil Johnston

Editorial in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

  • “All Hail King Julien,” Episode: King Julien Superstar!; DreamWorks Animation Television; David Craig, Jeff Adams
  • “Bob’s Burgers,” Episode: Sea Me Now; Bento Box Entertainment; Mark Seymour, Chuck Smith, Eric Davidson
  • “Disney Mickey Mouse,” Episode: Sock Burglar, Disney Television Animation; Illya Owens
  • “Gravity Falls,” Episode: Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls, Disney TV Animation; Kevin Locarro; Andrew Sorcini; Nancy Frazen; Tony Mizgalski
  • “Star Wars Rebels,” Episode: #2-24: Twilight of the Apprentice; LucasfilmLtd. / Disney XD; Joe E. Elwood, Alex McDonnell

Editorial in an Animated Feature Production

  • “April and the Extraordinary World,” GKids, Nazim Meslem
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika, Christopher Murrie
  • “Moana,” Walt Disney Animation Studios, Jeff Draheim
  • “Sausage Party,” Columbia Pictures, Annapurna Pictures; Kevin Pavlovic
  • “Zootopia,” Walt Disney Animation Studios; Fabienne Rawley, Jeremy Milton

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In Depth: Finding Dory, sequels, and Pixar heroines

Cars 2, Cars 3, Finding Dory, in depth, Monsters University, Pixar, Pixar Heroines, sequels, The Incredibles 2, Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • June 29, 2016

This post is the first in a new feature on Upcoming Pixar where we offer a closer look at Pixar films.

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Dory – everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang. She’s so beloved that she nearly swims away with Finding Nemo. Nearly, but not quite. One reason why that film is such an unparalleled Pixar entry is because Dory as the scene stealing, ebullient comic relief doesn’t ever overshadow Marlin. We still care about him even though he’s not immediately lovable. (Or arguably, lovable at all).

Now Dory has a movie of her very own. She’s not stealing any scenes because they all belong to her.

In retrospect, focusing the sequel on Dory makes a lot of sense. Andrew Stanton crafted an emotionally resonant story with talking fish that was based on his own observations of fatherhood. That story was finished for the most part. But a new one centered on the silly, eccentric, and carefree secondary character held an ocean of possibility.

Of course, Dory isn’t the first goofy Pixar sidekick to become a protagonist in her own film. Mater was the first in Cars 2. But Finding Dory, unlike Cars 2, was enthusiastically accepted by most. While I do enjoy the latter film, I can understand why others have never been thrilled about a Mater centric movie. Cars 2 was disappointing to many because there was nothing meaningful underneath the hoods. Pixar films can just be fun diversions, but that’s a post for another day. But to everyone’s collective relief, the emotional stakes are higher in Finding Dory. Dory’s presence in Finding Nemo makes that film all the more poignant because her silliness contains pathos. She’s not just the hilarious sidekick.

“Please don’t go away. Please? No one’s ever stuck with me for so long before.”

“And…and I look at you, and I’m home! Please…I don’t want that to go away. I don’t want to forget.”

Is it any wonder that Andrew Stanton felt “very worried about Dory and couldn’t stop thinking about how she needed closure”?

Stanton didn’t work on the sequel right away. It wasn’t until 2011, eight years after Finding Nemo, that he began to consider it. And it clearly took more time to tackle the story before it was officially announced and released into the ocean five years later. This is the usual way sequels are handled at Pixar, with the exception of Toy Story 2. That film had to be salvaged on a tight deadline which makes it all the more impressive.

For all the worry about “Pixar’s decline” and reliance on sequels, critics and fans should rest assured. Finding Dory may not be as seamless as its predecessor, but its story is still meaningful. Art continues to challenge, technology continues to inspire.

Finding Dory should assuage worry in the same way Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 did. But the Cars sequels and Toy Story 4 represent too big of a worry. Apparently, Pixar isn’t allowed any missteps. We’ve already seen this with Brave, Monsters University, and more recently, The Good Dinosaur. Those are films that I love dearly. While Finding Dory should remind everyone that Pixar is still in robust shape, creating a sequel that retains the emotional power of its predecessor, that still isn’t enough for most.

But why is Finding Dory so significant, even if it is a dreaded sequel? For starters, it’s only the third Pixar film to feature a female protagonist. A supporting female character with a murky background became much more substantial. Dory was hilarious and heartbreaking in the first film. She still is, but now she’s achieved closure. Her story was given so much love and attention that the sequel, in retrospect, is all the more necessary. And sequels are rarely ever necessary according to the general public.

Then of course, is what her short term memory loss represents. It’s not merely there for laughs.

“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.”

-Andrew Stanton

Her disability doesn’t hinder her from being kind, generous, and friendly. It doesn’t hinder her from demonstrating empathy or discovering other forms of strength. And probably less important, or maybe even more so, is that Marlin and Nemo, along with new friends Hank, Destiny, and Bailey, do not pity Dory. They recognize all the wonderful things she is capable of, not despite her disability, but precisely because of it. They see her, first and foremost, as a friend they love and care about. She recognizes the same and encourages them despite their own limitations. This is a sequel where the characters either overcome their disabilities or still thrive even if they aren’t cured of them. That kind of message is vital for all ages, but especially for the youngest who do make up a large portion of Pixar’s audience.

tumblr_mjzmteGdWm1s714eko1_500When Stanton first revealed how Dory’s disability would be treated (in this excellent interview with Collider), I was reminded of “Toy Story of TERROR!” That short film, like Finding Dory, made a vivacious supporting female character the lead. Jessie’s role in Toy Story 2 functions the same way as Dory’s in Finding Nemo. She adds more emotional weight. In “TERROR!”, Jessie overcomes her claustrophobia in order to save the day. Many fans even praised the sensitive way her panic attacks and anxiety were depicted.

“Jessie never gives up, Jessie finds a way.”

Compare that to Dory’s unflagging optimism in Finding Nemo, along with her insistence that there’s always another way in the sequel. These are two female characters who confront or embrace their weaknesses and disabilities. They refuse to give up even when they’ve seemingly exhausted all their options.

Jessie and Dory assist the male hero but they are well rounded supporting characters in their own right. Jessie was introduced in a sequel while Dory was re-introduced in one of her own. Holly Shiftwell in Cars 2 was Mater’s romantic interest, but she was also a highly skilled secret agent. Whether The Incredibles 2 features any prominent new female characters remains to be seen. Could Helen and/or Violet be protagonists this time around? They’re still compelling even as secondary characters. Cruz Ramirez in Cars 3 is a crucial character, but she’s supporting Lightning McQueen. No doubt she’ll be fun to watch and we should hope for a positive, non stereotypical representation of her Hispanic background.

tumblr_mzxuikdFDd1s5wuldo1_500Now onto Toy Story 4. Woody will be reunited with Bo Peep in a love story. Bo Peep is really the only female character in a Pixar film who is merely peripheral. She had less screentime in Toy Story 2 because, as a porcelain lamp, it wasn’t logical that she’d be able to travel with the other toys around the tri-county area. Her absence in the third film was also a logical choice for the story. It was meant to show that losing friends is inevitable, but also made sense because Molly wouldn’t have assigned Bo Peep any sentimental value and held onto her like Andy did with his toys.

Bo Peep isn’t a dynamic character, but that’s not an issue. She may be on the sidelines, but so are Slinky, Rex, Hamm, and Mr. Potato Head. They’re all colorful, interesting characters, but the motivations and character arcs are reserved for Woody and Buzz.

We don’t know what to expect from Toy Story 4 just yet, but given Pixar’s track record, I think it’s safe to assume that Bo Peep will be an even stronger character in this upcoming installment.

For those who scoff at sequels and Pixar’s recent proliferation of them, their future does appear bleak. It’s much easier to look at Cars 2, Monsters University, Cars 3, and Toy Story 4 as proof positive of Pixar’s decline than to look past those films and remain eager about what else is yet to come. What’s ironic is that no one harbors this kind of pessimism for The Incredibles 2. Doesn’t that film have just as much potential as the others to be unspectacular? The general consensus of course is that The Incredibles 2 is the only sequel capable of being good. But Finding Dory and the Toy Story sequels have proven that to be untrue. Even if Cars 2Monsters University, and The Good Dinosaur are regarded as weak efforts, that still doesn’t mean that Pixar’s creative quality has declined.

I prefer to take an optimistic view of Pixar’s sequels because of the roles Pixar heroines, old and new, get to play. Despite popular beliefs to the contrary, I know there are more original films in the works. Coco is just the only one that’s been announced.

Good stories exist in Pixar’s original films and their sequels. Personally, I have yet to watch a bad Pixar film. Others don’t agree and that’s fine too. I’m not worried about Pixar making a bad film, because as I’ve seen, they’re still making good ones.

Pessimism is tempting, but as Dory says, there’s always another way.

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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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Piper: A Mini-Review

Alan Barillaro, Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Finding Dory, Piper, Review

Posted by Nia • June 15, 2016

Piper is a short film directed by Alan Barillaro and plays before Finding Dory. It’s definitely one of the more simplistic shorts from the studio as it depicts the struggles of a sandpiper hatchling trying to catch food without the help of its mother. As the bird finds out, it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s a sweet little film about learning how to be independent, acknowledging the environment around you, and facing your fears; no matter how silly they may be.

One of the most charming aspects about this film is the amount of detail that was put into it and the fact that it’s told without dialogue. Piper is the cutest little bird, and even her ruffled feathers have character. I loved hearing during the press junket last week about the research trips that director Alan Barillaro and crew would go on in order to capture sandpipers in their natural habitat. The team would get down and dirty in the sand, waiting for hours for the birds to appear, and even submerging go-pros in the water to get the look they wanted for their desired shots. This film has so much energy and that’s in part to the overall cinematography and direction. Piper is full of macro-photography and photo-realism, as we get up close and personal with the hatchling in her environment. The music is also short, simple, and keeps the story moving with its fast tempo. The score was composed by famed guitarist and vocalist Adrian Belew.

Check out the little teaser below to get a sense of what to expect come Friday when Finding Dory is released.

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Film Review: Finding Dory is Swimming In Nostalgia

Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Review

Posted by Nia • June 15, 2016

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It’s certainly been a while since we were immersed in the gorgeously depicted deep blue sea, traveling across the ocean with Marlin and Dory while being cradled with Thomas Newman’s score throughout the arduous journey. As soon as the lights faded in the cinema, the Disney/Pixar logos took over the screen, I was instantly submerged with nostalgia as the ever-familiar score filled the room.

Finding Nemo is one of the most important films in the studio’s history, it changed everything about the animation industry back in 2003. The film had a refreshingly original story while being paired with breathtaking visuals and technology; it was only a little glimpse of the wonder and excitement that Pixar would bring us with future films. Since then, audiences begged and pestered Pixar – interrogating the filmmakers if they’re going to throw a sequel in the production lineup anytime soon. Even Ellen DeGeneres jumped on the campaign, begging the studio to make a film solely based on her beloved Dory. Lo and behold, in 2013, it was Ellen herself who announced the sequel on her talk show. We all waited, rather impatiently, these last three years for the film to wrap up production.

It’s safe to say that Pixar is back at it again, in their 17th feature film, with Finding Dory. Although it’s not as perfect as the first film, with the clunky plot and pacing, the sequel still holds up as a separate film in the studio’s legacy.

As we all know, Finding Dory is a story that focuses on Dory herself. At the start of the film we’re immediately introduced to a baby tang fish, with adorably large eyes. We soon find out it’s Dory and she’s been plagued with short term memory loss since she was a child. “But what if I forget you?” Dory asks her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), who look on reassuringly, comforting their daughter that nothing like that will ever happen. Flash forward to Dory in the present day, a mere one year after it’s predecessor. Dory somehow got separated from her family as a child and has spent the last few years of her life looking, or in her case, continuously forgetting about them until running into Marlin; thus starting the events of the previous film.

When Dory suddenly remembers her parents after a word triggers a memory (a constant occurrence in this film) it sets out her motivation to track them down and reunite with her family. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) agree to accompany Dory. Marlin is reluctant for Dory to set off on this pilgrimage, reminiscent of Marlin’s cautiousness with letting Nemo explore his curiosity in the first film. Dory relies on her newfound memories to track down her parents, which leads her to traveling across the ocean to California. The trio, in what feels like the blink of an eye, zip through the ocean on a current and reach the outskirts of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After Dory is split up from Marlin and Nemo, the two witness Dory being taken by researchers and carried away to the nearby aquarium. Inside, Dory meets a colorful cast of new characters ranging from Hank the octopus (Ed O’Neill), Destiny the whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), and Bailey the beluga whale (Ty Burrell). Nemo and Marlin also encounter a pair of lazy British sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) as they try to figure out how they’re going to get into the aquarium to save Dory. Without giving away any of the key plot points or spoiling the ending, the remainder of the film follows Dory as she attempts to track down her family while adhering to the limitations of getting from one location to the other in the aquarium. Does Dory find her family? Are Nemo and Marlin able to reunite with her? What do the other characters offer in relation to Dory’s story of being reunited with her family?

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What worked: 

Pixar’s motto has always been, “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” With each new film released from the studio, it’s hard not to realize something spectacular with the designs in the film and the story itself. With Finding Dory, it’s like we’ve been blessed with a new HD TV and we’re re-watching our favorite movies on the device. The world still looks the same and is familiar, but it’s even more photo-realistic; the colors are brighter, the picture clearer, and the environments are more defined. There was a shot towards the middle of the film which showcased Nemo and Marlin floating towards the top of the ocean; the light from the sun on the surface was hitting the water just right and their reflections could be seen from the surface as the water moved back and forth. It was absolutely breathtaking. The setting in the film was a character all in its own; living and breathing and affecting the story.

The aquarium itself is one of Dory’s main motivations and an exciting new setting to explore in the film. There are different areas that she has to travel to when she’s inside, and each object or phrase that triggers a memory for Dory helps her put together the fragments of her past to reach her family. Every new location within the aquarium has it’s own style, while also offering larger obstacles for Dory to get through to her goal. The best location was definitely the ever so friendly pet zone, where children were able to stick their hands rather viciously into the water feeling the different types of fish inside.

It was nice to get a fair share of familiar faces from Mr. Ray and his knowledgeable tunes, to Crush the chillest turtle in the deep blue sea. We also got to meet some of our new favorite Pixar characters in Dory’s quest. It’s safe to say that Hank the octopus is now one of Pixar’s most stunning characters. He moves around so gracefully, even when lurking in the shadows. His character design is distinctive and lovable; Ed O’Neill’s work also makes it easy to fall in love with him. Hank is a key player in Dory’s story, she’s introduced to him almost instantly after finding herself deep in the aquarium. Hank agrees to help Dory find her family knowing that she is the key to him finally leaving the institution. Hank is a big curmudgeon at first, as these type of characters often are, but the more he spends time with Dory, the more his heart(s) turn into gold.

In a recent press junket UP was invited to, Stanton himself mentioned that Hank couldn’t have been achieved had this film been made in 2003, or at least, he wouldn’t have been as effectively depicted as he was in the sequel. It’s true. Hank’s skin glistened, his tentacles moved effortlessly as he crawled across the stage, and it felt like at any moment he could burst through the screen. The modern technology has certainly helped Andrew Stanton and his crew tell a better story, and one no one could have told back it in 2003. Even having the majority of the action taking place in an aquarium offered some big challenges; the largest one being all of the new sets and massive crowd shots.

Thomas Newman’s score also helps tie everything together. He most certainly works well with Andrew Stanton, as he successfully composed the last two of his films at Pixar. Newman captured some of the most tender moments of the film so perfectly; his score helping move the plot along and hitting us emotionally at the right moments. Newman’s music is filled with a sense of wonder and familiarity; the perfect theme tune for an adventure into the unknown.

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What didn’t work:

It was certainly great being back in familiar waters and reuniting with old friends, but the magic from the first film was lost somewhere in the transition. Throughout Finding Dory, there was really no sense of wonder. Sure, the technology is better than it was in 2003, the backgrounds were more realistic, the character models were upgraded, the allure from the first film was attempted several times; but it still somehow fell flat. Everything seemed incredibly easier this time around. It took Dory, Marlin, and Nemo mere seconds to cross the ocean and stumble on the supposed aquarium from her youth. Everything was too simple, the obstacles were almost repetitive, and certain elements in the story felt like they were added without motivation. The film certainly relied too heavily on the nostalgia of the first film, but even that didn’t work since Dory and Marlin’s chemistry somehow lacked this second time around.

Dory was one of the most important elements of Finding Nemo, she was the sidekick, the supporting character who kept the plot moving forward; who offered something new to the story that affected the major players. Marlin and Nemo were the supporting characters in the sequel, and their struggles with each other as a family came across dull at times.

Despite some of the obvious flaws in the story, Finding Dory does leave you feeling rewarded at the end. You get to watch Dory become stronger and a better person during her journey. You emphasize with Dory’s sense of belonging, her desire to find her family. You’re rooting for her all the way until the end. It’s an inspiring sequel that gives you the courage to fight on, no matter what type of obstacles get in the way; no matter who tells you what you can’t do; no matter what type of disability may set things off kilter; you just need to keep swimming. Dory helps us get through the day, and it’s hard not to ask yourself when times get tough, what would Dory do?

Finding Dory hits theaters this Friday.

 

 

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Here’s Your Chance To Ask The Team Behind Finding Dory Questions!

Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Interview

Posted by Nia • June 4, 2016

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Upcoming Pixar will have the opportunity to interview the cast, directors, and producer of Finding Dory next week on June 9th. Do you have any questions for directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane? What about any inquiries for the cast on your favorite fishy friends? Not only will you have the chance to ask them questions, but you’ll also be featured in a future post. Tweet us your questions or leave us a comment below about what you’d like us to ask them or know about their 17th feature film.

Don’t forget to check out Finding Dory when it splashes into theaters June 17th!

Just… keep… swimming!

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