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Exclusive: New Pixar Apparel from Loot Crate

Posted by Simoa • November 19, 2020

The end of the year is fast approaching, if you can believe it. And with it comes the holidays. Soul will soon be released through Disney+ on Christmas, and we’re sure that Pixar themed gift lists are also circulating around. Today we’re bringing you an exclusive look at some new Pixar apparel from Loot Crate.

Loot Crate’s Pixar collection is already impressive and now their latest additions are here just in time for the holidays and colder weather. The new Loot DX December crate is Escape themed – and after COVID-19 lockdowns have forced us all inside, we could all use a bit of escapism, right? That’s one of the major themes in Up. I personally am really partial to these pajama bottoms! These are perfect for chasing away the gloom of winter. 

Also available is this adorable Finding Nemo scarf. Such a simple but bright design. For those of us bracing for a colder climate, this scarf will also be perfect when the temperatures drop.

These and more will be available on Loot Crate today at 6 pm EST / 9 pm PST. Subscribe here: https://www.lootcrate.com/crates/dx 

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New writers at Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Simoa • November 17, 2020

I’m very happy to announce that the staff here at Upcoming Pixar continues to grow! We are so lucky to now be joined by Maya and Karla.

I’ve known the two of them for years. They are two of the most passionate Pixar fans, in addition to being creative and really talented writers. You may recognize Karla from her lovely essay on Coco that was featured here in 2018. We’re looking forward to more great work like that from each of them.

Read on to learn some more about them!

Hello everyone, my name is Karla! Like most people, I was introduced to Pixar at an early age starting with Finding Nemo; however, I became enamored with their films in 2010 after seeing Wall-E and Up for the first time. Animation soon became my defining passion and ultimately, it led me to a career in technology. After graduating college in 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to work at Pixar as a Systems intern for the summer! I’m very excited to be a part of the Upcoming Pixar team and contribute as a fellow fan.”

Hi, I’m Maya and I’ve been unabashedly in love with the animation medium all my life. My
appreciation started in early childhood, helped in no small part by the feature films and shorts
from Pixar Studios. It’s difficult for me to pick an absolute favorite Pixar film when so many of
them feature the kinds of characters and themes I love best. I’ve always enjoyed writing about
the magic of the animated films’ art and stories so I’m excited to share my perspective and be
part of the Upcoming Pixar team!

We hope you’ll join us in congratulating and welcoming them to Upcoming Pixar!

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Animating Soul with life, colors, and lines

Art, Behind The Scenes, Soul, Soul press day

Posted by Simoa • November 4, 2020

Soul is all about the essence of a person. In most religions, like mine for example (Catholicism), the soul lives on after death. We also believe that our souls will one day be reunited with our bodies. A person’s soul will either go to Heaven (an eternity of holy bliss), Purgatory (a purification process before reaching Heaven), or the dreaded Hell (an eternity of unholy agony).

I know these beliefs are strange, but that’s precisely why I am fascinated by Soul. This is one of the reasons Coco resonated with me so much, too. We pray for all of our dead, the ones we knew and loved, and even those we didn’t. We can’t forget them, as Coco so beautifully showed us.

Soul is not about the afterlife, though we do get a brief glimpse of the Great Beyond. That’s where souls journey after death in this film’s universe. Small wonder then that Joe is terrified of this unknown, the end of his Earthly life, and starts running in the other direction, where he lands – poof!- into an entirely different realm. In direct contrast to that monochrome expanse, this place, the Great Before, is a pastel dreamscape, filled with soft hues of blue, green, and purple. It is here that newly formed souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests.

Soul Matter

What does a soul look like? That was one of the major challenges on this film. I’ve always pictured them as a red plume, like a candle flame. (Maybe a bit Calcifer esque)? After a few trial runs, the souls looked too much like ghosts. Producer Dana Murray mentioned that they overcame this hurdle by adding color: “If souls represent the full potential of who we are inside, maybe we could use color to help show that.”

The film crew also discovered aerogel, the lightest solid material on Earth, which is used by NASA. The aerogel helped with the appearance and texture of the souls. The result is simple but not at all simplistic. Usually it’s the most simple things that require a fair amount of effort and brain power. Souls are immaterial and abstract, but the Pixar artists infused them with whimsicality. Now this abstract concept becomes more accessible with lots of childlike appeal.

There were more things to consider as well. Newer souls are very smooth and float because they have no concept of gravity. Mentor souls are those who are not quite ready to pass over to the Great Beyond, so they are assigned a new soul to guide before they reach Earth. This is how Joe gets paired up with 22. Mentors, unlike the new souls, have discernible features and accessories. In Joe’s case, his hat and glasses help to distinguish him. The mentors walk around because they’re so accustomed to gravity, although they don’t need to.

22 is different from the newer souls: she has a tuft of hair, bigger teeth, the ability to grow legs and walk, and an adult speaking voice. This is because she’s been in the Great Before a long time, and knows a lot about Earth. She’s outgrown the bounciness and sheer wonder of the baby souls. That was something I found so interesting during the virtual press event in September: a lot of thought informed these designs, things we can so easily take for granted.

Soul‘s art team also envisioned some complex design rules: appearing and disappearing limbs, facial features that moved anywhere on the face and big, expressive mouth shapes that took up the whole face. These design rules were first implemented in 2D animation tests. The technical directors accomplished another major feat by simplifying a process that was quite time consuming for the animators. Jude Brownbill explained that there were “facial lines that were hand animated to appear, disappear, and change thickness with each expression. TDs figured out how to automate these lines, helping to anchor the eyes and the mouth on the face, help keep them on model and appealing, and to provide clarity and extreme emotions like confusion, fear, and rage.”

A soul’s guide to the universe

Our universe is staggeringly incomprehensible. How exactly can you capture that vastness? Here’s how Pixar did it. 

It’s human nature to make sense of things and create order out of seeming chaos. Movies like Coco, Beetlejuice, A Guy Named Joe, and A Matter of Life and Death depict the afterlife being run just like a government agency. Soul has a similar system in place with its Counselors and You Seminar. Jerry, one of the Counselors, explains to Joe that everything he sees has been simplified enough for his tiny human brain to understand. The same must also be true for us contemplating the origins of each human life.

The Counselors presented another unique challenge for the artists and animators. The team was inspired by Swedish sculptures, nature, and light itself. And that is what they resemble: beams of light made physical. They are possibly the most striking thing about Soul, odd and ethereal all at once. I would love to see an entire film in this style.

So how were these gossamer thin characters designed? The Counselors are just a single line, but again, it’s deceptively simple on the surface.

Bobby Podesta remarked that they look like the easiest things to animate, but of course they weren’t. These are living lines. Wire sculptures were created to show how the Counselors looked from different angles and with various expressions.

We began exploring shapes, expressions, movements, and transitions, and the animators didn’t just animate a model. I mean, they animated a design, and you can see that here. The characters captured that sense of a living line, a piece of art in a form that was understandable, yet still ethereal. So, to achieve the sense of design within the animation, our animators had to draw on their backgrounds as artists to craft a visually stunning performance, and it’s that combination of being both an actor and an artist that raises the bar at Pixar to a level that we hope continues to exceed our audience’s expectations.

-Bobby Podesta

Seeing these lines in motion is truly astounding. Pixar never stays in the same spot. The artists are constantly pushing boundaries, so each new film contains something we’ve never seen before.

Below is more awe-inspiring artwork I’m so excited to share. Soul will premiere on Disney+ on December 25th.

 

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A new trailer (+ reviews) for Soul!

Soul, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • October 15, 2020

The reviews are in! Soul has captivated the critics following its premiere at the London Film Festival. It’s being hailed as Pixar’s “most existentially ambitious film,” one that will have adults sobbing “until their muscles ache,” and it’s going to nourish your own soul, too. After watching partial footage last month at the virtual press event, I wholeheartedly agree with everyone’s glowing reviews. And it’s made me, somehow, even more eager to see the rest. I’m also very encouraged by what Kaleem Aftab wrote on IndieWire:

Joe’s blackness isn’t relegated to a side issue; it’s baked into the essence of the character, and treated as a crucial aspect of his humanity. To this end, “Soul” manages to juggle the surreal humor of “Inside Out” in tandem with its most grounded, socially-conscious narrative ever, and it’s a real wonder to watch those ingredients congeal.

That certainly is just one more thing to look forward to. And though we still have to wait another two months to watch Soul, there is a brand new trailer to tide us over until then!

Soul will be streaming on Disney+ this Christmas.

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The journey of a soul – there and back again

Aphton Corbin, Kristen Lester, Michael Yates, Pete Docter, Pixar Employees, Soul, Soul press day

Posted by Simoa • October 9, 2020

A trip to Pixar was out of the question this year, due to COVID-19’s travel and gathering restrictions. It definitely was a bummer, although minor in the grand scheme of things. But even if I couldn’t visit the studio in person, I was able to talk to the filmmakers of Soul and learn about the film virtually. As always, I’m grateful for the opportunity to go behind the scenes.

Soul has been in production for five years, but the story has been with Pete Docter for a lifetime. It all began 23 years ago, when his son was born. Docter marveled at his newborn child’s personality.

“I thought your personality developed through your interaction with the world. And yet, it was pretty clear that we’re all born with a very unique, specific sense of who we are.”

Pixar movies so often create something out of nothing, dazzling worlds vibrant with color and detail. They are either places we’ve never been or can only imagine. Soul‘s Great Before surpasses anything we’ve seen before, since the artists at Pixar outdo themselves every time. But no matter how mesmerizing the look of a film is, the characters within should take precedence. Enter Joe Gardner.

Playwright Kemp Powers joined the production in 2018 to write the script and was made co-director. His script pages were brought to the story department, where the artists were tasked with drawing them. Story supervisor Kristen Lester led this process, with a team that included Michael Yates and Aphton Corbin. According to Lester, Powers’ script contained a lot of history and authenticity, which really helped to inform Joe’s backstory.

There was a staggering number of storyboards drawn for this film – 73,611 to be exact! Take a look at just two of them below. Absolutely stunning!

Of course, not all of the boards made it into the final film, but those discarded ideas were still vital in establishing Joe and his background. We know that he’s a middle school band teacher with more lofty aspirations of a career in jazz music. Joe’s never realized these dreams, and Michael Yates was concerned with why that was the case. Joe is a talented pianist without any delusions, so why wouldn’t he have found success? Yates thought about people he knew who hadn’t achieved their dreams and was able to envision the obstacles standing in Joe’s way. In each instance, Joe misses an audition because he’s helping out his family, friends, and students. Through these sketches, we learned that he’s a selfless person who put his dreams on hold.

The sketches and script were then boarded by Aphton Corbin. One of the sequences she worked on was Joe’s life in the Hall of You, an exhibit that showcases a person’s life on earth and their achievements. Corbin “imagined it as a dark space with moments of Joe’s life playing in beams of light that characters could walk through, kind of like a museum.” Joe’s is distinctly unimpressive, a series of unexciting moments combined with failures. From this vantage point, his life is disappointing. This was intentional, as Corbin explained:

“We wanted Joe’s Hall of You to feel more like an exhibit of his failures rather than his successes. We piled on rejection after rejection to build our case and placed the moments where he decided to become a band teacher at the end, so Joe falling down the manhole felt like the perfect coda to his sad life. It was our goal at this point to get the audience on Joe’s side. We wanted them to feel like he needed to return to his body to finish living his dream as a jazz musician.”

Corbin also included Joe’s first encounter with jazz, a moment where he discovers the passion that now defines his life. His face was the focus in that scene – it’s one of the most wonderful in the film’s trailer. Joe’s face is lit up with love and wonder, aglow in the colors from the jazz club. We all have moments like that in our lives, no?

The completed storyboards were then sent to editorial, where music was added. Editorial is where the story artists watch how their drawings come together for the overall film. They watched the entire film from beginning to end about eight times in Pixar’s theater.

Mainstream animated and live action films rarely feature nonwhite characters as the heroes of the story. Too often they’re shunted into supporting roles. Audiences hardly ever watch films with Black protagonists that they can relate to and root for. I think people will definitely see themselves reflected in Joe’s Hall of You as I could, a place where our failures and dim moments eat up all the spotlight.

For Pete Docter, making this film was less about failed dreams, but questioning his purpose. He’s directed acclaimed films and won numerous awards, but still the question nagged at him.

“Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing with my limited time on Earth? In fact, in darker days, around now, I wonder sometimes, is there any point to it? If I had a choice, would I decide to be born and come live?”

I was so shocked to hear him admit that. We’re usually discouraged from sharing such thoughts, but I think it’s a universal feeling, especially with a world that’s constantly in turmoil. And with 2020 going on record as possibly the most disastrous year ever, this film’s release could not be any more timely.

Who would want to live if they were given that choice? But Soul seeks to both answer that question and dispel the doubt that surrounds it. This is a journey we’re all going to take with Joe, by asking ourselves the same questions.

There’s still so much more that I learned about this stunning film. Stay tuned to read all about it! But in the meantime, delve into Joe’s world with more gorgeous artwork.

Soul will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on December 25. This is the third time the film has been pushed to a later date. Theatrical release dates are pending. Surely whenever pandemic restrictions are eased, audiences will have the opportunity to be dazzled by it on the big screen.

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LUCA: Pixar Announces a Brand New Film for Next Year!

Enrico Casarosa

Posted by Simoa • July 30, 2020

We are living in some particularly challenging times, but what a comfort it is to still be surprised by new Pixar movies! The studio has just unveiled charming artwork for Luca, pictured below.

This image is so lovely, its gorgeous colors and background recalling Ghibli art. I like that it evokes a sense of tranquility, while the two young boys suspended in euphoria above the glassy sea are anything but! And who are these boys? One of them is our titular Luca and the other is his best friend. EW has provided a splendid synopsis of the film:

The film centers on a young boy named Luca who is secretly a sea monster from another world that lies just below the surface of the water. Appearing as a human, he meets a newfound best friend with whom he shares an unforgettable summer at a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, filled with gelato, pasta, and endless scooter rides. But Luca’s secret threatens this idyllic experience.

Everything about this is already unbelievably exciting! A sea monster in disguise! That’s another first for Pixar, along with its Italian Riviera setting. I’ve always wanted to visit Italy and I’m already imagining the seaside in animated form. My favorite film Roman Holiday, also set in Italy, features a very famous scooter ride, so I’m happy that Luca put me in mind of it. The film’s star Audrey Hepburn adored Italy and her son Luca is half Italian as well!

Luca is directed by Enrico Casarosa, who made his directorial debut with the gorgeous “La Luna” (2011) short film. This will be his first full length movie. The movie’s producer is Andrea Warren, whose credits include “Lava” and Cars 3. Casarosa also explained the story’s roots and its major theme:

“This is a deeply personal story for me, not only because it’s set on the Italian Riviera where I grew up, but because at the core of this film is a celebration of friendship. Childhood friendships often set the course of who we want to become and it is those bonds that are at the heart of our story in Luca. So in addition to the beauty and charm of the Italian seaside, our film will feature an unforgettable summer adventure that will fundamentally change Luca.”

The film’s logo is also brilliant, with the lettering in the sea’s blue-green colors and the waves underneath Luca’s name. It’s got a childlike quality, as if it was written with chalk.

Italy was one of the countries greatly impacted by the coronavirus, so it seems like this film will pay a beautiful tribute at just the right time. Luca premieres on June 18, 2021.

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What Pixar Have Been Up To During Lockdown

Round-Ups

Posted by Joanna • April 23, 2020

It’s time for another Woody’s Round Up on Pixar news! Even though the world in general is moving very slowly at the moment, there are some Pixar news nuggets to pick up on.

Companies around the world have had to drastically shift the way they engage with audiences. Pixar were already very active online on various social media platforms, but it’s been great to see some new content aimed at people who are stuck at home and feeling bored, anxious, or a combination of the two.

Learn how to draw your favourite Pixar characters

It’s no secret that Pixar employees are talented. Employees that are similarly stuck at home have put together some fantastic art tutorials. So far, there are tutorials on how to draw Barley from Onward by Kelsey Mann, Duke Caboom from Toy Story 4 by Emilie Goulet, and Lightning McQueen from Cars by Scott Morse. We’d love to see more! Learning a new skill is something that a lot of people are finding value in during lockdown, but it’s nice to just hear from the artists too. We’re all in this together! Remember to use the hashtag #DrawWithPixar

Pixar artists haven’t just been teaching us how to draw Pixar characters though – Ana Ramírez González also made an adorable ‘how to draw a koala’ tutorial to help celebrate Nat Geo’s ‘Earth Day at Home’ event.

Super cute!

 

WALL-E in 16 bit

This has been another addition to the Pixar YouTube channel which is incredible. WALL-E in 16 bit graphics! We can’t decide if we want a whole movie done in this art style, or a video game. Both would be ideal.

 

New Hallmark Pixar Christmas ornaments have been revealed!

Hallmark have revealed some new Pixar Christmas ornaments that will be available for purchase later this year. They’re the sort of ornaments you can imagine having out all year round and not just restricting to festivities. Our personal favourite is the Bo Peep one (available July 11th), but you’ll also be able to find the Pizza Planet Truck (!!), Boo from Monsters Inc, WALL-E, Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, Anger from Inside Out, Crush from Finding Nemo, Jack-Jack and the raccoon from Incredibles 2, and Ian from Onward. 

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The newest Soul trailer is dazzling

Soul, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • March 12, 2020

“Is all this living really worth dying for?”

It definitely recalls Inside Out, but there’s still something totally unique about Soul. For instance, there’s a regular outside world juxtaposed against a stunning interior one. The animation and character designs are also ones we’ve never yet seen in a Pixar movie. Those, along with the premise, are what I find most exciting about Soul. This trailer is also gorgeous: the vibrant colors make me want to jump right into this world. Already seems like a harmonious blend, and in a film with jazz music to boot!

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before—a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

With the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Questlove, Soul will be in theaters on June 19th of this year.

 

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A Q+A with Onward’s filmmakers

Dan Scanlon, Kori Rae, Onward, Onward press day, Pixar Employees

Posted by Simoa • March 6, 2020

At Pixar last fall, I was given the incredible opportunity of talking to story artists Kelsey Mann and Maddie Sharafian, and the director-producer team of Dan Scanlon and Kori Rae! That was my first time speaking to Pixar filmmakers face to face. I think it goes without saying that I was nervous – so much so that I was trembling. But they all made me feel so comfortable and at ease. And I got to gain even more insight into Onward through our conversations. So read on and learn about the film which is playing in theaters now.

UP: What are you most excited about in the film?

photo by Alex Kang

Kelsey Mann: I would say a lot and then very little. The part I’m most excited about is the very little. Initially, we didn’t have anything and then Dan started to think about his own experiences and what makes him unique. Part of it was growing up without a father. His dad passed away when he was just a baby, so he has no memory of him. So he started to think about how that shaped him and this is where we start with a lot of these movies. We look inward. “What have I felt in my own life? What are the things I’ve learned?” And he came to this realization about himself. He thought that would be a good thing to make a movie about and that’s really the reason we’re making this film and what he’s learned in his own life. At the first screening, we storyboarded that ending, and that ending has remained the same since day one. That is unique. I can’t think of a film I’ve worked on where we knew where we were headed from the beginning. Everything else changed a lot but not the ending.

KM: Maddie worked a lot with Ian and his introduction. Every screening, we had a different Ian. It wasn’t until halfway through – “There he is!” There’s a perception that we had the movie figured out because we always had that ending.

visual development art by Huy Nguyen

UP: What was it like balancing the silly with the heartfelt?

KM: That’s the type of film Dan wanted to make; that’s Monsters University and the films he made before he came here; that’s the way he usually makes films. He really wanted to make a fun comedy that hits you with emotion.”

UP: How did you come up with the concept of the unicorns?

KM: That was Dan’s idea early on.

photo by Alex Kang

Maddie Sharafian: It’s funny but it’s also sad. You can tell with the world, something’s a little bit off. You’re laughing at it but you also wish there was something better, which is sort of the way that Ian stands in his life. He wishes he had his dad but something’s not quite right.

UP: Was Onward more challenging to direct than Monsters University because it was a personal film or did that make it easier?

Dan Scanlon: They have their own challenges and benefits. Doing a sequel was nice because people love those characters and were excited to see them. Doing an original was nice because you could change the characters drastically to fit the story and even get rid of them if you needed to, and in a sequel you’re beholden to what you have. So it really became this push of benefits over losses for the two. And I don’t know that I can say that one was harder than the other. It’s nice to have a little experience under our belts for this one.

Kori Rae: Having done Monsters University really helped us have a little more confidence.

UP: Not that science and technology are bad, but the movie seems to be criticizing our world where people don’t care about finding whimsy or having an imagination.

DS: It’s more about finding balance. You’re right. It is more about making sure that we’re still challenging ourselves; still finding the potential in ourselves; still enjoying the nature around us and not getting too comfortable in every day things. It’s not meant to be a hard social criticism – certainly there’s some of that in there and it reflects Ian; the fact that he is too scared to get out of his comfort zone; afraid to take risks. He just wants to blend in and throughout this journey he comes out of his shell and I think the world mirrors that.

UP: You two have been a duo since MU; what’s it like working together?

KR: On the first film we were figuring each other out and as we figured the film out, we’ve always had great respect for one another and I think on this film we were able to teach one another what our areas of expertise were. I was super interested in story and being in the story room and Dan was interested in how the production works.

DS: General leadership and inspiring people and artists. We started to learn from each other.

KR: We got to know each other better working this closely together.

DS: We knew that we wanted to work together again, so from day one, Kori and I were talking and working on ideas and getting her support to make sure we could grow this story. It’s interesting because we’ve learned a lot from the other film and it’s nice to continue to grow and learn and I think the film benefits from it.

UP: Besides the lion for Corey the manticore and horses for the centaurs, what were the other animal references?

DS: That’s a good question.

KR: Goats for the satyrs.

DS: Antelopes too. With Blazey the dog, they looked at – she’s so cartoony but she has a lizard-y, snake quality to her. The fun of this movie is that fantasy characters are treated pretty realistically and this was fun to get a more cartoony take.

As an aside, Blazey the dragon is a girl! Everyone thinks she’s a boy.

UP: Did you find it difficult to strike a balance between the silly and more heartfelt moments?

DS: I think life is so funny and so emotional and – this is going to sound really pretentious – but they’re the same thing. The reason something is emotional is because it was funny first. The reason you love a character and you cry is because they made you laugh. I feel like it’s all interwoven. You cry because they said something funny. To me, emotion and comedy always stick together.

UP: What was the most difficult thing about directing this film?

DS: The story is always hard. We always had our ending, but trying to earn that ending. It meant a lot to us to get this point across. I think the burden of wanting to honestly and entertainingly get audiences to that point was really hard. You take it home when it’s a personal thing.

Read our review of Onward here, and be sure to spread the love for this very wonderful movie!

an early sketch by Dan

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Creating the Wonderful World & Characters of Onward

Behind The Scenes, Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • March 4, 2020

There are 240 characters in Onward – an eclectic mix of make believe creatures numbering 13 species. Rest assured that the vast majority are background characters. Still, these characters, be they trolls, centaurs, goblins or sprites, had the major responsibility of making this world feel authentic. They even had an impact on the design of the protagonists.

Jeremie Talbot is a supervisor in the character department. On this film, he and his team had the unique challenge of designing a pair of legs as an actual character. Dad is more than just his bottom half, but the crew really had to get creative in order to convey that without his top part. They made the choice of showing Dad’s ankles because that was the only way he could emote, which of course led to that remarkable scene where he taps his foot to communicate with each of his sons. The animation department had further work to do here which I’ll get to later.

So what about the characters who actually have heads, arms, torsos, and speaking lines? What did the character development process entail?

Jeremie and his team were responsible for creating the final render from Dan Scanlon’s ideas and the art designs. It’s a constant collaboration between the character and art departments that results in the final image. But long before that is the initial computer sculpt that undergoes revisions in art and which Jeremie’s character team continuously rebuilds.

 

brothers by Matt Nolte

As Jeremie pointed out, the Art Of books, as immensely beautiful and informative as they are, rarely show the continuity between the original and final images. This presentation avoided that. I’m a huge fan of concept art and often find that I like certain early designs that never make it to the finished film. We got to see why and how this happened in Onward

The initial designs of Ian and Barley were compelling to Dan Scanlon. At the most basic level. the brothers’ appearance reflected their personalities. Ian was skinny and awkward while Barley was burly and confident. One of the main concerns was if those first designs could convey emotion and range. So the designs were always evolving to reach that goal. The other family designs also helped to influence Ian and Barley’s.

by Maria Yi

by Grant Alexander

by Bert Berry

Ian looked a little too mischievous at one point. He no longer seemed like the gawky teen who’s unsure of himself. His design was then modified by enlarging his features. making his hair much messier, and putting him in oversized clothes. The story changes as the designs do, lending much more specificity to the characters and plot. Ian’s poofy cloud of hair makes him all the more endearing and further sets him apart from Barley. His bigger clothes also ensure that he neither “fits in” in his skin or in the world at large.

The characters are next brought to the shading department, but at this point, they look like gray plastic, as shading lead Ana Lacaze noted. Physical attributes of the characters are further defined, and shading is also tasked with determining the texture of skin and hair. A really cool detail that emerged was how they were inspired by the way light bounces off succulents: they stayed true to that principle with Ian’s curls.

by Zaruhi Galstyan

Shading works closely with art, lighting, modeling, rigging, and animation. Their work with the materials, such as surfaces and clothes, also helps with character transformations. The most prominent example is Corey the manticore. She loses her restricted clothing and hairstyle, and fully embraces her true identity that has been stifled for so long. The same is true of Ian, although his journey to confidence is a lot more subtle.

by Matt Nolte

Below are Matt Nolte’s character notes for the Lightfoot brothers:

Details like those above aren’t the only crucial ones. The crowds in Onward add a lot more depth and context. They provide richness to this world, making it much more expansive. Sequoia Blankenship played two film clips that showed just how necessary the crowds were. They make the film come alive, and they function as characters too. The tavern scene with Corey perfectly visualized this: once her fierce warrior side is unleashed, the patrons in the tavern become a single character connected by their collective shock.

character lineup by Matt Nolte

A balance had to be struck though, so that some of the characters, like the huge trolls, didn’t overwhelm any scenes or distract the audience. The trolls blend in so well that you might not even notice them!

Colt Bronco by Chris Sasaki

There was a lot of study that went into how the fantastical creatures moved. Directing animator Allison Rutland led a team of 85 to create performances and movements. Because these characters all have histories that informed how they evolved, the animators had to incorporate those into the ways they moved. Corey in her high heels, as opposed to walking on all fours, was a lot more awkward. Once she ditches the shoes, the animators borrowed from lion footage to base her newly powerful and fluid movement on.

For the centaurs, the animators relied on footage of horses indoors – and it was important that they remained true to horse physicality and the difficulty horses have sitting down. And their overall difficulty moving around in enclosed spaces. The history of centaur aggression also affected their physicality. They’re as wild as untamed horses, but they’ve evolved into tame versions of themselves. Colt Bronco drives a car instead of running majestically. Allison described him brilliantly: “swaggering confidence of a cop in a horse body.”

It makes perfect sense that there’s a character in this film that is still much more bizarre than the others. Thanks to the effort of everyone involved, these elves, mermaids, and unicorns aren’t out of place in a modern setting. A pair of legs detached from the rest of the body…not so much.

When it came to Dad, the goal was to make him funny and sincere. A tall order that the animators achieved with just as much care and detail as the other characters. Animation and simulation were the two main components. Animation was concerned with his lower and upper half along with posing, while simulation dealt with his physicality. There were other factors involved, like how the pants get up without an upper body and what happens when they get pulled. Animation tests of Dad’s upper body, after Ian disguises him in clothes and sunglasses, were also incredibly useful. More of his personality came through in the way his top half would flop over.

They used reference footage for Dad too: Dick Van Dyke! In his prime the actor possessed “tremendous physicality.”

Just the few seconds of Dad in Onward‘s trailer were emotionally potent. That emotion combined with humor elevates his role further.

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