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Michael Giacchino turns 50 – a look back at his incredible Pixar career

Michael Giacchino, Pixar, Soundtrack

Posted by Joanna • October 10, 2017

Today is composer Michael Giacchino’s 50th birthday, and what better day to celebrate his (quite literally) incredible contribution to Pixar movies?

Michael Giacchino is responsible for the film scores of many Pixar works, including both feature length and short films. He wrote the music for The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Cars 2, Inside Out, and the short films One Man Band, Lifted, La Luna, Toy Story of Terror!, and Toy Story that Time Forgot. He’s received numerous nominations and awards for these scores over the years, including 6 awards for The Incredibles, 2 for Ratatouille, and 10 for Up. Next month, we’ll get to hear the soundtrack he has created for Coco and it’s sure to be vibrant and full of life.

Some truly iconic Pixar pieces have been written by Giacchino, including Married Life, Bundle of Joy, Free Skating, and the entire theme of The Incredibles. His music is suited perfectly to Pixar movies – it brings emotions to the forefront and can tell a story purely through the notes, themes, pauses, and swells. For a shining example of this ‘story-telling through music’, look no further than Married Life from Up – with no dialogue and set against one of Pixar’s most famous scenes, the score is able to bring to life the poignant story of Carl and Ellie’s married life together. I love the way Pixar often choose to set dialogue aside and instead rely on expressions and body language to communicate to the audience. These scenes (or even entire short movies) would be nowhere near as powerful without the music of composers such as Giacchino.

There are a few composers that Pixar keep coming back to – and with good reason! It really makes their films feel and sound more unique and recognisable. Nothing is quite as characteristic of Pixar as a Randy Newman piece (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc), and Thomas Newman’s (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) almost other-worldly sound never fails to transport me to the unexplored worlds of the ocean and outer space. Michael Giacchino always manages to capture the emotion, excitement and character of each of the movies he’s worked on.

So – happy birthday, Michael Giacchino. Thank you for making so many Pixar movies that much more special. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we can’t wait to hear your scores for Coco and The Incredibles 2 (and hopefully even more Pixar movies in the distant future!)

Michael Giacchino and Brad Bird teasing the beginning of work on The Incredibles 2 in May this year

Who is your favourite Pixar composer? And what is your favourite Michael Giacchino score or piece? Let us know in the comments or on our Twitter and Facebook!

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The latest Coco trailer is a symphony of emotions

Coco, Pixar, Trailer

Posted by Joanna • September 13, 2017

As promised, Pixar released their latest trailer for Coco this morning at 9am, and it did not disappoint.

Out of all the trailers so far, this one is the most vibrant, touching, and awe-inspiring. It reveals new plot details but, as ever, only just enough to captivate us while not spoiling the movie. There is a larger focus on music as a plot-point in this trailer, so it’s very fitting that the the music chosen to play during the video is so moving. A cover of “Bittersweet Symphony” plays in the background, its title alone perfectly describing many past Pixar movies. Seeing the stunning visuals and heartwarming character interactions against this choice of music leaves us with no doubt that Coco is soon going to sit very comfortably amongst Pixar’s greats.

Miguel’s dog Dante continues to be incredibly lovable, and it’s great to see how well the characters of Miguel and Hector bounce off of each other.

This is also our first time seeing Pepita in action, and she looks terrifying in all the right ways.

With each new trailer, our excitement for the release of Coco this November 22nd has only grown. We’re really getting the feeling that this movie is going to be special, and we can’t wait.

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Brand new Coco poster and trailer

Coco, Pixar, Poster, Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Joanna • September 12, 2017

Pixar have revealed another beautiful poster for their much-anticipated movie Coco, with a new trailer set to release tomorrow at 9am PST.

With all the new details we have learnt about Coco over the past few months, we now know that it will take place partly in the “land of the living”, and partly in the “land of the dead”. The new poster exhibits this concept perfectly, with Miguel’s town and family filling one half of the image, and his ancestors and the bright lights of the “land of the dead” filling the other half. The striking bridge of marigold petals ties the two worlds together, as it will in the film itself. Coco will have a large cast of Latino actors and actresses, and it’s amazing to see the sheer variety of characters in the foreground and background. Even Pepita, the giant flying cat and spiritual guide, can be seen flying amongst the fireworks in the top right.

It’s not long now before Coco will finally be released in theatres, and tomorrow morning’s new trailer will no doubt make our excitement even more unbearable! To tide you over, some new Coco footage (heavily featuring Miguel’s Abuelita) was released on Sunday to celebrate Grandparents Day:

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The Story of Coco: Finding Miguel’s Passion

Adrian Molina, Coco, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • September 9, 2017

“Pixar movies are always meant to be.”

Director Lee Unkrich and Co-Director Adrian Molina during a Coco art review on February 18, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

A truer statement can’t be made about the animation studio and its films. During my August visit, learning about the upcoming Coco through various presentations proved to be immensely rewarding as well as informative. Co-director Adrian Molina and lead story artist Dean Kelly led the presentation for The Story of Coco.

COCO – Concept art by Armand Baltazar and John Nevarez. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Research is always a necessary component to Pixar films, and in some cases, research trips too. As with 2012’s Brave, with Scotland as the destination, the film crew traveled to Mexico in order to make the film and its depiction of Dia de Los Muertos as authentic as possible. They studied the customs of the holiday and found that the traditions were built into the film on a fundamental level.

Members of the Latino community visit Pixar Animation Studios on May 12, 2016, for a roundtable session with Coco filmmakers. (Photo: Virginia Mae Rollison / Pixar)

The initial seed of the film was planted in 2011. The basic premise was that of a boy trapped in the Land of the Dead. Like the most bold of ideas, this was one story that could only be told through the vibrant medium of animation. The one major challenge that arose was communicating Miguel’s passion for music. As Molina pointed out, Pixar artists could relate to Miguel. That passion for something he loves is what they feel innately. Molina added a personal touch to the film, drawing on his own experiences as a young boy fascinated by animation.

Molina used to watch old Disney shows that explained the process of animation. He recorded them painstakingly and watched them repeatedly, teaching himself before the age of the internet. This personal touch informed Miguel’s own journey. He has a VHS tape of Ernesto de La Cruz interviews and clips that he watches often and in secret, away from his family. Once this touch was added, the response from the brain trust meetings were more favorable and enthusiastic. The story team overcame the hurdle of making Miguel’s desire palpable to the audience.

COCO – Concept art by Zaruhi Galstyan. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Music is the air Miguel breathes. He’s not meant to join the family business. In fact, Coco mirrors another Pixar film, La Luna. The struggle for him to pursue his passion against family tradition is sure to play out just as beautifully.

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The first 30 minutes of Coco

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • August 28, 2017

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – a visit to Pixar! In anticipation of Coco, which will be released in November, Disney invited bloggers and various outlets to the Emeryville studio for a press event on August 3rd and 4th. We got to see the first thirty five minutes of Pixar’s latest Lee Unkrich helmed feature.

Few things can compare to watching a Pixar film in Pixar’s very own theater! As Unkrich announced on twitter recently, Coco is now completed. The version we saw was unfinished. There were completed sequences, rough sketches, and unlighted animation. Yet the film was still engrossing and quite beautiful.

After we settled in our seats, the Disney logo appeared onscreen, its familiar theme played by a mariachi band.

Coco tells the story of twelve year old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez). The Riveras are shoemakers, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations from matriarch Mama Imelda, Miguel’s great-great grandmother. Miguel is not at all impressed with the family’s chosen occupation. He would have preferred something much more exciting and fun. As we learn at the start of the film, Mama Imelda became a shoemaker in order to support herself and her daughter after her husband abandoned the family for his music career. Miguel explains that she didn’t have time to feel sad or sorry for herself.

But Mama Imelda, stung by her husband’s betrayal, forbids music in the Rivera family. No one is allowed to play or listen to music and certainly not to pursue it for a career. Miguel’s great-great grandfather is also never mentioned or seen; Miguel doesn’t even know his name.

As we arrive in present day Mexico, the no music rule has been strictly enforced by Miguel’s abuelita (Renee Victor). The Riveras are the only family in Mexico that will have nothing to do with music. Perhaps it’s because they fear abuelita’s wrath that the Riveras do not question or challenge the ban on music. They are all content to make shoes. All except Miguel, that is. He desperately wants to become a musician and has taught himself to play the guitar. He’s also built a shrine to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.

Once the most popular singer in Mexico, de la Cruz appeared in movies and enjoyed great fame before his untimely death in the 1940s. Miguel is convinced that music is his destiny, the same as it was for de la Cruz. But unfortunately, his secret ambition is revealed to his family.

Coco is a unique film from the start. From just the first half hour, it’s clear that Pixar has crafted another heartwarming portrayal of family life. Though Miguel must hide his passion for music, the Riveras are a close knit bunch. Abuelita is formidable and won’t hesitate to hit someone with her chancla, but she’s a warm, loving grandmother.

Miguel is likable immediately. His desire for music is communicated so strongly that it’s unimaginable that he would make shoes or do anything else. The audience believes that music is part of his destiny as well.

And this is only the Land of the Living. There’s another world in Coco, one bursting with life and color, despite its name. Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead and it’s here that he meets the Rivera family members that have died. They are as funny and vibrant as his living family.

The Land of the Dead is run like a typical government agency, with workers who sit at desks behind computers.

Pixar’s worlds have always been a visual and technical marvel. They’ve captured wonder in worlds both real and imagined. With Coco, Mexico becomes a character too, though it never overwhelms the human ones. We become fully immersed in both worlds of the living and dead, as well as the language, music, and culture.

From what I was lucky enough to see, I am eagerly anticipating the completed film!

I’ll have plenty more posts about my incredible two day trip at Pixar and all that I learned about Coco. Check back here for more!

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New Coco character Pepita is inspired by Mexican alebrijes

Coco, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • August 25, 2017

When the poster for Coco’s premiere at Mexico’s Morelia International Film Festival was revealed at the beginning of last month, many of us noticed some familiar characters, including Miguel, Mama Coco, and Dante. But the identity of the strange winged-cat-creature at the bottom of the poster continued to baffle us all – until today!

The beautiful new character Pepita was exclusively revealed today on Remezcla – a news site focusing on new and emerging Latin culture and media. Pepita is based on an alebrije, which is an amazingly colourful Mexican sculpture of a fantastical animal. Particularly notable is the stylistic use of colour blocking and striking patterns. These influences are very apparent when looking at Pepita – a winged cat with horns, talons on her back feet, and contrasting colours of red, green, yellow and blue.

Pepita from Pixar’s Coco

Pepita will act as a spiritual guide in the Land of the Dead. As alebrijes aren’t traditionally associated with Día de los Muertos, it will be interesting to see what kind of creative spin the Coco team have given the holiday. She also won’t have any dialogue, so the character has probably been quite a challenge to get right. Pixar always do a wonderful job when it comes to animating communication without any words (think of Partly Cloudy, Piper, WALL•E, and The Good Dinosaur), so I have no doubt that Pepita will have just as much personality and emotion (if not more!) despite the lack of speech.

Coco will come to US theatres on November 22nd, and UK theatres on January 19th.

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D23 2017 – a quick rundown of yesterday’s Pixar highlights

D23, Pete Docter, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • July 16, 2017

As if we weren’t already wowed by all the Pixar news released at this year’s D23 Expo’s opening, yesterday’s events delivered even more surprises and exciting bits and pieces. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

  1. The “Creating the Worlds in Pixar’s Universe” panel gave some wonderful insights into how Pixar movies are made

In a presentation by directors of photography Sharon Calahan and Kim White, production designers Ralph Eggleston and Harley Jessup, and producer Katherine Sarafian, examples across Pixar’s entire repertoire of movies helped teach the audience how the studio’s staff built these worlds that we’ve all come to know and love over the years. A focus was put on believability, collaboration, and creativity. Pixar have transported us to worlds both real and fantastical, and it’s the worlds that we have never seen before that present the biggest challenge. Even seemingly simple things like the colour of the sky are thrown into question when you’re building a world from the ground up.

  1. The “Evolution of Pixar Characters” panel delved into the world of character design

Pete Docter was joined by Daniel Arriaga, Tia Kratter, Deanna Marsigliese, Chris Sasaki, and Jay Shuster  to give an inside look into how Pixar’s characters are conceived and designed, and the changes that are made along the way.

  1. New Pixar themed attractions are coming to Walt Disney parks

These new additions include Toy Story Land at Disney World, a Ratatouille themed attraction at Epcot, and the grand opening of the Pixar Pier at Disneyland Resort, along with a limited time Pixar Fest event. Toy Story Land and the Pixar Pier are to open in Summer 2018.

  1. The world of Toy Story is coming to Kingdom Hearts 3

Incredibly confusing plotlines aside, the popular video games series Kingdom Hearts involves Sora, Donald, and Goofy traversing Disney Pixar worlds and saving them from the Heartless. It was revealed yesterday that the Toy Story world will be featured in Kingdom Hearts’ next instalment in 2018! A trailer was released, showing the game’s protagonists meeting Woody, Buzz and the gang for the first time. With its updated graphics, it’s amazing to see how the character models look almost indistinguishable from the ones that we’re used to seeing in the movies – it’ll be interesting to see how Woody and his flailing limbs fare on the battlefield.  The attention to detail is positively heart-warming – Sora’s Toy Story-themed keyblade features a western style cactus, little Buzz-inspired wings, and a cute alien keychain.

 

Footage and photos of some of yesterday’s highlights have also now been made available online – there are photos on Pixar’s instagram, and a video of the performance at the end of the Coco presentation. There are still more Pixar-themed D23 events to come later on today , including a demo of Pixar in a Box, a signing with composer Michael Giacchino, and a drawing demo with Daniel Arriaga.

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What to expect from this year’s D23 Expo

D23, Pixar, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Joanna • July 12, 2017

This year’s D23 Expo begins on Friday, running from the 14th to the 16th of July. D23’s biennial expos never fail to generate excitement for upcoming Disney and Pixar movies. Somehow the 2011 D23 Expo when “The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside The Mind” and “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs” were announced doesn’t seem so long ago, even though Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur are now sitting proudly amongst the rest of Pixar’s filmography. But what can we expect from D23 2017?

We’re already aware of some of Pixar’s upcoming movies, with Coco’s release date of 22 November fast approaching, and The Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 set to release in the summer of 2018 and 2019 respectively.

New footage from Coco is going to be revealed in the Upcoming Films presentation hosted by John Lasseter, and a Drawing Demo with Pixar character artist Daniel Arriaga promises to feature some of Coco’s new characters. Some brand new Incredibles 2 artwork has already been released on the D23 Expo 2017 app, advertising its signing event, although it has since been replaced with just the logo. If the art is anything to go by, it seems like the movie will be a direct sequel to its predecessor, and the ‘Underminer’ may be making an appearance. You can also see several supers flying in the background (including at least one with a cape – I can just hear Edna’s disapproval). And why is there a raccoon?! Here’s hoping all will be revealed soon.

During the Upcoming Films presentation, a large focus will probably be on Coco, but it’s likely that we’ll be finding out some more plot details for The Incredibles 2, and maybe even Toy Story 4. There are also going to be some “surprise announcements”, and with only 3 upcoming Pixar movies on our radars, stretching to only 2 years in the future, perhaps some new movie announcements aren’t too much to hope for.

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OpEd: Brave’s 5th Anniversary and what it means to a Scottish person

Brave, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • June 22, 2017

In 2009, I saw Up in cinemas for the first time, and I left thinking I had just seen the best movie of my life. As soon as I got home that night, I googled Pixar to find out what movies they had in their pipeline, and when I saw they were making a movie set in Scotland, my heart leapt. Mainly with joy. But there was a little bit of worry in there too.

I have always lived in Scotland, and have seen my fair share of movies attempting to portray the country I have grown up in. These movies are riddled with horrible attempts at Scottish accents, actors that have no connection to the country at all, and scenery that wasn’t even filmed on location. They rely on blatant stereotypes and, at best, only skim the surface of what Scotland is really like. So after learning about the production of Brave, I was unsurprisingly cautious, at least until I grew to understand and appreciate Pixar and their values.

Pixar do their research. They made Paris feel real in Ratatouille, they took lessons in ichthyology for Finding Nemo, and they even worked out how many balloons it would take to lift Carl and Ellie’s house in Up (…then took some leniencies). For the creation of Brave, Pixar teams visited Scotland, sketched castles, and went walking in the highlands. They studied the scenery and foliage and experienced our weather and culture first-hand. The end result? Out of all the American movies I have seen, Brave did the absolute best job at capturing Scotland and its scenery, lighting, colours, people, and accents. They hired Scottish actors and learned from them, allowing them to really contribute to the movie. In an interview with Kevin McKidd, the voice of both Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, Pixar suggested he make Young MacGuffin have a particularly broad accent; almost incomprehensible. But instead of just spewing Scottish-sounding gibberish, McKidd proposed he did “a dialect from my home area, called the Doric, which is a very specific area in the north-east of Scotland.” This resulted in a joke that was funny for viewers in America, but hilarious for viewers in Scotland. It’s genius. Being from the north-east of Scotland myself, I have grown up with the Doric accent around me, and even I struggle to understand it without context (although I do understand all of Young MacGuffin’s lines!) It’s little touches and inside jokes like this that make Brave a film that Scottish people are proud to be associated with.

© Steve Pilcher

Even on the day it came out, Brave created a sense of community and pride across the country. It was released in cinemas a day earlier in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, and I saw it in a makeshift cinema that my village hall put on for the night – mismatched seats and a projector screen. The scenery was breath-taking, and you felt you could almost recognise some places because the attention to detail was so perfect. When Young MacGuffin said his first line, people turned to each other with huge grins on their faces. We were in hysterics. Even the ‘obvious’ jokes (that had to be done) were done completely tastefully.

It’s so refreshing to have a movie that depicts Scotland with such accuracy and respect. We don’t have bears, of course, but…leniencies. Animation allows leniencies. And on top of all of that, Brave is a wonderful movie with a beautiful message and strong, memorable characters. Merida will always be my favourite ‘Disney Princess’.

Pixar places so much importance on being able to transport you to these different worlds and settings that they create and imitate. They fully appreciate how crucial it is to know these worlds themselves before they’re able to make us believe that we know them too. Coco debuts this November, and I can’t wait for the people of Mexico to feel the way I did when Brave was released 5 years ago. Happy 5th anniversary, Brave!

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New Frozen Featurette Will Play Before Coco

Coco, Disney, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • June 13, 2017

Disney and Pixar revealed today that instead of being paired with an original Pixar short, Coco will have a new Frozen featurette played before it – Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. This is not the first spin-off from Disney’s ever-popular Frozen franchise, with the short Frozen Fever debuting alongside their live-action Cinderella in 2015. However, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will be a whopping 21 minutes long.

It’s unusual that it’s being played before a Pixar movie, where original short films have become something of a tradition. A little disappointingly, this means we won’t be seeing another brand new short created by Pixar Studios this November when Coco is released – all the more reason to get excited for LOU which will be playing before Cars 3 in just 3 days in North American theatres!

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