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Review: The Bittersweet Brilliance of Toy Story 4

Josh Cooley, Review, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • June 21, 2019

 

Why did Toy Story 4 have to get made? It’s a question that director Josh Cooley asked himself. His answer was that every ending has a beginning. Just because the toys’ journey with Andy was over didn’t mean their journey with Bonnie was. In the nine years that have passed between the third and fourth films, there have been three Toy Story Toons and two TV specials. Life size Lego figures of Woody and Buzz stand beside the reception desk at Pixar. As Toy Story 4 producer Mark Nielson put it, those guys are in the fabric of the studio. How could this movie not get made?!

Toy Story will mark its 25th anniversary next year. For some of the animators on Toy Story 4, the 1995 film is the first they ever saw. I can’t imagine the joy and thrill of being able to animate characters that you spent your childhood with. And not only that, but you get to work on new characters for this world, who may end up being just as iconic and beloved as the original ones.

Those original characters, our old pals, are happily being played with by Bonnie. All except one. Woody, who once enjoyed the vaunted position of the favorite toy, and by default, leader of the rest, is now none of those things. He gets tossed in the closet with toys Bonnie has outgrown and no longer plays with. It’s a dull and lonely existence, but Woody still firmly believes in his purpose to be there unconditionally for his kid. That’s why he stows himself away in Bonnie’s backpack on the first day of kindergarten. He’s not supposed to. Toys aren’t allowed. But Bonnie is having such a tough time facing this newest adventure that Woody just can’t let her do it alone.

So when Bonnie makes a toy out of a spork and names him Forky (Tony Hale), Woody is actually privy to a very special moment. Bonnie loves her little oddball creation immediately. The way she looks at Forky, that love she has for him that he doesn’t even understand or want to reciprocate, are things Woody no longer enjoys. And that’s why he’ll do anything to keep Bonnie from losing Forky.

 

Bonnie does lose Forky quite a bit while on a road trip with her parents and all the other toys – she just doesn’t know it because of Woody’s singleminded pursuit of him. Forky runs longingly to any trash receptacle he can find. “Trash! Trash! Trash!” is his gleeful refrain. He makes his final escape out of the window of the RV, triumphantly yelling, “I’M LITTER!” Yes, it’s just as glorious as it sounds. 

Forky doesn’t get far before Woody finds him, and a heart-to-heart chat about what it means to be loved by a kid convinces Forky to return to Bonnie.

But Woody and Forky have to take a couple of detours before either of them can go back.

The first of these detours takes place in Second Chance Antiques, where a familiar lamp sits in the window. Bo Peep’s lamp. Woody’s love that went away all those years ago isn’t inside the shop, which Woody and Forky find out for themselves when they go looking for her. They meet the unsettling Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) instead, a pretty little doll in a prim dress, and her horde of even more unsettling ventriloquist dummy henchmen. These guys inspire so much terror – the way they move is the worst. People are going to have nightmares and it’s Pixar’s fault.

Woody does eventually find Bo Peep after that frightening horror movie ordeal, and their reunion is awash in sunlight. When we talk about the most meaningful, inspired, symbolic Pixar movie scenes, this is going to be one of them. It’s just a brief interlude where neither of them speak because a child is playing with them, and that’s the beauty of it.

 

Though it’s been 20 whole years since we last saw Bo Peep, though her presence in this series was so slight even before she was written out of Toy Story 3, her inclusion in Toy Story 4 just feels right. It’s the most natural thing in the world. For Cooley, story supervisor Valerie LaPointe and others, this porcelain shepherdess was the reason they wanted to make the film. I predicted that Bo would be so much more significant, but even I couldn’t have guessed just how much! Again I ask, how could this movie not get made?

In addition to reintroducing Bo Peep, the film achieves yet another marvelous feat with its introduction of distinct and lovable new toys. Forky is joined by Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and Ducky and Bunny (Keegan Micheal Key and Jordan Peele). (For anyone who’s seen Peele’s Us, the fact that he’s playing a rabbit in a carnival toy game is eerie and awesome). While it’s a little disappointing that the new toys get more screentime over the older ones, that ultimately served the story best. (This is why we need more Toy Story toons). And then there’s Gabby Gabby. I was so prepared to hate her, but something kept telling me I would be proven wrong. I’m glad I was. Gabby isn’t what she appears to be. There’s always a certain value in stories where the villains aren’t what we expect at all.

Reeves and the comedy duo of Key and Peele are so fantastic that I would love to hear them again in another Pixar feature or a future Toy Story toon! Tony Hale had so much fun recording, that even if I hadn’t seen the footage of him in the booth, it wouldn’t matter; his enjoyment is palpable. Christina Hendricks also does memorable, heartbreaking, versatile work as Gabby. I’d be remiss not to praise yet another cast member in their Pixar debut, Ally Maki, as the impossibly adorable Giggle McDimples. That giggle and voice of hers are so infectious! The veterans, namely Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, and Tim Allen, are still at the top of their game.

Toy Story 4‘s other big feat concerns the plot. There’s so much of it, but it doesn’t once overwhelm the characters or feel unwieldy. Without its precise pacing, the film would suffer, it would just be a lot of noise. With Randy Newman’s subtle updates to his iconic score and the newer pieces, Toy Story 4 feels a lot like home; it’s a comforting nod to the past that is still looking forward. The nostalgia is potent but not overdone.

And it’s unbelievably hilarious too. I can’t remember the last time I heard so much raucous outbreak of laughter in a packed theater before. This movie is much wackier than the three that came before, but it’s just as beautiful, unforgettable, and devastating too. It might actually be the most heartbreaking of them all.

I simply can’t wait to watch it again.

Toy Story 4 is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Our favorite things from the Incredibles 2 home release

Blu-Ray, Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Pixar Employees, Review

Posted by Simoa • November 19, 2018

How many times did you see Incredibles 2 in theaters? But maybe the more important question is how many times do you plan on watching it now that it’s been released on digital and Blu ray? You can watch the movie again (or for the very first time!) in the comfort of your own home, or anywhere else with your laptops, iphones, and other devices. But the really amazing thing is that you don’t have just the movie at your fingertips, but a wealth of bonus features. As is the case with Pixar home releases, you can expect both quality and quantity.

 

Joanna and I were so excited about the special features that we teamed up for this post to break them all down. Read on for our favorites!

Audio Commentary

Here, Joanna found some pretty cool highlights:

I’m always a fan of the Pixar audio commentaries, and I remember especially loving it on the original The Incredibles DVD because you had the choice to listen to either the director’s commentary or the animator commentary. The animator commentary makes you see the movie in a whole new light, and it really gives you an insight into how the whole animation process works. It feels like such a treat to have the commentary on Incredibles 2 led by animators again (supervising animators Dave Mullins, Alan Barillaro, and Tony Fucile, and animation second unit and crowds supervisor, and also the voice of Kari, Bret Parker). These animators all worked on The Incredibles back in 2004, and it was so interesting to hear about the technological advances and how much has changed (for the better!) in how animated movies are created.

There are also some great Easter Egg reveals in the commentary – the Godzilla-like creature shown on the TV during the motel dinner scene is actually Jonesy the iguana from “Toy Story of Terror!” And the ‘num-num cookies’ that Jack-Jack will do anything for are based off of the apparently delicious cookies that are served in the Pixar cafeteria.

If you missed Kari the babysitter in Incredibles 2, then you’ll want to keep listening right to the end – in what can only be described as the perfect finale to the commentary, Bret Parker brings her back to life as the credits roll down the screen.

Strong Coffee: A Lesson in Animation with Brad Bird

Brad Bird’s passion for animation is irresistible. Running about 20 minutes long, “Strong Coffee” is a tribute to the director. Joanna says that this featurette really shows how much Brad Bird pushes the team. She always thought The Incredibles was a leap forward for Pixar – there was such a noticeable improvement in human animation, facial expressions, gestures, and performances. Incredibles 2 feels like Pixar have bounded forwards again.

In Simoa’s view, “Strong Coffee” functions as a mini documentary, where the subjects are Brad and animation. The director discusses his beginnings at Disney Animation, where he was mentored by the legendary Milt Kahl when he was still a child. (And that mentorship preceded any official program offered by Disney). Fans of Kahl will also be delighted to see some footage of him, as well as Brad’s fond reminisces of his mentor and Disney’s other elite animators, known as the Nine Old Men, who continue to influence him today.

 

Here is a young Brad Bird, looking exactly the same as he does now, with Classic Hollywood and Disney Legend, Fred MacMurray. Unfortunately we don’t have any more details on this photo, but we’re glad it exists!

Paths to Pixar: Everyday Heroes

Love hearing Pixarians describe their jobs and the challenges and joys of each film? Paths to Pixar gives viewers just that, but the director, producer, artists, technicians, and animators talk about another job they do at home that’s just as inspiring and challenging: parenting. You may be surprised by this featurette, as some of these Pixarians reveal their vulnerabilities and uncertainties when it comes to both jobs. I think parents and aspiring parents will appreciate this featurette because it’s so honest. Anyone with children of their own can relate to the struggles depicted here, the overwhelming love of family, and the determination, particularly of the women, to be working mothers who don’t have to sacrifice family or work.

Super Scene Breakdowns

With Elastigirl front and center in Incredibles 2, it’s only fitting that one of the bonus features focused on her. A team of women, including producer Nicole Paradis Grindle, animators Amanda Wagner and Jessica Torres, and tailoring lead Fran Kalal were on hand to discuss her expanded role. But that’s not all! They also provided insight into their own roles on the film and how excited they were for her to be in the spotlight.

 

“Racoon Fight” was of course about the film’s scene stealer, Jack-Jack, and how that epic fight came to be. Here, Brad Bird is joined by producer John Walker, story artist Pete Sohn, animator Kevin O’Hara, and layout artist Mike Leonard. This scene was so popular back when Teddy Newton pitched the idea for the first film, and Brad was adamant that it be in the sequel.

Getting to learn about the behind the scenes is always a treat, because everyone’s passion and enthusiasm is tangible, and the details are fascinating.

Easter Eggs

Joanna’s a pro at finding these!

On the UK Blu-ray for Incredibles 2, one of the bonus features listed on the case is simply ‘Easter Eggs’, and I think I may have found them. In the Bonus Features section, while you’re hovering over Bao, press up twice, and you’ll be shown a couple of animation outtakes. One shows Evelyn stroking a teddy bear (?!) while watching Bob and hypnotised-Helen fight. And the other shows Evelyn talking to Helen through the glass of the cold room, pausing to rub off the condensation her breath has made.

If you press right twice while hovering over Bao, you’re shown a hilarious clip of Brad Bird telling a story about the inspiration for the iconic raccoon scene – Brad’s dog had a scary encounter with a raccoon at his old house, and Brad was forced to (in Brad’s words) punt the raccoon off of his beloved pet.

“The raccoon flew maybe 5 feet or something, landed and then just CUSSED ME OUT. And then it was like, ‘I’M COMIN’ BACK FOR YOU, POODLE. THIS ISN’T OVER.’”

It’s absolutely worth a watch just to see Brad’s impeccable impersonations of his dog and the raccoon. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded Brad adding ‘Raccoon’ to his list of voice acting roles in Incredibles 2.

Heroes and Villains

Once again, I’m just blown away by the amount of attention and detail that characterizes Pixar’s approach to filmmaking. So much about these bonus features is illuminating. I guarantee everyone will learn something new and come away with even more appreciation for the film itself. For example, character and costume designer Deanna Marsigliese based one of the wannabe supers, Brick, on herself.

See the clip below detailing Winston Deavor’s design and personality.

Deleted Scenes

A total of ten scenes ultimately didn’t make the cut, but they would’ve been great additions to the film! Thankfully they are included here, and what I wouldn’t give to see them as actual fully animated shorts! But the storyboard versions are really appealing. Fans who were hoping for more screentime of Frozone’s wife Honey may be disappointed by “Frozone and Honey,” since it rehashes the supersuit gag from the first film. Brad Bird’s favorite of these is “Kari Revisited,” which you can watch below.

This is yet another gem to be added to your collection, if you love Pixar and love moviemaking.

Have you had a chance to watch any of these and the other bonus features? Let us know your favorites!

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Incredibles 2 Film Review: Supers Are Definitely Back in the Spotlight

Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Review, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • June 11, 2018

A lot has changed since The Incredibles was released in cinemas way back in November 2004. First of all, like so many others my age, I’ve basically grown up within that time frame; graduating high school, surviving college, and taking the biggest risk of my life as I stuffed my car to the brim with everything I owned and moved across the country to fulfill my dreams, crossing my fingers and toes I was making the right decision. Obviously a lot has changed in the film industry too, and yes, I’m talking about the elephant in the room: the Box Office monster that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have literally been hundreds, no, millions of superhero movies made in the last 14 years. So much that I’ve stopped shouting, “ANOTHER ONE?” whenever I see a trailer or hear rumors about the next Thor VS. Iron Man installment; instead I just sit there, defeated, and accept the fact these movies are just never going to end.

©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Despite all that, the Incredibles 2 somehow still seems refreshing. Seeing Bob, Helen, Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack on screen again felt like I was reuniting with my long-lost relatives; the ones I saw only once when I was a kid but always somehow managed to keep in touch with throughout the years. The same relatives I never thought I’d see again but we miraculously found a way to coordinate a date where everyone was available. And even though the reunion was only for a few hours, the reminiscing was unforgettable and even more memories were made together.

Brad Bird takes the helm again as both writer and director of the Incredibles 2. Most of the original cast returns, Craig T. Nelson as Bob, Holly Hunter as Helen, Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone, etc., save for Spencer Fox, who voiced Dash in the original, and Bud Luckey. Unfortunately Bud Luckey passed away earlier this year, so Jonathan Banks stepped in to voice the iconic Rick Dicker.

The sequel starts right where the first one left off, with the Underminer bursting through the concrete parking lot on his massive mining machine, threatening the innocent people of Metroville. C’mon, you didn’t think they’d let the Underminer not get at least a few more minutes on screen? Despite some hiccups during the opening sequence, like the family fighting over who gets to actually save the day and who’s stuck babysitting Jack-Jack, they barely manage to stop the Underminer from destroying the city center. Frozone even pops in at the last minute to help out. The Parr’s barely have time to celebrate their first real success as a superhero family before they’re apprehended by the police and thrown into an interrogation room. It turns out the world isn’t ready to have supers helping them again and they bring up a good point: if the Parr’s never helped in the first place, there’d be less damage to clean up and the officers could follow protocol to get things back to normal. Who knew everything the Underminer stole was insured?

The family has no home to return to, since it was destroyed at the end of the first film, and they’re soon relocated to a modest hotel with the help of their old pal Rick Dicker. But they can only stay in the hotel for two weeks; Dicker’s Super Relocation Program is shutting down, so it was the least he could do for the family before he’s forced into retirement. Once the two weeks are up, the family will be on their own, which means one of them is going to have to get a job in the real world again to support their family. Bob shudders at the thought of returning to a cramped desk, we all know how well that turned out in the last film, but Helen is quick to offer her help and seems eager at doing something more with her life. Bob dismisses Helen’s offer and as the couple fight over who’s turn it is to support the children, they’re interrupted by Frozone, who slithers into the scene from the shadows. He gives them a business card from tycoon and superhero enthusiast Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and tells them to suit-up; Deavor wants to chat with the trio at his headquarters. Could this be another reconnaissance mission? Or a top secret assignment that’s only worthy of a superhero? Bob nearly rips his shirt off in excitement, but Helen backs away, cautious after literally being thrown in jail that same day.

Despite the mixed feelings, they all head to Deavor’s gorgeous high-rise building downtown. He greets them like old friends, showering them with praise and nostalgia as he explains his history with superheroes and how much their legacy means to his family. We’re even introduced to Winston’s sister, Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Catherine Keener), as she stumbles through the doors of his office, nearly dropping all of her paperwork and blueprints and other mysterious documents. Winston is the face of the company, the businessman, while his sister is the one who designs everything behind the scenes. Winston then gives a presentation to the trio, detailing how they want superheroes legal again. But how are they going to achieve this goal? With the help of Helen AKA Elastigirl, obviously. Of course Bob is flabbergasted – he’s Mr. Incredible, the strongest and “manliest” superhero in that room, it should be him bringing superheroes back into the spotlight. But he also causes the most damage, which is the laws biggest complaint against supers. Elastigirl, on the other hand, is sleek and tidy; Evelyn’s research even proves Elastigirl’s damage numbers are way less than Bob’s.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

When Helen finally accepts her new job, it almost seems too good to be true for the Parr family. Not only does Helen get to suit up like old times, but the Parr’s are quickly moved into a new gorgeous mid-century modern home, complete with fancy gadgets and waterfalls. Everyone seems to be content with where things are going and ready for the challenges ahead. Of course that all changes once Helen leaves and Bob is stuck with the children and his new role as Dad. As Helen fights crime, stopping trains from derailing and helicopters from crashing, Bob is stuck at home dealing with Violet’s pubescent rage, Dash’s ridiculous math homework, and the discovery of Jack-Jack’s new never-ending powers. The more Helen rises in popularity, garnering interviews and news specials on TV, the more Bob struggles – seething with jealously and nearly exploding due to his lack of sleep and rising stress levels. It’s not that easy for Helen though, she’s soon faced with conflicts of her own as a new villain, the Screenslaver, starts provoking her on missions. The Screenslaver is able to manipulate people from their screens – be it TV’s or glasses, and if you look into the hypnotic light for even a second then you’ll be under their spell. As the Screenslaver puts more and more people in danger through their manipulation, Helen struggles with finding out who’s behind this facade and is thrown off kilter each time they make an appearance. The more Helen’s superhero fame rises, the louder Screenslaver gets and the more elaborate their plans become.

Will Helen defeat the Screenslaver? Will supers be accepted again? And most importantly, will Bob be able to learn how to do math homework while somehow helping Violet with her boy troubles?

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I’m usually not a fan of sequels, I think they’re almost always unnecessary and only made to benefit the studio executives, forcing beloved characters into contrived situations because it’s what the public demands. The Incredibles 2 still worked and the film is a solid sequel but it’s just that, a second installment, a DLC added to the main story-line of a popular video game. Although I had a lot of fun watching the sequel I didn’t leave feeling as inspired or blown away as I did after watching the first one, and I’m actually OK with that.

I really enjoyed the fact the sequel explored more of the Parr’s family dynamics. It was great being able to see the family interact more, how they worked together at home and out in the field, how they showed their love for each other in unique ways, and even how they managed to get around their conflicts when they butted heads. Although I’m not a parent, Bob’s struggle to be a good Dad and take care of his family was still relatable; from staying up to the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out how to help Dash with his homework to going out of his way to help Violet with some personal struggles, it brought me back to my youth and my own relationship with my parents. I also enjoyed that the roles were so obviously reversed – that alone created enough conflict to carry the entire film. Helen being in the spotlight, receiving praise for her powers and abilities to save the day was a refreshing change. Her role in the sequel seems to have come at the right moment. I loved the conflict between Helen in the spotlight and Bob stuck at home, gutted that it’s not him getting all the glory. I’m glad Brad Bird decided to show that side of Bob, as it only makes him more human and empathetic. Without spoiling anything, I’d also like to say that Jack-Jack and Edna Mode steal the entire film. Edna was always my favorite, but I have a newfound respect for her after this. If Pixar announced tomorrow that there’s going to be an Incredibles 3 but it would only focus on the relationship between Jack-Jack and Edna then I wouldn’t even be mad, in fact, I’d start throwing my money at them right now. The pair deserves their own film series ASAP.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The characters and story are one thing, but the Incredibles 2 wouldn’t soar without Michael Giacchino returning to his classic score and the overall design and animation seen throughout the film. With every Pixar film, there is so much detail thrown into every single shot. Artists spend months researching and designing elements on screen so that it can look as realistic as possible by the time it’s projected in cinemas. From the immaculate mid-century modern home the Parr’s move into, the lighting in the city as Elastigirl sits on top of a roof surveying the area, the detail on every single piece of clothing that the characters wear, the animation when Bob finally succumbs to the pressures of parenthood, and all the ridiculous explosions and special effects; this film is gorgeous and stands up to Pixar’s motto: “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” I don’t even question the way a Pixar film looks on screen anymore, at this point I’m just expecting to be staring at the screen in awe, with my mouth agape at how they treat the water in the oceans, the clouds in the sky, and the dirt in the ground.

With that being said, the Incredibles 2 still had its issues, and most of it revolved around the script. The film is nearly two hours long and it definitely felt like it. The film started off with a big bang but when it got to the second act the spark started to fade away, so by the time the film was over I was almost relieved. Finally, we got there! The pacing lagged and it didn’t feel natural, in turn that made the ending feel clunky and forced; as if the outcome had to happen because Brad Bird was running out of time and needed to wrap things up. Without giving away important twists and turns in the story, I still wish the stakes were upped more in terms of how Helen was going to make supers legal again. Everything felt so easy, and besides the superhero legacy, nothing else was really at stake for Helen. If Helen failed, then what’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? Return home to Bob? The Screenslaver was an interesting villain, powerful and manipulative, but the character was flat and one dimensional. Until the face behind Screenslaver is revealed, the character only feels like they were thrown into the picture to add that random conflict for Helen. The reveal could’ve been better executed, making that realization even more gut-wrenching and maybe less predictable.

Although the Incredibles 2 was far from perfect, I still got to enjoy some heartwarming moments, great laughs, amazing action sequences that pushed animation technology to even greater places, and on top of that, I got to spend time with some of my favorite characters. Who says every movie released by Pixar has to be mind-blowing or change the animation industry? Who says every film has to be as good as the first? Why can’t it just be a solid sequel and help us escape for a few hours from the horrors of the real world? If you’re looking for that distraction, then definitely check out the Incredibles 2, which bursts into cinemas this Friday.

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Spoiler Free Review: Pixar’s Bao Is A Delicious And Heartwarming Treat

Bao, Domee Shi, Review, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Nia • April 23, 2018

Earlier this month I was one of the first audiences to watch Pixar’s new theatrical short Bao. I’ve had a lot of time to think about the film since then, and I’m still 100% certain it might be one of my favorite shorts to come from the studio.

Bao is directed by Domee Shi and she just so happens to be the first female to direct a short film at Pixar. Although that fact alone is unnerving, considering the studio has been around for 30+ years and their Brain Trust has been notoriously male dominated; it’s inspiring to see the studio finally moving forward and giving others the opportunity to tell their stories.

Domee was born in China and raised in Toronto, which heavily influenced the setting and aesthetics for Bao. Domee is only 28-years-old and landed a Job at Pixar after graduating from college in 2011. Before her directorial debut, Domee was a story artist and had worked on The Good Dinosaur and most recently Inside Out.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Bao’s initial story started over 4 years ago – while working on Inside Out Domee was feeling that itch to make something herself, a film that was ultimately weird and uniquely hers. Domee had initially intended for the short to be her weekend gig, but when Pixar had an open call for short pitches, she decided to throw her story into the mix and see what would happen.

She first pitched it to Pete Docter, the director of Inside Out, Up, and Monsters Inc., to get his feedback. He was so passionate about the story and enthusiastic about her idea that she decided to pitch it to the studio. And obviously through their support and feedback Bao was green-lit as their next theatrical short.

Bao tells the story of a Chinese mother who’s dealing with an all too familiar feeling among parents: figuring out what to do with their life after their children have grown up and moved out. The empty nest syndrome soon evaporates when the mother discovers that one of the dumpling’s she’s about to eat suddenly springs to life. She’s given another chance at parenthood as she watches her baby dumpling grow up in the world around her. As the story progresses the mother realizes that what she wished stayed precious and innocent soon matures and grows bigger and “doesn’t stay cute forever.”

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Without giving anything away, here’s what I absolutely adored about the short:

  • As with most of Pixar’s shorts, the entire film was done without any dialogue. There’s always so much that can be said with a glance or a simple touch that 10+ pages of dialogue can never achieve. There were so many precious and heartbreaking moments throughout the short between the mother and her baby dumpling that were conveyed beautifully through the animation, lighting, and overall character design. I don’t think I can even picture this film with even one line of dialogue.
  • The character designs were unique and definitely stood out from previous Pixar films. The characters depicted in the short, from the mother to some of the other human people she interacted with, had massive heads that were un-proportioned to their bodies, sort of like living breathing caricatures. While watching I sometimes wondered how these characters were able to keep balance and walk from one room to the other without tipping over. The overall design of the baby dumpling was both scrumptious and adorable, even when it got older and started growing a little scruff around its chin.
  • I loved the fact that FOOD was the star of this short. OK, baby dumpling aside, there were so many gorgeous close-ups of noodles and vegetables and delicious Chinese desserts that my mouth was watering for the duration of the short; I even had to look around to see if anyone heard my stomach grumbling. The amount of detail that went into the food was mind-blowing – there’s a scene towards the middle of the short when the mother prepares an epic feast for her and the baby dumpling and I still can’t get over the steam rising from the food as it sat on the table, waiting to be eaten.
  • I loved that we were able to be immersed in a different culture, albeit only being for 8-minutes. In Sanjay’s Super Team, the short that played in front of The Good Dinosaur back in 2015, we got a unique look into Sanjay Patel’s childhood and the Hindu traditions of his family. And the same happens in Bao as we experienced an inside look at Domee’s own relationship with her mother as she depicted the Chinese customs she was familiar with growing up.
  • Bao’s story was simple and effective; despite it focusing on Chinese characters and their culture, the messages and heavy themes depicted were universal. In Coco, the film relied on it’s story being told through Miguel and his Mexican culture, but the themes of death and importance of family heritage were both prominent and relatable to everyone all over the world. With Bao, the same can be said with the mother and her Chinese background but the themes of struggling to deal with an empty-nest and accepting your child will one day grow up could be understood by people from all walks of life. I’m not a parent, but I could relate to everything the mother went through based off when I first moved away from home.

Bao is also important to me because my family are immigrants. I was born in the United States but my Grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Greece in WWII to escape the Nazi occupation. I’ve seen similar tales told in live action, but now with the help of Bao, Coco, and Sanjay’s Super Team, it’s helping those types of stories become accepted in the world of animation. I’d love to see more unique films come from the studio moving forwards and I only hope they’re giving more opportunities to talented artists like Domee Shi and Sanjay Patel so that they can tell stories about their families and life experiences.

I really can’t wait for you to see Bao in cinemas June 15th! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about the making of Bao, complete with more story and design inspiration.

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Exclusive: Our Thoughts On The First 30 Minutes Of The Incredibles 2

Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Review, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • April 18, 2018

I had the pleasure of watching the first 30 minutes of the Incredibles 2 at Pixar Animation Studios earlier this month. I’ve dreamed about visiting Pixar since I was a wee lass, imagining what it would feel like to walk through the atrium that’s nestled snugly in Emeryville and breathe the same air as some of my favorite storytellers. Don’t worry, there’s a separate post coming about visiting the studio for the first time. But in short, I honestly never thought I’d ever get to watch a film at one of my favorite places on earth.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

I had goosebumps walking into the the screening theater in the Steve Jobs building and I might’ve (OK, I definitely) had tears in my eyes and the biggest smile on my face as the lights slowly turned off before the film. The ceiling then lit up and at first glance it looked like little fireflies were floating above us, as magical soft buzzing filled the theater. At that point I had died and gone to heaven.

Then without hesitation, the Incredibles 2 began. Tread lightly for some minor spoilers.

It’s been 14 years since we were last with the Parr family and the action started just where it left off. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as I was greeted with the familiar faces of Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack and even Frozone as they teamed up to fight against the Underminer in a stunning opening battle; it was almost like we had never parted.

I spent the night before my trip re-watching The Incredibles, so obviously the most jarring aspect for me was how stunning the characters and the world looked with the new technology. The super-suits were gorgeous and fit the characters bodies just right; their hair and facial expressions and all the visual effects were jaw-droppingly gorgeous and realistic. The action was also fast-paced and I barely had a moment to breathe as the family found unique ways to put the Underminer to a stop before he completely destroyed the city.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Though, it turns out the people of Metroville weren’t very keen on the Parr family helping to save the day. In fact the officers who apprehended the family after they thwarted the Underminer’s plans were convinced that if they had simply done nothing, there would have been less damage to the city. It’s clear the public is still not interested in supers or what they could do for the world.

Rick Dicker, who is head of the Super Relocation Program and helped the Parr’s out in The Incredibles, makes a few cameos in the first 15 minutes. Dicker shows up to help the Parr family for the last time, as his program is now disbanded. The family is left at a dingy hotel to try and figure out what to do with their lives. How are they going to move forward? It’s hard for them to accept everything at first, surely Bob and Helen aren’t going to return to their mediocre civilian lives, not after Bob left his boring job in the first film and the family got to use their powers out in the open after years of secrecy?

Cue Frozone, who appears just at the right moment. He offers a shiny beacon of hope to Helen and Bob: a business card from Winston Deavor, tycoon and superhero enthusiast, with an invitation to come meet him at his headquarters. The other catch? He wants them dressed in their old super-suits. Bob is ecstatic, and nearly bursts through the walls of the hotel to find it, but Helen is cautious after their most recent kerfuffle with the law.

We then meet Winston at his massive high-rise building (which definitely left me with my mouth hanging open). We’re also introduced to his sister, Evelyn Deavor, who makes an entrance as she stumbles through the doors of his office with heaps of paperwork. Winston is the face of the company while his sister is the one who designs everything behind the scenes; she’s the one responsible for Elastigirl’s sleek new motorcycle and a slew of other nifty high tech gadgets. #GirlPower

 

 

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Winston gives a presentation to the trio about how he wants to bring supers back into the spotlight and that Helen AKA Elastigirl is the woman for the job. It takes a lot of convincing from Bob, but Helen finally accepts. The rest of the footage from the press event showcased Helen as she was thrown into the spotlight, trying to make a living for her family while also being the new face of the superhero renaissance (complete with an impressive runaway train/chase sequence). We got a more detailed look inside the Parr’s new home, courtesy of Winston. Goodbye sad hotel, hello gorgeous mid-century modern mansion! There were also a few scenes that highlighted some of Jack-Jack’s strengths as he faced off against a new enemy.

30 minutes is obviously not a lot of time to judge a film, and despite it leaving off in a pretty safe place, who knows where the story will go or what will happen to some of the characters along the way. The first half hour set up the characters perfectly and what you think will happen for the remainder of the story. It’s still unclear what trouble Helen is going to come across in her attempt to make a good name for supers or if Winston and Evelyn are as good as they appear to be. Also, is Bob going to be able to cope with being a stay-at-home dad and take care of his family? I’m curious to see how the new villian Screenslaver, who appeared in the most recent trailer, will come into play.

There’s only one way to find out though… iron your good ol’ super-suit and fly to cinemas on June 15th! If you can’t possibly wait until then, just keep re-watching the trailer below (like me):

And make sure you come back for some more coverage from my most recent trip to Pixar!

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Review: Coco is a vibrant celebration of family, music, and Mexico

Adrian Molina, Coco, Lee Unkrich, Review

Posted by Simoa • November 22, 2017

 

Coco is the #1 movie in Mexico of all time. Besides setting unprecedented box office records, it’s also become one of the country’s most beloved films. Following the film’s premiere at the Morelia International Film Festival at the end of October and its general Mexican release on November 2nd, many expressed enormous gratitude to directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina for what they achieved. Coco was always going to be important. It’s Pixar’s first feature length film with a nonwhite protagonist, the first to portray a non-American/nonwhite culture, and is described as a love letter to Mexico. Naturally, Unkrich and his team were responsible for telling this story in the most faithful and positive way possible. He took that responsibility seriously, noting that he didn’t want the film to feel as if it was made by an outsider. Molina and the rest of the crew’s Mexican backgrounds certainly helped a great deal in that regard.

Here’s what Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition had to say about it:

Coco is the best film ever produced that truly represents our Latino values, our culture, and love of song, dance, and family. You will laugh, you will cry, and applaud loudly on seeing this wonderful film where Latinos play important roles both in front of and back of camera. See it and lets make this great film a success so that studios produce more Latino themed films and television shows.”

Steeped in the rich traditions and customs of Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos holiday, the heart of Coco beats with tremendous love and life.

12 year old Miguel Rivera (a stellar Anthony Gonzalez in his film debut) is convinced that his family is the only one in Mexico that hates music. And he’s right. It’s inconceivable, but the Riveras believe music is a curse, ever since Miguel’s great-great grandfather walked out on his wife and daughter to pursue a music career. For generations, no Rivera has ever listened to or played music — until Miguel that is. A self taught guitarist, he dreams of being like his legendary idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Mexico’s most famous and beloved singing star. But of course, he’s kept this passion a secret from his family, especially his grandmother, Abuelita (Renee Victor). As the Rivera family’s loving but formidable matriarch, Abuelita is the primary enforcer of the music ban. Miguel and no one else would dare cross her.

It was Miguel’s great-great grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach), furious over her husband’s desertion, who banned music from the Rivera household. To support herself and her daughter, Coco, she made shoes. And she passed this skill down to Coco, who in turn passed it down, until everyone in the Rivera line joined the family business. It’s clear very early on that Miguel is never going to be a shoemaker. He is finally emboldened to seize his moment (de la Cruz’s mantra) and reveal his ambition to his family, who are shocked and upset that he’s disobeyed them. But he is desperate to prove himself a real musician like his idol and perform in a talent show that’s being held on Dia de Los Muertos.

Miguel not only seizes his moment but de la Cruz’s guitar as well, on display in his mausoleum. After joyfully strumming the guitar, Miguel becomes invisible to the living, emitting a rosy orange glow, only visible to his companion, the street dog Dante, and the dead. Because it’s Dia de Los Muertos, spirits have all converged on the cemetery to reunite with their living loved ones. It’s here that he meets his family, the dead Riveras. This is not a fuzzy family reunion however. Though Miguel is awed to be in their presence, they quickly conclude that his sudden appearance to them is the reason Mama Imelda is unable to cross over to the Land of the Living; not a good thing.

Now the adventure begins, as Miguel journeys to the Land of the Dead, and learns the truth of his family history and ancestry.

This world is easily one of Pixar’s most staggering in scope and beauty. The shimmering marigold bridge that connects the two lands, the skull imagery on buildings, Ernesto de la Cruz’s grand palace and the sheer amount of vivid colors practically defy description. Color sings in the Land of the Dead, best represented in the alebrijes, animal spirit guides with bold, deep hues of red, orange, green and other dazzling colors and patterns. The most glorious of the spirit guides is Mama Imelda’s Pepita, a large and powerful winged cat who is sure to take your breath away the moment she appears onscreen.

Coco is brimming with a cast of fully realized characters, alive and not, human and not. Miguel is such a wonderful addition to Pixar’s heroes; passionate, brave, and soft hearted. The skeletons are impressive because they are animated with the same expressiveness as their living counterparts, and actually seem like real people who once lived.

One of the skeletons that Miguel befriends on his journey is the amiable and mischievous Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who’s fallen on hard times and is desperate to visit the Land of the Living. The two strike up a bargain: Hector helps Miguel meet de la Cruz, and Miguel helps him cross over. The one factor complicating things is Miguel’s limited time: if he doesn’t receive a family member’s blessing by sunrise at the end of Dia de Los Muertos, he’ll become a skeleton himself and will not be able to return home.

And now, the music! Music is embedded into this story. Although Coco is not a traditional musical, the characters do sing, and memorable tunes penned by the songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, along with co-director Molina, make this film a compelling ode to music. “Un Poco Loco,” “My Proud Corazon,” and particularly the reworking of de la Cruz’s signature “Remember Me,” sung by Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade during the end credits, are standouts. Michael Giacchino’s ethereal score is yet another to join some of his most distinct Pixar work. The score is also infused with traditional Mexican music and instrumentals. A mariachi band even plays over the Disney castle and logo at the film’s beginning.

Aside from the music and spectacular visuals, Coco‘s most striking element is its theme of cherishing our families both living and dead. Make no mistake that this film speaks (or sings) to all of us with families, all of us who have lost someone dear, and those of us who need to learn more about the people we come from, long gone and maybe even forgotten, or sadly unknown. I am reminded of something Edward James Olmos, the voice of Hector’s friend Chicharron, recently said about the film and its themes:

“People who see this movie are going to come out really moved, especially when you haven’t thought about your parents or you haven’t thought about your loved ones. You haven’t really gotten into your own family, and you been too busy living your life that you haven’t gone back to even say, ‘Thank you.’ You haven’t been even to the cemetery where they’re buried now for 30 years or 20 years or however long they’ve been away from you.”

Olmos is right. I left the theater feeling immensely moved, thinking especially of two recently departed loved ones. I wondered about those who died before I was born or before I could really know them. And I was reminded about how important it is for me to love and appreciate the family I have with me now.

I am profoundly grateful to Coco for its impact on me, and that it has become a source of pride for Mexican people. Imagine the children who will see themselves reflected in Miguel and know that they can be the heroes of their own stories, and feel proud in their brown skin. For Pixar to celebrate Mexican identities is a very beautiful thing, and I hope this means more of the same with other underrepresented communities in the future. Click here to read reviews of the film from Latino perspectives.

Coco is now playing in theaters nationwideLet it into your hearts and share it with your families this weekend.

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Review: Cars 3 Pays Homage to the Past and Looks to the Future

Brian Fee, Cars 3, Review

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

The Cars trilogy is quite unique among franchise films. The first film in 2006 chronicled Lightning McQueen’s growth from arrogant rookie to humble racer with a deeper understanding of the road. Five years later, Cars 2 shifted gears and protagonists entirely. This time Mater was thrust into the spotlight, the unlikely hero of an international spy adventure. Now Cars 3, from director Brian Fee, has centered #95 again. It echoes the first film in a beautiful, wholly distinct way.

Lightning McQueen (voiced dependably as always by Owen Wilson) is older now – a fact no one refuses to let him forget. A new generation of racers have arrived on the scene, and with their advanced training technology, begin to phase out the veterans. It’s a rapid process as these young cars replace all the older ones, baffling Lightning as he watches all his friends retire. Constantly asked if he’s considering retirement himself, his defiant refusal leads him to declare, “I decide when I’m done.” No one is pushing Lightning McQueen out of the sport he loves, not even ultra-fast Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).

Storm dominated the previews and trailers for this film. He’s less of a rival and more of a threat to Lightning. It’s as if McQueen can’t even compete with this brazen hotshot. If you compared the Lightning of the first Cars with Jackson Storm, you would find that they’re both incredibly cocky, but Jackson is more insufferable and unlikable by far. Lightning and his rival Chick Hicks (who makes an appearance in this film, voiced by Bob Peterson this time), both traded insults and boasted of their skills in Cars. Jackson Storm cuts a little deeper. For him, it’s not only about winning – it’s about pushing these older cars off the road and reminding them at every turn that they don’t belong anymore.

This is what our beloved #95 is up against. Can he master the new technology? Will he make a grand comeback? Is he finished or is he only just beginning?

A devastating crash is the turning point, forcing Lightning to retreat in seclusion to Radiator Springs and reflect on his options. He decides that retirement is still out of the question, and with some much needed encouragement from Sally (Bonnie Hunt), sets out to begin training. Lightning gets a brand new, state of the art training center, complete with the very same racing simulator that all the rookies train with. His new sponsor (say goodbye to Rusteze!) is the shrewd Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who is later revealed to be more concerned with building the McQueen brand.

His new trainer is bubbly and irrepressible Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonso), as sunny as her bright yellow paint.

Cruz is an experienced technician and trainer, eager to work with her idol, whom she dubs her senior project. (Lightning is old and never hears the end of it). Her senior project proves to be a little too impatient to use the new equipment – which results in damage to the simulator. What’s more, Sterling doubts whether Lightning can race at all. He’s prepared to just market the McQueen legacy but Lightning sets an ultimatum. He’ll train with Cruz – the old fashioned way – for the Florida 500. Whatever the outcome of that race, he still decides when he’s done.

Cars 3 is really not your typical comeback story. From the previews, it looked as if Lightning would need to adapt in order to keep up with this new crop of rookies. This is a story about learning to evolve and it offers a grounded, realistic approach to dreams, quite a mature outlook for a film series that’s been derided as mere kids stuff.

The futuristic tech, as enticing as it looks, takes a backseat to the traditional. Lightning and Cruz actually race outside as opposed to the simulator, driving on dirt and sand. This film isn’t anti-technology, but it does caution against relying on it too much. As we once learned from The Incredibles, “there’s no school like the old school.”

The old school figures prominently in Cars 3, with its frequent flashbacks to Lightning’s late mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Hearing Doc again, seeing him briefly, is one of the most emotionally fulfilling aspects of this latest installment. His spirit is truly alive in this film and his role lends added meaning to the story, as he inspires Lightning on his journey. Hud as he’s called (perhaps a reference to Newman’s 1963 film, Hud?), was once the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, the greatest ever. McQueen discovers that he’s at the same point in his career as Doc was following his career ending crash. Doc never retired of his own free will; he was forced out and told to make room for the younger cars. Lightning is determined to avoid that fate. And avoid it he does.

There is a moment in Cars 3, one so glorious, that it caused the audience at my screening to erupt into cheers and applause. I never would have thought it possible, that any film in this series could elicit such a response. For many of us fans, Pixar films are still excellent, including the less critically acclaimed. Once considered the best in American feature animation, the studio is now underestimated, because of its sequels, because Cars 2 is their unforgivable misstep, according to many. This trilogy has drawn tepid responses at best and flat out antagonistic ones at worst. But Cars 3 more than justifies its existence, and not only because of that pivotal scene.

Do not underestimate Pixar.

And do not underestimate Cars 3! A recent IndieWire feature on animator Jude Brownbill highlighted the film’s theme of female empowerment. Cruz isn’t merely there to guide Lightning to victory. She’s got a story as well, a sobering one that wakes McQueen up to how much he’s taken for granted. Making Cruz such a central character further solidifies Pixar’s commitment to bringing well rounded female characters to the screen.

Cars 3 boasts gorgeous animation and art work as well. Some might think it’s not one of Pixar’s most visually inventive films, but glossy paint jobs that gleam, rigging character models of cars so they’re just as expressive as human characters, is really no small feat. Even the designs are impressive, with little touches of human characteristics. When looking at McQueen and Storm side by side, their contrast is quite stark; the rookie is youthful and sleek, much more angular in appearance.

We’re treated to lovely scenery too, a dazzling array of color palettes, bright and warm hues, sparkling water surfaces, and thrilling action set pieces that set the heart racing.

Brian Fee delivered on his promise of making this film return to its roots. It showcases a reverence for the culture of racing and cars that was so keenly, vividly realized in the original film. Randy Newman’s score is another throwback, transporting us to this weird, wonderful universe. The complaints that the world of Cars lacks logic strike me as very odd. Character is what counts, and the filmmakers have always imbued these anthropomorphic cars with abundant appeal and personality.

Cars 3 is an unexpected film, just brimming with heart and passion. As I said, it’s really not a typical comeback story. It’s something much more inspiring.

See it in theaters this Friday!

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Review: Lou is Compassion, Lost and Found

Cars 3, Dave Mullins, Lou, Review, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

A lost and found box on the school playground looks very ordinary on the outside, but it’s teeming with life and magic within.

Like most of Pixar’s canon, Lou personifies an inanimate object, or in this case, a handful of lifeless, every day objects. All the lost toys and clothes are assembled into a playground guardian, who is otherwise invisible beneath. Lou is one day challenged by a bully who swipes the belongings of the other children. What begins as a funny battle between Lou and J.J. (the bully), evolves into a tender, moving story about compassion. Bullies hurt others because they’ve been hurt themselves. But rather than simply excuse J.J.’s behavior, Lou offers him the opportunity to give and receive compassion.

A wordless short, Lou is one of the studio’s most innovative creations. As Dave Mullins revealed at the press junket last week, the character was animated entirely by hand, with “no computer shortcuts or simulations.” The animation here is truly impressive, as Lou morphs into a variety of clever shapes and disguises.

You can catch a glimpse of Lou’s immense charm in the exclusive clip below.

See Lou with Cars 3 this Friday!

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Book review: To Pixar and Beyond

Lawrence Levy, Review, Steve Jobs, To Pixar and Beyond, Toy Story

Posted by Simoa • November 16, 2016

to-pixar-and-beyond-by-lawrence-levy-book-cover-200x3002x“Art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”

But what about business? In his new book, To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History, Lawrence Levy sheds a light on the business side of Pixar and how the studio emerged as a renowned name while he served as its Chief Financial Officer. With rich clarity and detail, Levy recounts Pixar’s humble beginnings and astronomical success, his relationship with Steve Jobs, and the practical lessons other leaders can implement to make their own companies flourish.

Pixar was never an overnight success. In fact, when Levy was recruited by Steve Jobs in 1994, success was a mere word, not a tangible outcome. For 16 years the company floundered, after Jobs’ original plans for the Pixar Computer failed. Levy was understandably reluctant to join this small company with both a complicated past and a murky future. Originally located in Point Richmond, California, even its office was dreary and unimpressive. There was nothing to suggest that this was a studio worth investing in.

And then Levy watched the first clip of Toy Story and the rest was history.

Well, not quite. Toy Story‘s impact on Levy was profound. He realized that Pixar was going to change animation. “Pixar was embarked on a lonely, courageous quest through terrain into which neither it nor anyone else had ever ventured.” While he was moved by the passion of John Lasseter and had confidence in Lasseter’s vision, as well as Ed Catmull’s, he also expressed reservations about joining them. Pixar represented too great of a business risk. There was awe inspiring vision, but nothing to ground it. When Levy did eventually sign on, he remained wary, but he also remained awed over Toy Story‘s emotional power.

The highest priority for Steve Jobs was taking the company public. This was nearly impossible since the studio’s lack of success wouldn’t attract investors. Finding investors was a grueling process. But when Pixar did secure backers, it was on the strength of its vision for computer animation. Taking such a risk proved enormously rewarding: Toy Story was the biggest film of 1995 upon its release, grossing $192 million. Pixar’s market value totaled $1.5 billion. The studio was no longer a failed Steve Jobs endeavor, but a new and striking force within the animation industry.

Even as Pixar’s success rate continued its ascent, neither Levy nor the creative team grew too comfortable. He wisely notes that success changes an individual. The goal was always to take risks with the films, and they were allowed to do just that, without executive meddling. Such was Levy and Jobs’ commitment to preserving Pixar’s creative spirit along with its financial security.

Even if the world of finances, business and stocks is alien to the reader, To Pixar and Beyond is a thoroughly engaging and fascinating read. This is attributed to Lawrence Levy’s personable and warm tone. A deep sense of humility characterizes his reflections. This book is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to learn more about Pixar’s history and the overlooked people responsible for its breakthrough success. Levy also makes a case for how necessary practicality is to a company like Pixar. Just as technology can be wedded to art, so too can business.

We are also giving away a copy of the book to three lucky readers! To enter, simply comment on this post and tell us who your favorite Toy Story character is. We will announce the winners on November 22nd, which is also the film’s 21st anniversary!

To learn more about the book and author, please visit lawrencelevy.com.

UPDATE: this giveaway is now closed.

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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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