The Blue Umbrella

The Blue Umbrella – The Pixar Short Of The Week

Pixar Short of the Week, Shorts, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Joanna • January 20, 2019

“The Blue Umbrella” celebrated its 5th anniversary last year. It played before Monsters University in 2013, and is one of Pixar’s most photorealistic shorts to date. It’s a simple ‘boy meets girl’ love story, except: our two love-struck characters are umbrellas, and blue and one red. Because why not?

Yes, there are plenty Pixar projects that focus on bringing inanimate objects to life. But “The Blue Umbrella” does this in a wonderfully smart and observant way. Director Saschka Unseld highlighted that this is one of the main drivers of animation – breathing life into things that are usually lifeless.

The photorealism is partly the crew deservedly showing off their skills in effects, animation, and lighting. But it’s also a deliberate choice. Unseld wanted to show the audience a real world – convincing enough that you could easily be fooled into thinking it was live-action – before bringing the city to life. One minute the viewer is staring in awe at how real it all looks; the raindrops, the wet pavements, the way the traffic lights and car lights make everything glow; and the next minute the drain pipes and mailboxes are blinking and smiling. This enhances the magic of the short hugely.

You can tell the crew went out to the streets to find as many faces in inanimate objects as they could. The faces haven’t been lazily tacked on to them. Instead, naturally placed screws, bolts and openings form facial features that you could imagine pointing out in real life. It’s fun to find patterns in everyday objects and project personalities onto them, and “The Blue Umbrella” does exactly this but in a very thoughtful, restrained way. The umbrellas, however, have simple but iconic faces composited onto them.

As with all Pixar films, a lot of creativity went into the making of “The Blue Umbrella”, and this is obvious from seeing the finished product. Even the screenplay was written like a poem and is beautiful in itself.

“And in the middle of them
is a bright blue umbrella.

He looks around and with him
we see that
it’s not only the umbrellas that are happy.

Everything in the city
that is made for rain
is cheering.

They all love the rain so much
that together
they start to sing a song.

gurgling rain pipes,
bus stop shelters…
…all together
they sing a song
to celebrate the rain.”

The city and the rain create a love song for the blue and red umbrellas. The music for the short really helps create this feeling. Composer Jon Brion incorporated steady raindrop sounds into the suite, and together with vocals by Sarah Jaffe, the piece has this immensely relaxing, heartening effect on the listener.

Pixar encourage employees from all sorts of departments to pitch short film ideas. Unseld, who started off in the cinematography department, was inspired to pitch “The Blue Umbrella” when he saw a broken umbrella laying on the side of the street. It made him feel so sad: the material sagged, the way the broken metal supports stuck out at weird angles almost resembled broken bones… Unseld stood there feeling sorry for this poor inanimate object while everyone else continued to walk by. It’s fitting that he went on to create a story that made thousands of people around the world feel so strongly for one blue umbrella.

Some fun facts about “The Blue Umbrella”:

  • At the end of the short, the couple (plus umbrellas) go to café called La Parapluie Café. Parapluie is French for umbrella!
  • Composer Jon Brion also composed the music for Paranorman, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Lady Bird.
  • Finding a way to create the umbrellas’ faces was tricky – they tried making them out of raindrops, or impressions in the cloth. In the end, a stylised face seemed the best fit.

Concept art by Harley Jessup

Read article

Pixar Snubbed at the 86th Academy Awards

Academy Awards, Monsters University, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • January 16, 2014

The Oscars have been kind to Pixar over the years – with the exception of Cars 2, all of the studio’s features have been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film since the creation of the category in 2001. As a result, it came as a huge shock when Monsters University went unmentioned during this morning’s 2014 nomination announcements. Instead, these five films were chosen for the Best Animated category:

  • The Croods
  • Despicable Me 2
  • Ernest & Celestine
  • Frozen
  • The Wind Rises

The Blue Umbrella wasn’t nominated, either; in fact, it didn’t even make the shortlist for Best Animated Short Film. The five in that category were:

  • Feral
  • Get a Horse!
  • Mr. Hublot
  • Possessions
  • Room on the Broom

Monsters U was also absent at the Golden Globes, but the Oscars’ five animated film slots made a nomination seem like a safe bet. The film was mostly well-received by critics, so the omission seems to partially be a response to the backlash when Brave took home last year’s award above strong competition. Although Frozen and The Wind Rises are clear contenders to win this time around, the lack of even a nomination for MU is puzzling.

Still, the film has earned some love elsewhere, most notably from the Annies, BAFTAs, and VES Awards. Pixarians took the miss well; director Dan Scanlon tweeted a particularly eloquent response. Ultimately, it’s oddly appropriate that Monsters University, with its messages of moving on from failure and finding new opportunities, didn’t make the cut.

For the full list of nominees, head over to the official Oscars website.

What do you think? Was Monsters University worthy of a nomination?

Read article

Woody’s News Round-Up! (11/15/13)

Awards, Behind The Scenes, Blu-Ray, Ed Catmull, Monsters University, Round-Ups, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • November 15, 2013

Now that Toy Story of Terror and the Monsters University DVD are out, it could be a while before we hear any major news on the Pixar front. Still, here are a few updates that have popped up over the last week:

Complete Pixar Blu-ray Collection: If you’ve yet to upgrade your Pixar DVD collection to Blu-ray, now is the perfect chance with this 22-disc collection that includes every Pixar feature and short to date (with the exception of Toy Story of Terror, Small Fry, and Partysaurus Rex). The one caveat: it’s only available in the UK on region B discs. If you’re still on board, order the collection now on Amazon.

Disney Releases Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella Screenplays: Each year, Disney showcases their films for award consideration on the Walt Disney Studios Awards website. Though not yet fully fleshed out, the site has been updated for 2013 with pages for Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella. Most notably, it also features screenplays for both films; check them out here and here. (The Blue Umbrella is a particularly interesting read.)

The Making of The Blue Umbrella: If that screenplay piqued your interest, Indiewire has a feature exploring the earliest steps in the creation of The Blue Umbrella, including some fascinating live-action test footage. Be sure to take a look! (via Pixar Post)

Ed Catmull Details His Experience with Pixar in Upcoming Book: There have been a handful of books detailing Pixar’s rich history over the years – The Pixar Touch and To Infinity and Beyond! come to mind – but we’ve yet to see a substantial firsthand account of the studio’s rise. Now, Pixar founder Ed Catmull is set to collaborate with Amy Wallace on a new book on his time at Pixar: Creativity, Inc. Releasing next April, the book will “provide an inside account of Pixar’s rise from a small, money-losing hardware company to a movie studio with 1,200 employees and a streak of fourteen No. 1 movies in a row that has garnered 30 Academy Awards and earned more than $7 billion worldwide.” Pre-orders are already available on Amazon.

Read article

‘The Blue Umbrella’ Soundtrack Releasing July 9 [UPDATE: Now Available]

Soundtrack, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • June 27, 2013

Somehow this slipped by: Jon Brion and Sarah Jaffe’s wonderful music for The Blue Umbrella is set to release on iTunes next month, according to Soundtrack.Net and The Blue Umbrella Facebook page.

The official description reads:

The Blue Umbrella features a score by composer Jon Brion, with vocals by singer/songwriter Sarah Jaffe (The Body Wins, Suburban Nature).

The director was listening to Jaffe’s music when he began work on the short. "There’s such an intimacy to her sound that touches you right at the core," Unseld said. "I always thought hers would be the perfect voice to make people care deeply about a love story between two umbrellas."

Brion, whose credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Punch-Drunk Love, created a score that sublimely supports the wide-ranging emotional undertones of the short.

"You can see how Saschka sees things," said Jaffe. "Everything has this life of its own. Objects in our everyday life are characters too. It’s really beautiful."

Perhaps Disney may finally put out a Pixar short film soundtrack collection if this release succeeds. Regardless, it’s certainly worth looking forward to!

The Blue Umbrella is now playing in theaters alongside Monsters University.

What did you think of the music in The Blue Umbrella?

UPDATE: Though the page still lists July 9 as the release date, iTunes now has two versions of The Blue Umbrella‘s score up for purchase; one with Sarah Jaffe’s vocals, and one without. Head over to iTunes to purchase it now!

Read article

REVIEW: ‘Monsters University’ & ‘The Blue Umbrella’

Monsters University, Review, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • June 18, 2013

Were you dying to witness the story Mike and Sulley’s college experience after watching Monsters, Inc.? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring. While it isn’t Pixar’s best work (and it doesn’t aim to be), Monsters University is a fun journey that ultimately delivers some refreshing messages.

Decades before the events of the first film, an elementary-aged Mike (Noah Johnson) discovers his dream of becoming a great scarer while on a field trip to Monsters, Inc. Cut to several years later, and Mike (voiced once again by Billy Crystal) is well on his way to achieving his goal at the prestigious Monsters University… or so he thinks. The problem is that others simply don’t see the potential in his less-than-frightening stature. Before long, he finds himself at odds with natural-born scarer Sulley (John Goodman), and the tension between the two sparks some disastrous consequences. This story makes up most of the opening half-hour, which, while amusing, focuses too heavily on monster gags and callbacks to Monsters, Inc. The heart is lacking, and Mike and Sulley’s rivalry just isn’t engaging enough to carry the first act.

Thankfully, things ramp up significantly when the duo is forced into a fraternity with rejects Don (Joel Murray), Squishy (Peter Sohn), Art (Charlie Day), and conjoined Terri (Sean Hayes) and Terry (Dave Foley). These hilarious characters rejuvenate the film in the exciting second act, which sees Mike and Sulley team up with their new allies in a series of challenges at the annual "Scare Games." Here, the duo’s partnership begins to grow believably, injecting some much-needed emotional resonance into the story. It all leads into a surprising, character-driven climax that nails every story beat.

In these final minutes, the filmmakers explore some unexpected and realist themes in a very effective way. So often movies proclaim that everything will work out if we follow our dreams, but Monsters University suggests that sometimes dreams don’t work out – and that hard work, not sheer ambition, is what ultimately counts. Director Dan Scanlon executes these ideas without being ham-fisted, cleverly intertwining them with Sulley and Mike’s budding friendship. It’s a smart lesson that justifies a seemingly unnecessary prequel.

Visually, Pixar continues to astound. MU takes an exaggerated and cartoony approach – a nice change of pace from last year’s Brave – but still remains true to the style of Monsters, Inc. Bright crowds of monsters and sweeping campus shots provide plenty of eye-candy, and the animators handle delicate story moments with expert precision. The lighting is gorgeous, as well; a lakeside moment between Mike and Sulley comes to mind.

Monsters University sets its sights on entertainment first and foremost, and it mostly succeeds. Despite some first act missteps, the film gets better and better as it goes along, eventually finding a satisfying theme at the core of its story. It doesn’t come close to the emotional heights of Inc., and it lacks the artistic ambitions of Ratatouille, WALL·E, or Up, but Monsters University is enjoyable in its own right and has some worthwhile statements to make. Besides, some more time in the monster world is never a bad thing.

The Blue Umbrella: An interesting companion to MU, The Blue Umbrella is a charming and distinct short directed by Saschka Unseld. The incredible visuals combined with Jon Brion’s fantastic music evoke a uniquely gentle, melancholy mood that’s unlike anything Pixar has done before. The basic story doesn’t quite live up to the tone it establishes, but you’ll have a smile on your face as the credits roll. (And dear Disney: Please release a soundtrack for this one!)

Seen Monsters U or The Blue Umbrella? Sound off in the comments!

Read article

Two ‘Monsters University’ Clips + ‘The Blue Umbrella’ Still!

Monsters University, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • May 28, 2013

Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella are certainly an interesting combination – one takes place in a whimsical world of colorful monsters, the other in a realistic, stormy city – but Pixar’s signature blend of humor and emotion should bring them together. If you’ve been doubting the heartfelt side of Monsters University, this new promo celebrates the swell of emotions that comes with a college acceptance letter:

Next, this extended version of a familiar Monsters U clip shows an Oozma Kappa fraternity initiation that strays a bit off-course:

If you’re avoiding spoilers, this frame from The Blue Umbrella should offer just enough of a peek at the short’s detailed setting to whet your appetite. Along with the still, The Hollywood Reporter had a chance to talk with the short’s director, Saschka Unseld; check out the interview here.

Countdown to The Blue Umbrella and Monsters University: 24 days!

Read article

Saschka Unseld Talks ‘The Blue Umbrella’ + New Concept Art!

Short Film, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • May 2, 2013

Many were taken aback by the level of visual realism in Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella when it was first revealed earlier this year; some were even fooled into thinking it was live action footage with superimposed CG faces. As director Saschka Unseld reveals in a new interview with Indiewire’s Animation Scoop, this photorealism was a very deliberate choice.

In fact, the team at Pixar even considered employing live action at one point; but, as Unseld explains, "if you start to go down that road in your head, shutting down a downtown city block with dozens of cars and extras and people with umbrellas and making it rain, and then trying to control that, you don’t want to do that." Sticking to CG opened up a whole new can of worms, though: just how do you convincingly mimic reality in a virtual space?

This is just one of the challenges touched upon in Animation Scoop’s insightful interview. As this new concept art shows, though, it was an equally important task to maintain visual clarity and bold color among the realistic detail. We’ll see if Pixar delivers when their latest short arrives with Monsters University on June 21.

Your thoughts?

Read article

Woody’s News Round-Up! (2/15/13)

Monsters University, Round-Ups, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • February 15, 2013

With Monsters University finally arriving in the foreseeable future, the flow of Pixar news is slowly beginning to ramp up once more. Here are some interesting Monsters U and Blue Umbrella stories from the past week.

Monsters University at the NY Toy Fair: Disney and Pixar went all out to show off their upcoming Monsters University merchandise at this year’s Toy Fair; in addition to exhibiting a myriad of new toys, they held a special event for the film which included a full-on marching band and guest appearances by John Goodman, Dan Scanlon, and Kori Rae. There, the speakers dropped some new tidbits about the film, such as more additions to the voice cast: Charlie Day as Art and Sean Hayes as Terri. Head over to Pixar Times for the full details.

Poster for The Blue Umbrella: Pixar’s latest short recently premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival to, as director Saschka Unseld put it, "the best audience ever." The event was followed by a poster signing; check out the gorgeous poster to the right, via Vulture.

Another Faux-University Ad for Monsters: Disney•Pixar is smartly continuing their viral ad campaign for Monsters University, which began earlier this year with a TV spot and insanely elaborate website. The Monsters University Youtube channel just posted another video with a few words from Dean Hardscrabble. It doesn’t cover much ground that the first video didn’t, but this time some actual film footage is thrown in.

Look for Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella on June 21!

Your thoughts?

Read article

‘The Blue Umbrella’ to Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival!

Short Film, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • January 22, 2013

Though most audiences expect to see the latest Pixar short in front of their newest feature, the studio has sometimes separately debuted their shorts; La Luna, for example, made a festival run in 2011 before playing alongside Brave. Similarly, it has now been announced that The Blue Umbrella will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival next month.

Accompanying the announcement is a first logo for the short, posted to the right. Director Saschka Unseld and producer Marc Greenberg will be conducting interviews at the festival, which runs from February 7 to 17. Perhaps they’ll give some more insight into the making of and inspiration behind The Blue Umbrella.

Speaking of, some new behind-the-scenes clips were just posted on the recently opened The Blue Umbrella Facebook page. Unseld promises some more interesting Facebook posts in the future, so be sure to check back often.

No exact premiere date for The Blue Umbrella has been posted; for the rest of us, though, the short will play in front of Monsters University this June.

Your thoughts?

Read article

First Clip from Pixar’s ‘The Blue Umbrella’ Short! [UPDATE: New still]

Short Film, The Blue Umbrella

Posted by Brkyo614 • January 7, 2013

After months of teases from the Rainy City Tales 332 blog, The Wall Street Journal has officially unveiled Pixar’s next short: The Blue Umbrella.

Directed by Saschka Unseld, the short’s premise is simple: "Amidst the rain in a singing city, two umbrellas – one blue, one not – eternally fall in love." The Wall Street Journal post details the deliberate push towards photorealism in the visual design. I’m not sure I dig the contrast between the simple faces and detailed surroundings, but the story seems to have charm to it; the appealing soundtrack works wonders. Watch below:

The Blue Umbrella is due out in front of Monsters University on June 21.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has provided yet another image from the short, easily my favorite so far.

Read article