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Pixar in 2015

Inside Out, Lava, Pete Docter, Pete Sohn, Pixar, Pixar in 2015, Sanjay Patel, Sanjay's Super Team, The Good Dinosaur, Toy Story, Toy Story 20th, Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Simoa • December 29, 2015

2015: the first year with two Pixar releases, significant especially when you consider their yearlong absence following 2013’s Monsters University. But the two feature length films – Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur – represent a lot on their own besides Pixar’s return to the silver screen.

InsideOut53a470f0039ddPixar’s short films this year were significant too. “Lava”, a tribute to the Hawaiian islands and music from director James Ford Murphy, premiered with Inside Out this summer. Though seven minutes long, it’s Pixar’s first full fledged musical. Pixar’s anthropomorphic characters have long been personified since Luxo, but no Pixar character, human or otherwise, has ever sang before! It’s almost unavoidable to compare this short to “The Blue Umbrella”, which also concerns two living objects finding love, but the love story in “Lava” is on a grander scale. The short’s subject matter is somewhat divisive, but it does provide breathtaking visuals. Can we expect more Pixar musicals? Seems likely!

“Sanjay’s Super Team” however, is unlike anything Pixar has yet produced. In the visual department, it’s a sumptuous blending of 2D and 3D with eye watering colors and excellent character designs. Still images prove to be as dazzling as the film in motion.

SANJAY'S SUPER TEAMSANJAY'S SUPER TEAM

It’s not only the gorgeous art style that makes this short film so phenomenal. This is the first time a Pixar film has featured a person of color. If “Lava” could signal more musicals, “Sanjay’s Super Team” could do the same for more diverse characters and perspectives in Pixar films. John Lasseter has said as much about broadening the studio’s canon. Most notably, director Sanjay Patel, joining Peter Sohn as the first nonwhite directors to helm Pixar features, drew on his childhood experiences to tell this story.

SANJAY'S SUPER TEAM

This is a deeply personal, heartfelt story about little Sanjay’s struggles to distance himself from his father’s customs. It also mirrors the struggles of adult Sanjay, who was initially reluctant to show something so personal, but who was convinced in the end by his father and Lasseter. The short’s seven minute run-time produces an expertly crafted narrative with glimpses of the Hindu faith. The audience may be strangers to Hinduism, but we can understand Sanjay eventual appreciation of his father’s inner world and how both father and son bond at the short’s conclusion. And for us first generation American kids, the short film is especially meaningful. “Sanjay’s Super Team” is truly a bold step in the right direction.

Click through to read the wonderful responses!

Click through to read the wonderful responses!

2015 also marks 20 years of Toy Story, the first full length Pixar creation as well as the first computer animated film. We recently asked our readers to share their memories of the film; an exercise in nostalgia. But nostalgia aside, Toy Story brims with a timeless appeal. A revolutionary success in 1995, expanding the boundaries of animation and technology, it’s as beloved today as it was twenty years ago.

Earlier this month, Toy Story at 20: To Infinity and Beyond aired on ABC. Strikingly, none of the Pixarians expected the movie to ever become as big as it did. There were constant roadblocks to success and they had to take untested leaps of faith in order to create the movie they believed in. Toy Story and Pixar are world renowned today. That both came to be because of naive risk-takers is inexpressibly inspiring.

The third installment also celebrated five years back in June. Toy Story 3 was the impeccable finale to a trilogy about a motley band of toys and the boy who loved them. Us 90s kids, particularly the ones looking ahead to college, could see ourselves in Andy. Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Rex, Hamm, Potato Head, Jessie…those were our toys. The third film was a bittersweet goodbye to childhood, but not to Woody and the gang.

June 18th was Toy Story 3‘s fifth year anniversary date. Inside Out was released in theaters the following day.

poster 3A film that ventures into the mind of a preteen girl is a tall order, especially when the filmmaker is a man. But Inside Out was borne out of Pete Docter’s desire to better understand his daughter.

The film is really framed as a struggle for parents. Joy, exuberant and star shaped, dominates Riley’s Headquarters. Her number one priority is to keep Riley happy at all times, which ultimately unravels in the wake of chaos from major life transitions. Joy’s attempts to push Sadness away not only speak to parents wishing to shield their children from pain and Sadness, but to everyone who does the same.

This is perhaps the first film, animated or otherwise, that places less importance on attaining happiness, and more on learning to embrace Sadness. It’s such a simple idea; it’s OK and even necessary to be sad. But too often we struggle in vain to never feel sad at all times.

INSIDE OUTInside Out could prove to be as revolutionary as Toy Story, if not more so. This is a remarkably inventive concept; one that further proves animated films can indeed have depth and still be entertaining. And just like the 1995 film, neither Pete Docter nor anyone else expected it to resonate as it has. Could they have known that those struggling with mental illness would be able to use the film to explain the conflicting array of their own emotions? Or that it could be used to help children identify their emotions and learn that the negative ones are beneficial too?

Imagine if your emotions cared about you. (Oh Anger, you do care!) Imagine that your emotions are these distinct personalities made up of glowing particles that help you navigate the world. Imagine you have Personality Islands that power you up, explain your passions and longings. Imagine all the bright, clever silliness of an elaborate Pixar world juxtaposed against a somber coming-of-age tale.

INSIDE OUT - Pictured: Joy. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSIDE OUT - Pictured: Joy. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Growing up is often devastating. The equilibrium of Riley’s mind gradually collapses – she loses Joy, interests, and friends. Her islands of personality literally crumble and fall away, disappearing forever into the yawning abyss of the memory dump. Suddenly Riley isn’t the same little girl anymore. What a bleak vision of adolescence. But though the process of growing up is painful, messy, and requisitely sad, the rewards are abundant. Riley’s mind does repair itself after all. Through adversity, her inner life is strengthened.

Inside Out is important for its focus on a young girl. Riley isn’t ever boxed into any wrongheaded notions of femininity or lack thereof. She’s just allowed to be a person who’s also a girl. There were skeptics when the film’s premise was announced, those who believed that a film focusing on a girl’s feelings would reinforce cliché stereotypes. But the film proved those skeptics wrong. The mundane realties of a preteen girl on the brink of leaving childhood are given weighty consideration. Mindy Kaling, providing vocal work for the fabulous Disgust, put it best: after reading the script, she tearfully told Docter and producer Jonas Rivera that making a film that says it’s OK for girls to be sad about growing up is profound.

INSIDE OUT

And it passes the Bechdel Test by placing Joy and Sadness at the center; two female characters fighting to protect a young girl. Two female characters who are both flawed, yet earnest and nurturing. The film also offers a quiet, yet resounding affirmation that girls, and everyone, but girls especially, can feel a multitude of ways. And to think this came from Pixar, the boys studio.

Inside Out is arguably Pixar’s most ambitious project since 2009’s Up, which was also directed by Pete Docter. Like Up and Docter’s other film Monsters, Inc., it achieves a seamless balance between absurdity and heartbreak. It’s really nothing short of astonishing. The technical aspects are a marvel, it being the most vast, complicated set that’s yet existed in a Pixar film. That’s to say nothing of the actual story which accomplishes a major feat. It shows us something we all know but have never seen, and it’s a fun, exciting, emotional journey.

On opening day, AMC Theaters screened a brief video in which Docter thanked audiences for watching the movie. It was such a humble, surprising gesture. The video isn’t available to watch online unfortunately, but here’s what Docter had to say:

“Movies, like the ones we make at Pixar, are made by people. And the reason we make them is to talk to folks, to share something about our own experiences of life and to pass that feeling onto others. But that doesn’t happen unless there’s someone out there to listen. I feel so lucky to make movies, and on behalf of everyone at Pixar and Disney, we want to thank you for coming to watch our work. Movies have the ability to take you to different worlds, make you laugh or cry, and remind you you’re alive. None of this would happen without you. Thank you for coming, and we hope you enjoy the film.”

This is the first time a Pixar director has done something like this, and it made Inside Out screenings all the better. Thankfully it wasn’t the last time, as Pete Sohn also introduced The Good Dinosaur to audiences when that film premiered in November.

Sohn described growing up as a child of Korean immigrants and how that helped to inform Arlo’s story. His mother’s TheGoodDinosaur5612ef11d27c8English was limited. When he went to the movies as a child with his mother, Sohn often had to whisper translations of what was happening onscreen to her. But this wasn’t the case with most animated movies. In movies like Dumbo, neither words nor translations were needed. Animation is a universal language that everyone can understand. Sohn wanted to recreate that kind of wordless beauty for this film. He wanted to show how two characters could communicate without speaking the same language and how poignant that communication could be. And in The Good Dinosaur, Spot’s inability to speak only lends more authenticity to the primal bond – and love – that he shares with Arlo.

It’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that people were expecting The Good Dinosaur to fail. Its troubled production history worried a lot of people, particularly because veteran Pixar filmmaker Bob Peterson was unceremoniously removed from the director’s chair. While fans were concerned and saddened, they were confident that a good movie could still emerge. Others were far more cynical, certain that moving the film from its original May 2014 release date to November 2015 spelled disaster. The first year without a Pixar movie? Here Pixar was failing in a very public way, and some people felt it was justified comeuppance.

The Good Dinosaur isn’t the first Pixar movie to be scrapped halfway through production and to switch directors. It’s been done twice before with stellar results (Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille). Even Brave and Cars 2 were worthy if flawed efforts. But there are those who think the film did fail, especially since its story was so simplistic, threadbare even, compared to Inside Out’s voluminous narrative.

But here’s something people don’t seem to realize: Pixar shouldn’t be expected to reinvent storytelling with every single film. Leave the ambitious flair to Inside Out; the second Pixar feature of 2015 does something quite different, even if it isn’t groundbreaking. (And in less noticeable ways, it actually is).

THE GOOD DINOSAUR

The Good Dinosaur’s premise is original. Dinosaurs never went extinct. And that’s not all. The herbivores evolved into farmers while the carnivores like T-Rex are now ranchers. The movie even turns into a western halfway through! In this delightfully bizarre setting, an uncomplicated story begins to evolve. Given the movie’s prehistoric timeline, the straightforward storytelling makes sense. The Good Dinosaur eschews glossy modern appeal to tap into something so much more earthy and primitive.

The movie isn’t primitive simply because dinosaurs still roam the earth. It’s that barrier between languages that makes it so. It isn’t wordy, which is so refreshing. Arlo and Spot start off as enemies. Pixar films are usually about the unexpected friendship between two characters and it’s a trope they pull off extremely well, because the results are different every time. But the stakes are higher in this film because of that language barrier and the harsh world that Arlo and Spot inhabit. They depend on each other for survival, but it grows into something more. Understanding begins to blossom between them in ordinary and profound ways. They become each other’s surrogate family although the world would discourage it. Even if the time and the story are unsophisticated, there are still some potent, timeless takeaways to be had.

This film is a study in brilliant contrasts; cartoony dinosaurs juxtaposed against hyper real, painterly animation; unvarnished story juxtaposed against magnificent artwork; a huge, frightening world that is tranquil and still. There are quiet moments within even as the danger threatens our timid dinosaur hero and his ferociously endearing human boy (two characters who are brilliant, surprising contrasts as well).

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And yet, for all its oddity, The Good Dinosaur is grounded in realism and emotional clarity. Nature is pristine and gorgeous, but also a formidable foe that must be reckoned with. Arlo and Spot bond over their loss of family without ever needing words.

Here’s a movie with talking dinosaurs and a wild boy that doesn’t resort to scatological humor in order to hold the attention of the youngest audience members. Here’s a movie with talking dinosaurs that’s possibly the most sensitive, tender story Pixar has told since their first film twenty years ago.

To borrow from Poppa, sometimes you gotta get through your expectations to see the beauty on the other side.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage of Pixar’s awesome year. Check back here for what’s ahead as we leave 2015!

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Happy 20th Anniversary, Toy Story!

Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Pixar, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 20th, Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4, Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Nia • November 22, 2015

In celebration of Toy Story‘s 20th anniversary, we asked our readers to tell us how important the film is to them. Here are some of the most touching responses that will make you want to re-watch the film and hold your childhood toys close. Please note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

toy story 20th

“My daughter has always been a true and dedicated fan of Toy Story, and has also gone through several bouts of chemo with Woody and Buzz comforting her.”

My daughter was 4 years old when Toy Story came to be. She had already gone through surgeries, chemo, and was starting on radiation when she was mesmerized by Woody and Buzz. My daughter has always been a true and dedicated fan of Toy Story, and has also gone through several bouts of chemo with Woody and Buzz comforting her. She turned 24 last year. In fact, when we booked a Disney Cruise in September, I asked DCL if there was anything they can do for her. Low and behold, she was treated with a private session with her two favorite characters! I’ve never seen her smile that big. – Susan and Kayla Gordon

“Toy Story has always been my favorite childhood movie, and it eventually became the film that convinced me to be an animator.”

I could write a book about how Toy Story has impacted my life. I like to joke that the day the film was released in theaters was the best day of my life. Toy Story has always been my favorite childhood movie, and it eventually became the film that convinced me to be an animator. I have very fond memories of my Toy Story toys, from playing with little Buzz and Woody figures with my older sister, to my dad dressing up one of my other Buzzes in Barbie clothes to act out the Mrs. Nesbitt scene. I’m now in my second year of art school, and the more I learn about the history of animation, the more I see how Toy Story rocked the industry. It was a groundbreaking marriage of technology and art, and the foundation of many of the films we cherish today. The production of Toy Story itself is a story of having a dream and not giving up on it, no matter how much others try to convince you that it’ll fail. This is what inspires me to pursue my own dream of making films someday.  – Allie

“Every time I watch the original Toy Story it’s like visiting an old friend, and the movie brings me back to my childhood.”

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t treat my toys as if they were real (I was three years old when the original came out). I probably owned some small toys from the movie, but the one I interacted with the most was the computer game. Generally speaking, I loved playing all the storybook computer games from the ’90s Disney movies, and Toy Story was one of my top favorites.

 

The films itself hold a special place in my heart, and though I don’t remember the first time I saw the original and its sequel, they both came out around pivotal moments of my life. The first one came out two months before my first sister was born (the first time I’d become a sibling), and the second one came out seven months before my second sister was born. And the third one came out at exactly the right time: I had just graduated from high school the day before its release, and Andy saying goodbye to his toys sadly reminded me that I’d have to do the same in the next two months as I was moving to another state, away from the friends I grew up with.

 

Every time I watch the original Toy Story it’s like visiting an old friend, and the movie brings me back to my childhood. I may have outgrown playing with the toys I used to love, but the fond memories are still there. – Keisha

“Sharing Toy Story with my Dad is one of my best memories I have with him as a child.”

I was 8. I have a lot of clear and random memories regarding the film. I went to see it in the theater with my dad and I loved it, which was surprising because as a child I was deathly afraid of toys coming to life to the point that I had vivid and chronic nightmares. Toy Story was the movie that spun it all around for me, it made me stop fearing the idea and my nightmares literally stopped.

 

I love Woody more, but for some reason I really wanted a Buzz Lightyear so badly that my dad went to three or four Burger Kings to find one of the promotional plush toys they had. We couldn’t afford the actual replica toys that came out in the stores. I’ll always remember the night he brought it to me as a surprise. Buzz and I were inseparable for months after that. Sharing Toy Story with my Dad is one of my best memories I have with him as a child. – Atta Lynne

Toy Story played a very large part in my childhood.”

It was the film I watched repeatedly when I was young. Once Toy Story 2 came out, it had become my favorite movie. Toy Story 3 was probably the biggest event of 2010 for me and I also had quite a few toys at that point. With the 4th film coming and all the shorts, Toy Story will continue to remain a big part of a life for a long time. – JKOP

“May the toys continue to embrace more kids and adults for generations to come.”

I was just a baby when the first Toy Story came out. But, I loved it when I first saw it on home video and I still love it today. I have all the movies (and the TV specials on Blu-Ray and DVD), I still have a lot of the toys (the main ones like Woody and Buzz I haven’t stored away yet), and I just love this trilogy! May the toys continue to embrace more kids and adults for generations to come! To infinity and beyond! – Josiah Mielke

“My parents decided to try and spark some interests by putting on movies for me. I’d only watch one the entire way through: Toy Story.”

It all started when I was around 11 months old. I allegedly didn’t do much, I crawled around a bit, I slept, not much else. My parents decided to try and spark some interests by putting on movies for me. I’d only watch one the entire way through: Toy Story.

 

And so, that started a very long cycle of re-watches for years and years. Because of that, Toy Story had such a big influence on me. It’s what made me want to become an animator, made me want to work for Pixar, sparked my hobby in filmmaking, heck, it’s one of the main reasons I started talking.

 

In fact, anytime I go to the Disney parks, I always try to meet the Buzz Lightyear character. Unfortunately, DLP don’t really “get” the Toy Story hype, but luckily, I have met him twice; once in 2006 and once this year, in 2015. Even this year, the ride I went on most was Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.

 

As I write this in bed, I have a giant TS3 poster looming above me, and the Toy Story characters from Disney Infinity close by. – Noah Carolan

“Toy Story and its characters are really my oldest and closest friends, and without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

What does Toy Story mean to me? Well, where do I even begin? For starters, it was the first movie I ever fell in love with. My Toy Story experience began early, like a lot of people my age. I was 13 months going on 14 months. When my dad came home with the VHS for Toy Story, I was hooked. I don’t remember this, but my mom has told me every time she popped the film in the VCR, she knew she had about an hour and a half of free time because I was just mesmerized.

 

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to sit down and re-watch the trilogy. I’d really forgotten just how amazing all of those films are. I still laughed at the jokes, even though I know them all by heart. I still cried at the end of Toy Story 3, even though I knew what was coming. I referred to the movie marathon as “catching up with old friends” on an Instagram post I made. Toy Story and its characters are really my oldest and closest friends, and without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. So, thank you to everyone who has ever worked on these films, for crafting something that people from 1 to 99 can watch and still laugh, cry, and connect with in a way not many other films can achieve. Thank you Toy Story. May you continue to inspire people for infinity and beyond. – Forster Keenoy

“20 years later, Buzz is still my favorite character and I’ve still got Disney magic in my heart.”

I’ve been a hardcore Pixar fangirl ever since I was little. I wasn’t like most Disney-loving girls my age (i.e. I favored Buzz Lightyear over Disney Princesses).

 

Every time I watched a Pixar movie I was enchanted. And all three times we went to Disney World, I went Pixar crazy. I loved riding Buzz’s Space Ranger Spin, playing Toy Story Mania, dancing in Block Party Bash, and meeting the Pixar Pals.

 

20 years later, Buzz is still my favorite character and I’ve still got Disney magic in my heart. All three Toy Story movies bring back lots of good memories. Thank you Disney and Pixar. To infinity and beyond! – Buzzfan120

Thank you to all of the storytellers at Pixar who have brought magic to our lives. Here’s to the future and the great stories to come.

With love,

Upcoming Pixar.

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Toy Story’s 20th Anniversary

Toy Story, Toy Story 20th, Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Simoa • November 14, 2015

Toy Story turns 20 on the 22nd of this month! Can you believe it’s been 20 years already? Nia and I wanted to do something special for the occasion, and we’re asking you, our readers, to help us.

Most of us were just four or five when we saw Toy Story. We might even be the same age it is now. This movie revolutionized animation in 1995 and made Pixar a household name, after years of short films and commercials. Much more than that though, Toy Story is also meaningful for those of us who grew up with it. Andy’s toys were our toys. We went on adventures with these characters. The first film led to two more, becoming the best trilogy in recent memory, and now a fourth one is on the way. Toy Story 3 turned five back in June of this year, and that too was a meaningful film for high school graduates and college students.

It seems fitting that 2015 marks 20 years of Toy Story. Inside Out was released to widespread acclaim and love this year, and we also have The Good Dinosaur to look forward to this Thanksgiving. Much has changed about Pixar and computer animation. Toy Story is 20 years old and can stand alongside those films and feel just as new. Because of this, Toy Story represents so much more than nostalgia. It’s timeless; its characters, humor, and heart are as vibrant today as they were in 1995.

What we want you, our readers to do, is to tell us all about your Toy Story memories. Did you see it in theaters? How old were you? Do you have any of the toys? What does it mean to you now? Anything at all you’d like to share is welcome. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your name before 11:59 pm est on November 21st. That means you have a week. On the 22nd, we’ll put together all your contributions and share the Toy Story love and magic.

So for everyone who has ever wondered if their toys moved when they left the room, for anyone who’s loved a toy, who still watches Toy Story as enraptured as you did so many years ago, this is for you.

To infinity and beyond!

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