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

D23, Pete Docter, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • July 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Coco to premiere at Mexico’s Morelia International Film Festival

Coco, Poster

Posted by Joanna • July 6, 2017

Very fittingly, Coco is set to have its world-premiere at Mexico’s Morelia International Film Festival on October 20th, over a month before the US release date.

The Morelia Film Festival’s Twitter announced the news yesterday, posting a video of Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina (directors), and Darla Anderson (producer) expressing their delight in having Coco featured as an opening night movie at this festival’s 15th anniversary.

Adrian Molina describes Coco as:

“the first Pixar movie inspired by the lovely people, the beautiful traditions, and the culture of Mexico, so we are honoured to have the opportunity to launch it there first.”

A new poster has been produced for the festival, and it’s beautiful – it has the same bright colours as the logo, but some familiar characters and objects can be seen in amongst the brush strokes forming the iconic skull representing Día de los Muertos. Mama Coco takes centre stage, and the skull’s teeth seem to be formed by the bridge between the land of the dead and the land of the living that we saw in the latest trailer.

Here’s hoping Coco helps in making Morelia’s 15th film festival its best yet!

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

Brave, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • June 22, 2017

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

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

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

© Steve Pilcher

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

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

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

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Pixar Launches New Experimental Shorts Department

30 Years of Pixar, Behind The Scenes, Luxo, Jr., Short Film, SIGGRAPH, Smash and Grab, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B

Posted by Nia • May 28, 2017

It was recently revealed that in August, Pixar will be hosting a panel at SIGGRAPH titled, “Smash and Grab: Off-The-Rails Filmmaking at Pixar.” The summary of the panel gave us some insight into what some of the talented folks have been up to in between projects at the studio:

“Pixar launched an internal, experimental storytelling initiative to create short films without executive oversight, to explore new creative visions and increase studio opportunities. This talk shares Pixar’s six-month journey of creating seven-minute shorts, with limited resources, amidst the backdrop of a busy studio, juggling multiple feature productions.”

Cartoon Brew reported the first film produced through this new division is aptly titled Smash and Grab, and will be directed by Brian Larsen. Larsen himself has plenty of experience at Pixar in the story trenches – serving as Story Supervisor on Brave and Head of Story on Piper, just to name a few.

Pixar’s first few short films, The Adventures of André and Wally B and Luxo JR., initially put the studio on the map and showcased what was to come with technology driving animation. The fact that the studio is continuing to push the boundaries of storytelling with their famed short films, and finding time to make new projects with an already grueling film schedule is quite impressive and inspiring.

We can’t wait to find out more about Smash and Grab, and their new shorts unit.

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Pixar President Jim Morris Gives Insight Into The Studio’s Creative Process

2D Animation, 30 Years of Pixar, Animation, Behind The Scenes, Ed Catmull, Interview, Jim Morris, The Good Dinosaur

Posted by Nia • February 9, 2016

Courtesy of Time Out: Hong Kong and Disney/Pixar.

Jim Morris has been president of Pixar Animation Studios since 2005. He came to Pixar after working for a lengthy period at Lucas Digital. While at LucasFilm, he helped make a slew of films including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars; just to name a few. During a recent interview with Time Out: Hong Kong, Morris gave readers a little glimpse behind the scenes of Pixar and what it takes to create the animated films the studio is most famous for.

One of the main discussion points during the interview was the fact that Pixar, for the first time in the studio’s history, was able to release two feature length films in 2015. According to Morris, Pixar’s original plan was to have at least one original film every other year, followed by a sequel every other year.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge this year. We’re actually finishing films every eight months. We have enough production capability, but unfortunately that is not the issue! The issue is having the stories developed to the right point so we have enough content to make the films. That is the tricky part. It’s worked out fine so far. It does make a crunch with publicity; everyone gets spread a bit thin. But we’re feeling okay, we’re not at the point of regret, yet!”

The most important aspect behind every Pixar film is undoubtedly the story. Each Pixar film has been able to stand alone because of the unique characters that come along with the blend of animation and technology. In the scheme of storytelling at Pixar, the first step to launching a thousand feels is the emotional core behind each story.

“Usually the first thing that comes is an idea that engages the director. I would say there is some emotional core that motivates them to want to tell a story, and later we can infer a theme from that. Inside Out is an easy one to talk about – [director] Pete Docter was wondering why his daughter had changed. It started out as that core idea, but it evolved. It went through so many iterations. After we have that starting point, the characters get forged from that, and then more about the setting and the world gets forged from that.”

Storytelling aside, actually getting the film up on it’s feet after the initial concept is approved is tough enough. Most of the hours put into a film at Pixar exceed Walt Disney’s standards for his classic, 2-D animated films.

“Something most people don’t realize about our films actually is that, even though the computers are doing the animation, our average film takes 20,000 person-weeks to make. And that is probably a little bit more than most traditional, hand-drawn Disney films took. The amount of labour it takes to make a film like this is huge – the textures and scenes are painted by hand. Our joke used to be that we are where high-tech and low-life collide.”

There has been some criticism towards Pixar for it’s lack of women directors. Brenda Chapman has been the only female director to take the helm of a feature film for 2012’s Brave, but due to creative differences she was replaced by Mark Andrews halfway through production. Morris brought up that Pixar is indeed trying to fix this problem and make the company more diverse in regards to more opportunities for female storytellers.

“One thing we’re trying to do is to expand the roster of directors. We’re trying to build the next generation and make the company more diverse, to get a breadth of voices to tell a range of stories. We’re 37 percent female at the moment, and we’d like to be 50 percent. We don’t have a lot of turnover at Pixar though, which makes that somewhat challenging!”

Before concluding the interview, Morris was able to dish that there is some NEW original content in the works for a series of films on top of the already scheduled (and very anticipated) studio line-up.

“We have a bunch of confirmed titles. There’s Finding Dory later this year. We’re working on The Incredibles 2Cars 3 and Toy Story 4. Dan Scanlon, who did Monsters University is working on an original film. Mark Andrews, who directed Brave, is working on one, too. We have a new director called Brian Phee, who is working on a new movie, and we have a few shorts that are in the works. I can’t say much more than that or I’ll get in trouble!”

It’s certainly strange thinking that far into the future about films at Pixar, but exciting to know there is some awesome content brewing at the studio and a new director in the loop. Be sure to check out the rest of the interview with Jim Morris over at Time Out!

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