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Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

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Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Sky » Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:12 am

I hope this hasn't been posted already - but take a look at this article:

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http://www.slashfilm.com/did-the-french ... pixars-up/

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/shorts/above ... eyond.html


I watched the short film, and while there are differences, the similarities between Above and Beyond and Up are astounding. Just the whole tone of the short film matches the first quarter of Up perfectly, and some of the shots are pretty exact too.

I'm not saying that Pixar are definitely thieves, but it must be an amazing coincidence and the fact that both the French studio and Pixar are affiliated does make me suspicious. Whether Pete Docter came up with Carl and the balloons first, and then he saw the short film and "borrowed" that idea to get the movie started, I don't know. Pixar did a great job with Up and I'm glad that they did release it, but if they did watch the short film, does the ends justify the means? Pixar turned a student idea into something better and very touching, even if it was just the bare bones. But was it ethical to do so?

There's also the possibility of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptomnesia, though in these cases, I think that possibility is unlikely, but you never know. One would think that if you were viewing student films (which I thought Pixar had a policy against) you would make an effort NOT to copy their work.

Just off the top of my head, this also happened with Finding Nemo and Pierrot the Clownfish, as well as For the Birds and Small Fry (a CalArts student film) - http://www.cartoonbrew.com/shorts/for-t ... versy.html. A Bug's Life is more of an homage to Seven Samurai (apparently, as I haven't seen it myself), but I think that case a bit different, because John Lasseter openly credited that film.

I'm still a Pixar fan, but just try to watch the short films with an open mind. It makes for a very interesting discussion about whether Pixar are being inspired by other people's work and making them into something potentially better, or about whether it's ethical of them to do so, whether you do think they are doing that or not. Take a read of the comments in those articles, too. A lot of people raise very good points, on both sides of the fence.

So, a coincidence with ALL three, or has Pixar been inspired by other people's works to create fantastic movies?
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Buzz&Woodyforever » Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:11 am

I thought we already had a thread on this somewhere, but I can't seem to find it.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby IncredigirlVirginia » Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:49 pm

I've seen the short film, and, obviously, they are strikingly similar. Honestly, if they were "inspired", then that's okay in itself. It just would be nice if they had said "Suggested by Above and Beyond" in the credits or something. :/
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby thedriveintheatre » Sun Jul 31, 2011 12:12 pm

Wow, this is an incredible revelation, Rachel. :shock: I was aware there were influences of Fitzcarraldo and Howl's Moving Castle in Up, but none so blatant as this. On a personal note, the animated short has a much darker and depressing ending.

There's a famous code of rules used by CIA operatives during the Cold War called Moscow's Rules. One of their axioms is this:

Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.


In this case, three times would be plagiarism. Possibly.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Ding » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:20 am

Hmmm... this is definitely very interesting and raises a lot of questions. However there are a few things to be considered that aren't immediately apparent.

The big deal here is that the student short was completed in 2005, while Up was completed in 2009. The article above says:
While the short film was completed in 2006, the footage was uploaded to Daily Motion in August 2007. That was before anyone outside of Pixar even had an idea of what Up was about. If you look at this /Film posting from December 2007 (the same year), we were still speculating that Up was a Retelling of Don Quixote. It was not until January of the next year that we even saw a glimpse of concept art from the movie, and not until May 2008 until it was revealed that Up was about a man who flys away in a house using balloons.


However, that is simple not true. According to this interview with Pete Doctor and Jonas Rivera, writing and production for Up began in 2004. Which, if my math is correct, is a year before 2005. Here's an except from the interview:
Pete: Let me see, Bob Peterson started in 2004. Then we also had John McCarthy who wrote The Station Agent and more recently The Visitor, he co-directed those. And we worked with him for about three months. So, it was the three of us that wrote the script.
Jonas: There was probably three and a half years of writing.
Pete: I mean, when I say these films take five years, it's mostly the writing.


This isn't merely a vague sketch of some guy holding some balloons, as the article at the top mentioned. The actually writing and scripting had already been a full year underway by the time the student film came into existence.

This isn't just an isolated case for Up. Finding Nemo and For the Birds were both accused of taking elements from other owners, right?

1. Pierrot Le Poisson Clown was written in 1995. Too bad the idea for Nemo began at the famous lunch in '94.

2. Small Fry was created in '93. The article that rachelcakes posted clearly confirms that there was concept art done by Ralph Eggleston in the '80s.

What we have is three Pixar works which at first seem to be plagiarizing others' works. But upon closer examination, it turns out that Pixar had indeed been the original creators. I'm not ruling out the possibility that Pixar did indeed copy off those works, and I'm not saying it is a bastion of pure goodness that cannot do any wrong. I'm just pointing out a curious question: Is it more likely that an esteemed and extremely financially successful multi-billion dollar film studio ripped off some obscure starving artists and students for quick cash, or the other way around?
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Sky » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:44 am

Just because Pixar started Up in 2004, it doesn't necessarily mean that they had the idea of the house being carried away by balloons in that same year. Up has gone through significant plot development, as all of the Pixar films, so who is to say that Pixar didn't start work on the film in 2004, with the wilderness and adventure theme, but weren't inspired a year later, including the angles and everything, by a short film of which the French creators said they had ties with Pixar...

I would like to know what the book Pierrot Le Poisson Clown is about because it's hard to judge whether the stories are the same, otherwise. All we know is that both stories are about boy clownfish.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby IncredigirlVirginia » Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:26 pm

I have no idea what Small Fry or that French thing are. 8D I'm very lost.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Sky » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:27 am

If you follow the link in my post, it explains Small Fry.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby IncredigirlVirginia » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:50 pm

Oh, okay. Thanks.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby ellie-jessie-eve » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:16 am

Wow. This is like the 3rd Pixar film people have claimed have been ripped off.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby IncredigirlVirginia » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:42 pm

I remember TDIT mentioned this like, a year ago. 8D So I've seen the short film 5-6 times now.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby DarkHandOfSigourneyWeaver » Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:17 am

The clownfish flak was pretty much buried. Disney went to court with 5 lawyers or so during the lawsuit and won. This was among others discussed in a thread I started a couple of years ago here:

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4524

It was a well received thread, well not many responses, but the people who did respond were mostly Forum Moderators and they didn't just say "gee whiz, i didn't know that!". They responded substantially. It was quite a nice re-read for me!

Some of the other accusations that we've seen had more merit than the clownfish one. Odd that the French illustrator followed thru on it and it went to court. He must have really needed money or thought that somehow he could cash in...

It's hard to come up with something completely original. About 6 months before Up was released I came up with an idea for use at a Disney theme park involving someone who didn't want to move and was going to stay put. My idea from this came from a circa 1980 broadcast of the NBC Nightly News, perhaps with anchorman John Chancellor, which covered an Atlantic City, New Jersey couple who refused to sell their home to a new hotel project, which eventually enveloped them from 3 sides. The last shot of the news piece showed them quietly sitting on their front porch and as the camera zoomed out, you could see the 3 sides of the property surrounded by the newly completed hotel. An unforgettable image! and almost identical to what we see in the Pixar movie. It's not the first time something like this has happened to me, it happens in science and art all the time it seems...

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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby Sky » Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:24 pm

Yeah, I agree that with so many people, and ideas, born before us, there is bound to be someone out there that has already at least thought of your idea, as well as a few that have gone on to be created. With not so many "original" ideas left, the only option left is to recycle them into something "new" again.

So if that means that Pixar has to borrow from, or be inspired by, other works that would otherwise be left sitting somewhere undiscovered, if Pixar can change it into something that a much wider and numerous audience can get joy from, is that really a bad thing?

And it doesn't always have to be intentional either. One could fall asleep in front of the TV and listen to a commercial unknowingly, or read a book in your childhood and then come up with something very similar during adulthood, claiming it to be your own, and genuinely believing that it is. I'm sure that you could go through Pixar's catalogue and find similar works, and then go on and find similar, previous works to those works, again.
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby DarkHandOfSigourneyWeaver » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:10 am

We've had a few discussions over the past few years on this broad subject. I remember the 'Johnny Five' similarities to Wall-E and the guy who responded with a wonderful post about his experience in Shop class where they were building a moving robot and experimenting with designs over the summer. Several people came back after a while with a completed triangular tread design you see on Wall-E and the Mars Rover. "Hey, you cheated and copied my design!" No, it was 'convergent evolution' of design, the only practical way to move over the terrain without spilling over and also having a minimum of gears, same Shop class parts, etc.

And this is analogous to coming up with a story. We have similar experiences like you're saying, and these are like a limited number of elements in one of the big drawers in the Shop. I've already had a few convergent evolution story elements. Let me tell you one of them related to a Wall-E story I've been working on, and it's especially interesting since it involves making mistakes over time, forgetting, just like you talked about above:

In the BoomKids comic book there is a scene where several Wall-E's emerge from underground, a pipe, a box, etc.. Now when I first glanced at this, I refused to read it cuz I was working on a Wall-E movie and didn't want to be unduly influenced by this prequel comic. So I didn't see clearly what was going on, just glanced at the scene. My mind oddly remembered seeing a sandstorm blow up and Wall-E survived, struggling back to the truck. He woke up the next day with nearly all empty compartments in the rotating sleeper rack thingee. It was a very sad moment. He went out and dejectedly surveyed the ruined landscape, puttering about, realizing he was nearly alone now. He returned to the area where they had last been together, before the sandstorm. Suddenly several of the Wall-E's emerged from culverts, pipes, crates, maybe a refrigerator. It was a joyous moment. He wasn't so alone anymore, at least for a while longer, till they broke down. But this isn't how it actually happened! When I finally read the comic book this summer, at a point where my own Wall-E story was mostly done, they were actually playing hide-and-seek, which was a fun moment to be sure. Still, I like the way my mind played a trick on me and concocted a different story, which could be better than the BoomKids one. So I decided to use my own faulty memory recollection in my own emerging screenplay.

Not only are memories faulty over time, our brains try very hard to fill in the blanks of what we see, if it's important to do so. You really don't want this to happen at your murder trial, witnesses concocting all sorts of baloney: "he raised his magic wand and a terrific sandstorm came up and killed my level 17 robot, a part of our family, your honor, and worse, ruined our picnic". "Sure sounds guilty to me, however implausible, 20 years"
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Re: Did Pixar rip-off "Above and Beyond" student film?

Postby lennonluvr9 » Sat Nov 05, 2011 1:47 pm

Interesting, to say the least. Its hard to say whether or not the idea was 'borrowed' and if so, how much. I dont think Pixar resorts to plagiarism though. Its not always cut and dry like it is if someone copies someone else's writing. And like its been said, its hard to come up with something that hasnt already been thought of or influenced by someone else. Those shots are very similar though.
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