July 23, 2014

The Pixar Perspective on Formula

Toy Story 3 Colorscript - Image 4

When Pixar Animation Studios unveiled its first feature film in 1995, it represented a rebellious pushback against a formula that some people might not have been conscious of until watching Toy Story. Only then were audiences reminded that not all mainstream animation needed to have Broadway-style songs, straightforward leading characters paired with talking-animal sidekicks, or the like. When The Little Mermaid was released in November of 1989, it felt like the culmination of what Disney animation and its rivals were trying to accomplish in reviving the form for a younger generation; movies like The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail had paved the way, but didn’t approach the same qualitative cohesion as the story of Ariel and her dreams of being human. But within 6 years, its story structure, characterization, and aural composition were no longer even mildly groundbreaking. The same happened with Pixar and its films; even though Toy Story owes a great debt to the buddy comedies of the 1980s, its combination of unique visuals, childhood nostalgia, and action once felt fresh and new.

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The Pixar Perspective on The Pixar Moments in ‘Toy Story 3′

Although the series lives on in shorter form, the final 20 minutes of Toy Story 3 is something of an emotional trip through the wringer (that is, if the film works as intended to the audience). Much in the same way that the opening sequence of Up is called out as an example of Pixar working at its tear-jerking peak, almost nullifying the impact of the rest of the film, Toy Story 3 has a lengthy climax culminating in a curtain call, all of which is meant as a massive payoff to a 15-year trilogy, a firm period on a franchise that could easily be extended on the silver screen for years to come. (Rumors will, of course, abound about a potential fourth Toy Story film; let’s only hope that this never comes to fruition.)

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The Pixar Perspective on ‘Star Wars’

Up and Star Wars

The gravitational pull of the endless Star Wars franchise is inescapable in modern cinema. Though there have only been six live-action films in the series, the vast ocean of toys, theme-park attractions, animated TV series, books, and more make it impossible to avoid, even before there were rumors of a new trilogy. After the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm in the fall of 2012, the rumors became truth: within just a few years (now under 2 years), a new trilogy of Star Wars films would be unveiled, following up on the events of Return of the Jedi. Since that time, it’s been assumed that Disney wouldn’t just make new live-action films in that galaxy far, far away. Why not make more animated films, or spin-off series, and so on? For now, at least, these are rumors.

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The Pixar Perspective on Replacing Directors

The Good Dinosaur

Last week, this column pondered why, exactly, Disney and/or Pixar Animation Studios were holding back on a teaser trailer for their next film, The Good Dinosaur, which is slated to open in May of 2014. By the time the article was published early Tuesday afternoon, the rumor mill was in high churn about the film’s status. Was its director, Bob Peterson, being taken off the project? Would this explain why he wasn’t present at the Pixar presentation at last month’s D23 Expo? Did this explain his ever-changing Twitter biography? (If only that last question was a joke, but no, that’s something fans were left to ponder as Disney stayed silent.) On Friday, the rumor became news: Peterson had indeed been booted off The Good Dinosaur sometime “over the summer,” and presumably before the D23 Expo. The project is now reportedly in the hands of a mix of people, including the film’s co-director Peter Sohn (known equally well for his behind-the-scenes animation work as for voicing characters like Emile in Ratatouille), Lee Unkrich, and John Lasseter himself.

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Confirmed: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ Switches Out Director Bob Peterson

The Good Dinosaur

After the D23 Expo, speculation ran wild on what had happened to Bob Peterson, the director of The Good Dinosaur, who was nowhere to be found during Disney’s biannual show. A report emerged earlier this week which claimed he had been removed from the project, but Disney/Pixar remained mum on the subject – until now, that is. Today, it has been confirmed that Peterson was taken off the film and a group of directors have stepped in to complete the film. Find more details after the break.

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The Pixar Perspective on Making Two Films a Year

Finding Dory

Late last week, the Walt Disney Company decided to expand our knowledge of their inner workings just a little bit, specific to the future of their animation studios. Anyone who may have been concerned, for example, that Walt Disney Feature Animation would be going the way of the dodo (this writer is among them) could breathe a bit easier because of this news story. In some ways, the entire story is fairly random—why Disney chose to announce its animation slate through 2018 at the end of May 2013, we may never know—but it’s got plenty of information we can parse through. Specific to Pixar and this week’s column, the topic of concern is multiple films in one year.

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The Pixar Perspective on Adaptations


Pixar Animation Studios is the exemplar of originality in Hollywood. This is what we remind ourselves when we get frustrated that they’ve announced a sequel to Finding Nemo or a prequel to Monsters, Inc. If those sequels turn out to be more like Toy Story 2 instead of Cars 2, then good for all of us. But when we think of Pixar, we think original. They may pay homage to animated and live-action films from across the globe, of course; however, what the animators and filmmakers in Emeryville, California do has always been based on original ideas. Today, after considering a recently unearthed report, it’s time to ponder the opposite: what if Pixar did traffic in adaptations of preexisting material?

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The Pixar Perspective on Distinguishing the Backlash

Merida Disney Princess Artwork Close-Up

Everything in pop culture that we embrace goes through cycles. Something is introduced to the masses, who fall in love with it, and then, after a requisite amount of time, a backlash arises. This is different from a piece of art, whether it’s a film, TV show, or book, being analyzed and criticized from a subjective point of view. Instead, that which is initially beloved begins to wear thin on some members of its audiences even if they are the ones who changed, not the art itself. (Take, for instance, the current season of AMC’s Mad Men, which has received countless plaudits in the past but is now receiving more unfriendly reactions because it’s inherently the same show, unchanging in its sixth year.) Backlash can be vexing, but it is not uncommon. And so it makes sense that the last couple of years, for Pixar, have been full of such a negative turn.

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Lee Unkrich’s Next Film To Simply Be Titled ‘Dia de los Muertos’? (Update: No)

Dia de los Meurtos Film Concept Art

It has been over one year since Disney/Pixar announced the next film from the filmmaking team of director Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson, both of who last worked on Toy Story 3. While we were provided a basic premise, that the film would center around the holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) where people of some Latin American countries celebrate those who have died, the film remained untitled. Given that the Toy Story film was critically lauded and was the first Pixar film to pass the billion-dollar mark at the box office, we have been anxiously awaiting further details on their follow-up film. After a recent trademark filing by Disney, it seems reasonable that the title could simply be Dia de los Muertos.

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First Look: Concept Art For ‘The Good Dinosaur,’Inside The Mind’ Film, And ‘Dia de los Muertos’ Film

Dia de los Meurtos Film Concept Art

This past year has been the busiest that we have seen from Pixar, with the release of Brave, La Luna, PartySaurus Rex, Finding Nemo 3D, Monsters, Inc. 3D and the opening of Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. On New Year’s Eve, the animation studio is looking directly ahead, as a number of original films are in the works. Pixar has shared brand new concept artwork for several of its upcoming films over the next few years, which you can take a peek at after the break!

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Watch: ‘Finding Nemo 3D’ Featurette Talks Up The 3D


Finding Nemo remains one of the most visually stunning Pixar films. While it has been about 10 years since the film arrived in theaters, the underwater world still wows with its incredibly realistic water effects. The 3D re-release of the animated film is just a few weeks away, which means the marketing campaign is well underway. Disney/Pixar has released a new featurette that looks specifically at the 3D conversion. Watch it in HD after the break!

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Pixar’s ‘Día de los Muertos’ Film To Center On Family

Dia de los Muertos - Skeletons

Back at CinemaCon in late April, Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter announced a new project from Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, a “film that delves into the vibrant holiday of Día de los Muertos.” No further information was given by Lasseter on what the plot of the film would be or the nature of the characters populating the story. Lasseter is currently doing interviews with the international press for Brave, Pixar’s current film, and was asked to provide a look at the studio’s upcoming slate. New details were sparce on The Good Dinosaur (2014) and The Untitled Pixar Film That Takes You Inside The Mind (2015), but he used a key word in tandem with his description of The Untitled Día de los Muertos Film – family. Watch the interview after the break! [Read more...]

When Can We Expect To See Lee Unkrich’s ‘Día de los Muertos’ Film?

Note: This Is Not Pixar's Art For The Film

Yesterday, Pixar used the annual CinemaCon convention to announce some release date shuffling, and a title for their previously untitled dinosaur film. That would have been big news in itself, but Pixar wasn’t finished – the biggest news to come out of yesterday’s Disney presentation at the show was easily the announcement of the new film that Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich has recently started working on. The film is set around Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. When can we expect to see it in theaters? There is no definitive answer as of yet, but find out what the most likely choices are after the jump! [Read more...]

CinemaCon 2012: Pixar’s Dinosaur Film Gets A Title, New Lee Unkrich Project Announced

Back When The Film Was Untitled

Each year at CinemaCon, movie theater owners gather to get a preview of coming films from movie studios. This year, Pixar used the Disney presentation to announce the title for its previously untitled film about dinosaurs. Additionally, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who was rumored to be working on a brand new Pixar film, is now confirmed to be working on a film due in 2015 or 2016. Get a rundown on the big news after the jump! [Read more...]

Must-Have Pixar Collectibles Up For Auction

Japan Auction - Brave Hat

Ever wonder how one gets their hands on an original sketch from a Pixar artist or a signed book from a director at the studio? Of course you have! Dice Tsutsumi, Art Director of Toy Story 3, has set up an auction to benefit Japan after the catastrophic events the country faced one year ago. With 100% of the proceeds going to the Mercy Corps Japan Recovery Fund, taking a look at the auction of these rare items is a no-brainer. Check out some of the awesome collectibles after the jump! [Read more...]

Director Lee Unkrich Begins Work On Unannounced Pixar Film

Lee Unkrich flashes the '3' sign

Last month, Pixar officially unveiled two films that will be hitting theaters worldwide in 2013 and 2014, The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs and The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside The Mind. Given the lengthy amount of time it takes to conceptualize an idea and turn it into a full-blown animated film, the studio is always working on a number of projects at one point in time. We can add another one to the list, as it looks like Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich has just gotten the greenlight to begin work on his next film. [Read more...]

Video of the Day: Alternate ‘Toy Story 3′ Ending

Toy Story 3

Chris Cross Media has made some clever Pixar-related videos in the past and today they are back with one featuring an “alternate ending” to Toy Story 3. If you are one of the last people on this planet who has not seen the Lee Unkrich-directed film, there are obviously spoilers as this video picks up at the end of the film. The fun video has some humorous references to jokes from the films, along with a bizarre crossover with Back to the Future. As a huge fan of the seminal 1980s sci-fi film, I was amused. Take a look at the video here! [Read more...]

What Will Lee Unkrich Do When He Hits 100,000? [Update: We Know]

Lee Unkrich

About two years ago, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich made a promise that he would do something fun when he cracked the 5,000 follower mark on Twitter. He was certainly a man of his word, as he shared a video of himself smashing his face into a cake. The video is just one example of a long line of entertaining tweets we have gotten from the Academy Award winner over the past few years. While that happened back in 2009, it seems even further back since now he is approaching a milestone that is far, far bigger: 100,000 followers. [Read more...]

Lee Unkrich To Receive Award From USC School of Cinematic Arts

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich has collected many trophies throughout the awards season, recently winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Now, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which he attended as a student, is awarding him with the Mary Pickford Foundation Award. The award is given to distinguished alum, a status that an Academy Award more than confirms. [Read more...]

Lee Unkrich Brings Toy Story 3 Oscar Home To Pixar

Toy Story 3 Oscar Homecoming

Yesterday, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich shared many photos of his Oscar experience, tweeting from inside the Kodak Theatre and then from the Governers Ball following the Academy Awards. Today, Pixar Animation Studios held a huge party in honor of Toy Story 3‘s win for Best Animated Feature. Lee continued the barrage of pictures by sharing what is arguably the greatest of them all:

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