Stephy Coffey does some seriously appealing character design. Lovely ladies and dashing gents fill her portfolio pages. There’s lots to like about her great work. Her conceptual work and illustrations are sure to please. Check them out for yourself at her blog. She’s really outdone herself with this all-American tribute to Pixar just in time for the 4th of July. Take a closer look at her artwork and read more about Stephy in her own words after the break!
The portfolio of Boston artist Logan Faerber is full of surprises. On one end of the spectrum there is his design work – clean, iconic graphics and elegant typography. Then there’s his beautiful illustrations full of lively brush strokes and interesting color choices. They have a surprising energy and personality you don’t initially detect in his design work. It’s rare to find someone so skilled in both disciplines. Check out his portfolio – particularly his Dribbble account – and you’ll see the versatility of this talented artist. The Monsters, Inc. piece he’s created for us definitely shows off his lively illustration side but includes nods to his design work as well. It’s a perfect marriage of his styles and we’re so grateful for his time on this. Read on for more about Logan in his own words!
In the past, this column has focused primarily on looking at the positive side of Pixar’s shorts, features, and filmmakers, which hasn’t been terribly difficult; when compared with its competition, Pixar’s films are frequently far and away the best examples of mainstream animation of the modern age, no matter the format. Pixar’s influence has been immense over the past two decades, to the point where their style has become a formula for its rivals to copy. On the flip side, however, we’ve mentioned the benefits of Pixar expanding its storytelling to cover more female characters (even though not all of their films are aggressively male-centric), as well as approaching the genre of musicals in an attempt to step away from their initial unwillingness to follow in the footsteps of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Today, it’s time again to focus on an aspect of Pixar’s character development and storytelling that is arguably lacking and has been since the beginning: the issue of race.
“Gravity’s $ucce$$ will lead to a new round of 3D films NOT conceived for 3D…” These words, from Pixar stalwart Brad Bird via Twitter last fall, are unshakably true; if we have learned anything from Hollywood over the years, it’s that they will ride a passing fad into the ground, well past its expiration date. The industry’s leaders presume that if one unique aspect represented in one popular film works, that same aspect will work in every upcoming film. Though there are various add-ons Hollywood loves to graft upon its products, such as an IMAX presentation for something that wasn’t shot in the IMAX format, the most prevalent remains 3D. There are a handful of major films, from Gravity to Avatar to Hugo, that have been aided enormously by being presented in this immersive format; however, for each Gravity, there are 10 Need for Speeds right behind, films that were post-converted to the 3D format not because they require it, but because the studios want to make a quick buck.
This month’s PixArt feature comes to us from the super-talented California artist Jackie Williams. Jackie does some fantastic character-based illustrations and designs – many of which come from the world of pop-culture. This monster of a mash-up finds Mike, Sulley and Boo as the characters from Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump. Like most of her work, it’s full of energy and personality. Make sure to check out Jackie’s websites to see more of her great work. Read on for more about her in her own words!
Pixar may have a problem with a lack of female representation among its directors, but that’s not the case with many of its female characters. The concern over the disparity of active female characters in mainstream filmmaking has grown (rightly) louder over the last couple of years; though this has been a problem in big-budget films for a very long time, it’s become truly galling because it shows a perceived lack of progressivism in a culture that is often painted as being potentially too progressive. No doubt, there is a disturbing inequality in the number of male versus female directors, writers, and producers in Hollywood. Pixar may not be perfect, but to presume, as some have, that it is similarly failing in representing strong female characters in its films is wildly inaccurate.
Think back, if you will, to May 30, 2003. Just over ten years ago, Pixar Animation Studios released Finding Nemo into theaters to widespread critical and commercial success. But, for the purposes of today’s column, we won’t be considering that film as a whole, nor will we focus on its impending sequel. No, what we’ll look at today is what was attached to the Finding Nemo prints at theaters nationwide: a teaser trailer for The Incredibles, the first Pixar film from Brad Bird. The teaser featured footage that—as is customary for such advertisements—never appeared in the finished film. (Of course, the gag at the crux of the teaser—that the former Mr. Incredible had let himself go to the point where he couldn’t fit inside his old super-suit anymore—is used to fine effect in the movie, just in a different context.) Nevertheless, this first marketing salvo for The Incredibles demonstrated in less than 2 minutes the kind of movie audiences could expect: there would be physical humor borne from character development and there would be an old-fashioned design and ethos to the world this mysterious Mr. Incredible inhabited. The rest, we’d have to wait and find out about…in nearly 18 months.
Planes is not a Pixar movie, but it badly wants to be. More to the point, the Walt Disney Company wants you to think that Planes is from Pixar. Though the Pixar Animation Studios logo does not appear in the film—and it shouldn’t, because the movie was animated by the people at DisneyToon Studios, even if the short film that inspired Planes was created by those at Pixar’s Canadian studio—there are more than enough hallmarks of Pixar’s work present within that could fool you. The first thing on screen after the Walt Disney Pictures logo is the moniker “World of Cars,” with the last word designed a la the title cards for Cars and Cars 2. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar Animation Studios, Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, and the man who’s almost singlehandedly spearheaded the Cars movement to the point where it has its own land in a theme park, co-wrote the story for Planes and is its executive producer. To cap it all off, John Ratzenberger, long known as Pixar’s good-luck charm, makes a cameo appearance. (No, he doesn’t voice the Mack truck from Cars, but a different character, even though cars exist in the world of Planes. Try not to think about it too much.)
Over the last few days, the Internet has been abuzz regarding this article, in which the author posits a so-called “Pixar Theory,” the notion that every one of Pixar’s films are connected and take place in the same, eventually apocalyptic universe. There is, unfortunately, no way for this writer to tackle that theory in any great detail without sounding like a Debbie Downer. Jon Negroni’s argument is, in essence, a Pixar fan’s attempt to out-do the conspiracy theorists on display in Room 237, the excellent 2012 documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. So we can, on the one hand, acknowledge the ballsiness of Mr. Negroni’s concept and the amount of thought and time he put into its existence, but it’s almost too easy to poke holes in the theory.
The Internet is rife with theories that have to deliberately skew or ignore certain facts, or else these arguments would knowingly fall apart. No topic is free from such needless conjecture, including the films from Pixar Animation Studios. The backlash borne from the last few films Pixar has made—up to and including their newest, Monsters University—has spawned a number of editorials and a few dreaded not-a-word “thinkpieces” trying to get to the bottom of the problem. The question at the root of the “problem,” of course, is one that can’t be answered on a grand scale, but must be given some texture: “Why are Pixar’s films not as amazing as they used to be?” Of course, this argument could be more accurately phrased as, “Why doesn’t Pixar make movies I, the writer of this editorial, like anymore?” And it’s important to be vigilant, watching for the flaws inherent in these articles.