What separates Pixar Animation Studios from the rest of mainstream animation companies, as this column has mentioned plenty of times before, is its willingness to take a risk. In many ways, they’ve been operating under a system of risk from the very beginning, before they were even an established name in the TV-commercial business. The first major risk they overcame was the very acceptance by the public of computer animation being utilized for a feature film; in the intervening time, the biggest risks they overcame were story-based, as they pinned their hopes on movies about robots who don’t speak a discernible human language, a rat who wants to cook, and more. But in recent years, the risks they’ve run up against are, in some respects, of their own doing. To wit: how risky is it for Pixar to invest more heavily in the future on sequels than on new original films? Does the studio stand to lose its respect among the public by reviving old characters instead of creating new ones?
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.
We are so excited to feature this new piece of art from Disney animator Benson Shum. Shum was hired at Disney to work on Wreck-It Ralph and then Frozen. He currently spends his time working on the upcoming Big Hero 6 (November 2014). When asked about getting started in the animation business, Shum said he knew he wanted to be an animator since his high school days. “I applied to Capilano College’s commercial animation program, but didn’t get in the first time. I ended up getting a job and worked on my drawings after work for a year. I applied again the following year and got in!”. In retrospect, Shum said he was glad he didn’t get in on his first try. “It made me appreciative and work harder when I got in the second time.” Read more about Shum and take a close look at his artwork after the break!
Two weeks ago, Disney confirmed that The Incredibles director Brad Bird is currently writing a story for a sequel. The original superhero family adventure is one of the studio’s highest regarded films, setting expectations for a follow-up incredibly high. All of the members of the Parr family would likely return, including what may be a grown-up Jack-Jack. We are now hearing that Frozone, a fan-favorite character, is also set to return!
In the last couple weeks, Pixar Animation Studios has unveiled—or had Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger do so—a few hints as to the future of its continuing franchises. (This, of course, because even Pixar has proven unable, ever since Toy Story 2 opened in 1999, to end any of its stories definitively, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo and onward.) Earlier in the month, it was revealed that there would be a new short from the world of Cars featuring most of the original characters, including Lightning McQueen and Mater; last weekend, the newest Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, had a Monsters University short attached to its release; and the biggest news of all came last: sometime in the near future, there will be a third Cars film and a second Incredibles film.
If there is one question that is asked of Pixar more than any other, it is whether the studio allows people to visit and tour its beautiful campus. The studio is closed to the general public, as it can’t have thousands of people walking its halls every day while employees are working away on upcoming films. Still, there are fundraising events held throughout the year, which invite people to support a worthy cause and tour Pixar’s campus. The annual Cartoon Art Museum benefit is being held this May – find out more details after the break!
Last year, Pixar President Ed Catmull detailed the studio’s plans to release an original film every year, and a sequel every other, totaling up to three films every two years. Up to this point, we have seen sequels (and a prequel) for the Toy Story, Cars, and Monsters, Inc. franchises, but there has been one franchise, above all others, that has had a loud group of fans begging for a follow up – Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. Today, Disney announced two Pixar sequels that are in development, The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3.
“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.
Mondo has become the face of the movement to create limited-edition posters of films. Designing great posters requires the ability to tell a short story about what viewers can expect through a limited amount of space. Setting out to develop posters for classic films, when millions have seen them and have grown fond of them, is not as easy as it sounds, but Mondo has quite a number of talented and creative artists by its side. New limited-edition Pixar posters are coming soon, including for WALL-E and Up. Take a peek at them after the break! (UPDATE: Online sale info has been added at the end of the post!)
The question asked in the headline of this article is a ridiculous one but as we have often seen, the Internet is always prepared for situations like this. Where there is an outlandish idea, there are some creative folks waiting to provide us with a preview of what it may look like. There were no Pixar films nominated for an Academy Award this year, but what if characters in the studio’s catalog appeared in the nine films nominated for Best Picture – what would that look like? Find out after the break!