The unsubtle art of product placement has been present in film dating all the way back to the era of the silents. As of late, however, people have grown so tired of seeing real-life products or brand names being painfully evident that it becomes the first topic to discuss, as opposed to the plot or characters. (A recent example is Man of Steel, in which Ma Kent works at the local Sears, per her prominently displayed nametag, which she’s seen wearing at home.) Product placement by itself is not automatically a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s used subtly enough by a filmmaker to not be obnoxious; using a fake generic name for Google or a similar search engine, for example, can often be worse than seeing a character just go to Google. On the flip side, some filmmakers or actors are so blatant about the product placement that it becomes satire; you’d have to look to TV for the prominent examples, such as David Cross hawking Burger King on Arrested Development or Tina Fey on 30 Rock looking into the camera and asking for “our money” after bragging about her cool new cell phone. To take money from sponsors and using their products in your film is a delicate balance, in short; being too obvious may bother audiences.
We have grown accustomed to expecting a wealth of easter eggs in Pixar films, references to other films in its catalog. The Pizza Planet truck and A113 symbol are the most abundant, with both appearing in almost every Pixar feature film. The most challenging easter eggs tend to be those that reference upcoming films, as it is difficult to know what to look for. It is a tradition to hunt for easter eggs and one that has continued with the studio’s first television special, Toy Story of Terror. Take a look at images of the easter eggs we found after the break!
Now that Pixar’s moved itself off the 2014 release calendar, it’s quickly becoming apparent how painful that absence will be. (Necessary, clearly, and hopefully beneficial. But it’s also very painful.) The best possible evidence is to look and see what other animated movies are getting unveiled in 2014. If you’ve gone to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 since it opened a couple weeks ago (and if you haven’t, you may want to stay home, even—or especially—if you’re a fan of the far wittier original), you may have seen a peek of the future of animation, with trailers for such films as Free Birds—opening in just a few weeks—and The Nut Job. (The former is a presumably wacky story about turkeys trying to save themselves from being Thanksgiving dinner, and the latter is about a squirrel breaking into a nut store, and why are neither of those jokes?) Though there’s plenty more coming in 2014, such as The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2, what little has been displayed of what’s to come only serves to emphasize how impactful Pixar’s absence will be.
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.
During the D23 Expo last month, the Disney Store at the show debuted an exciting new Disney/Pixar line of products. The release of great new Pixar merchandise is always a welcome sight, but it was the beautiful design featured on the line that propelled the products into must-haves. I hear from my sources at the Disney Store that the products were “extremely well-received by fans” at the Expo. Those who were unable to make it to Anaheim for the Expo did not have to wait long, as the product line has been rolled out to the Disney Store online and is making its way to retail stores soon!
Trends always crop up in movie news, whether they’re based in fact or not. As such, the trend last week was cinema icons announcing their retirement. (Or, in the case of the most famous purported retiree, Jack Nicholson, sources said that he had already retired, then other sources backtracked and said the initial claim wasn’t true. Even though he’s got nothing in the pipeline. So you never know.) Specific to this column, Hayao Miyazaki, the master behind Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation studio, announced that his newest film, The Wind Rises, would be his last. Now, it’s worth noting that Miyazaki has said in the past that he’d retire, but this time, at least, he seems fairly serious about leaving behind the director’s chair. Many words will be written about Miyazaki’s influence and about the great films he’s made over the last 30 years from Princess Mononoke to My Neighbor Totoro. If he’s going to stick to his guns this time, if The Wind Rises is Miyazaki’s final directing effort, then it may be high time to wonder who will take up his mantle of making animation for everyone, not just for kids.
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.
The D23 Expo runs from Friday through Sunday, celebrating the worlds of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. As a result, there will be a host of exclusives offered at booths throughout the show floor and at the Dream Store and Disney Store. The exclusives often create an air of excitement due to their unavailability outside of the show. Their limited nature also means attendees have to make their way to their respective locations in order to ensure they do not sell out. We are excited to reveal a brand new line of Disney∙Pixar products that will make their debut at the show’s Disney Store. Find details and images after the break!
The cornerstone of the Walt Disney Company is nostalgia. Every film they make, every character they create, every world they concoct furthers the notion that looking back at your past, dreaming of a time when everyone said it was truly wondrous to be alive, well before the minor frustrations of the future took over, is the best possible way to approach life. What are Disney’s theme parks if not various ways in which to embrace youth, either your own or the country’s? So many of their movies call to mind a vision of the “good old days,” a manufactured simulacrum that makes us wistful, wishing we’d been around at the turn of the century, say, or that we’d known as we lived our childhoods that we should cherish them appropriately. The irony is that the more technologically groundbreaking Disney films—and especially Pixar films— are, the more nostalgic they become.
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.