Saturday, May 31, 2008

NYT: Disney/Pixar "a Hollywood marriage that works"

There's an excellent 4-page article up at The New York Times that deals with the positive relationship between The Walt Disney Company and Pixar since the 2006 acquisition and merger.

A variety of topics are covered in the piece, from animation outsourcing by the John Lasseter-led DisneyToon Studios to Disney CEO Bob Iger's confidence that WALL-E will be a success.

Read it here.

That's a wrap!

Pixar animator Victor Navone reminds readers of his blog that production on WALL-E officially wrapped today, with a wrap party scheduled for tomorrow*.

So congratulations to everyone at Pixar (and Disney) who supported the film, and now it's on with the show!

*If you're a regular reader of The Pixar Blog this comes as no surprise; I reported on this back in March.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Animatronic WALL-E on TV

Two words: Must watch.

Fifth WALL-E vignette

Briefly: Another short video featuring WALL-E is now up on the Disney.com homepage. This one is entitled WALL-E Meets Bouncy Balls.

(via Pixar Planet forums)

Poster for 'Presto'

Check out this poster, just released online, for Pixar's latest short film Presto, which will be shown in theatres before WALL-E.

(A higher-resolution version should be forthcoming.)

Thanks to Frederic from French language Pixar news site Buzz & Cie for the tip.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This is so funny...

Found it on the blog Ecorazzi, which features news and gossip about environmental awareness amongst celebrities and in the media.

Going off-topic here, I love Wal-Mart. Honestly, I spend about all my money there. Bought a bunch of stuff yesterday.

New cover for WALL-E soundtrack

Amazon.com today updated its product page for the WALL-E soundtrack to display the album's new cover, pictured at right. (Click to enlarge.)

This cover features more actual information about the soundtrack, as well as a more artistic look, than the previous cover, which can be seen here.

(via Upcoming Pixar)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

'Up' exhibit at Disney's California Adventure

A very exciting story here: MousePlanet is reporting today that an Up-themed exhibit has been put on display at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. The display is located in the "Character Close-Up" section of the Animation Building, as I understand it, near the WALL-E exhibit which was installed there last year.

What exactly is shown in the Up display is not yet clear, but a first real look at Carl Fredricksen, the film's lead character, or perhaps a model of the flying house, held aloft by the bunch of balloons, would not be too much of a surprise.

I, for one, would like to see more pics of Carl Fredricksen, who, it is said, will bear a striking resemblance to billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Be sure to stay tuned...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yet another WALL-E/Andrew Stanton featurette

Yahoo! Movies has posted another featurette starring WALL-E director Andrew Stanton. Although similar in some ways to the several previous featurettes we've seen, this one contains quite a bit of original behind-the-scenes footage from the making of WALL-E.

Also of note, the video, which runs for 2 minutes, 22 seconds, contains lots of shots of what appears to be Pixar's super-secret animation program Marionette in action.

Preview of Pixar's 'Presto'

The Animation World Network (AWN) has published a two-page article previewing Pixar's latest short Presto, which premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France on June 10, and will be shown in theatres before each screening of WALL-E.

(For more on Presto, see here.)

As it turns out, the film's design was heavily influenced by the style of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons of the '40s and '50s.

Food Network Challenge: Disney·Pixar Cakes

The Food Network will be airing this June a special Pixar-themed episode of the competitive cooking show Food Network Challenge. For this episode, four of America's best cake designers will be given the task of creating stunning cakes based on the characters of Pixar's films.

The competitors will choose which film to base their design on, and are allowed seven hours to make the cakes, which must meet the height requirement of 3 feet.

WALL-E receives G rating from MPAA

Briefly: Animated News points out that Pixar's WALL-E, which is scheduled to be released in theatres on June 27, has been rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

(via Upcoming Pixar)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Movie Surfers profile WALL-E, interview Andrew Stanton

The Disney Channel show Movie Surfers has a brief video interview with Andrew Stanton where he talks about the relationship between WALL-E and EVE.

Nothing groundbreaking revealed, but a fun watch nonetheless, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with WALL-E's story.

Watch it here.

(via JV Pixar News)

Animator position opens up at Pixar

Pixar is once again looking for some talent to fill an animator position at Emeryville. This is one of many new job postings listed at the pixar.com career pages over the last few days.

Pixar seems to be hiring more and more these days. Not surprising, considering all the projects that are currently in the works.

Q&A with WALL-E game producer

Metromix has a short interview with Lyle Hall of THQ's Heavy Iron Studios, who acted as executive producer of the upcoming WALL-E video game (aka WALL-E: The Video Game).

Among the topics discussed in the interview are the game's storyline and features, and the designers' reaction to meeting sound designer Ben Burtt of Star Wars fame.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WALL-E PSP game previewed

IGN.com has posted an exciting preview of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) version of the WALL-E video game, which will be released to North American stores on June 24.

The preview contains detailed descriptions of some of the game's many stages, based on the IGN team's experiences with an early test build.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jeffrey Katzenberg: 'I envy Pixar'

The headline says it all. Read the full story here (the interesting part is near the bottom of the page).

WALL-E mobile game screenshots

Check out these screenshots from the upcoming WALL-E mobile video game, which was developed by game publisher THQ.

(You may click to enlarge, the quality is not good, however.)

More shots are available here, at Pocket Gamer.

InterAction WALL-E

This new WALL-E toy, termed the 'InterAction WALL-E', is now for sale on Amazon.com. That's right: For sale, not pre-order. Apparently, the products are in stock and shipping (only three left, though).

The toy seems to be a scaled-down version of the highly-anticipated 'Ultimate WALL-E', which will be sold starting later this year.

Not too many details on this product just yet though, only that it's made by Thinkway Toys. (Which, by the way, is headquartered about 35 minutes from where I live.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

'The Art of Pixar Short Films'

The above cover for the upcoming book The Art of Pixar Short Films (to be published by Chronicle Books in February 2009) is now up at Cartoon Brew.

The Art of Pixar Short Films is written and compiled by Cartoon Brew's Amid Amidi, and will feature a foreword by John Lasseter. More information on the book, which will recount the history of Pixar's short films, is available here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

WALL-E production photos

This month's issue of Total Film includes some original production photos from the making of WALL-E, such as the one at right of Andrew Stanton pretending to be everybody's favorite robot.

The print issue contains more pics than what's available in the online preview, which you can view here.

Track listings for WALL-E soundtrack

The track listing of the WALL-E soundtrack has been added to the album's Amazon.com page, as follows below.

The track titles are interesting in that they give away a tiny bit of WALL-E's story. (I love "spoilers".)

1. Put On Your Sunday Clothes (Performed by Michael Crawford)
2. 2815 A.D.
3. WALL-E
4. The Spaceship
5. EVE
6. Thrust
7. Bubble Wrap
8. La Vie En Rose (Performed by Louis Armstrong)
9. Eye Surgery
10. Worry Wait
11. First Date
12. EVE Retrieve
13. The Axiom
14. BNL
15. Foreign Contaminant
16. Repair Ward
17. 72 Degrees and Sunny
18. Typing Bot
19. Septuacentennial
20. Gopher
21. WALL-E's Pod Adventure
22. Define Dancing
23. No Splashing No Diving
24. All That Love's About
25. M-O
26. Directive A-113
27. Mutiny!
28. Fixing WALL-E
29. Rogue Robots
30. March of the Gels
31. Tilt
32. The Holo-Detector
33. Hyperjump
34. Desperate EVE
35. Static
36. It Only Takes a Moment (Performed by Michael Crawford)
37. Down to Earth (Performed by Peter Gabriel)
38. Horizon 12.2

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Video of animatronic WALL-E

Remember the animatronic WALL-Es I reported on last month? Well, one of them has been filmed in operation in Los Angeles, as seen in the video posted below.



(via /Film)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another short WALL-E featurette

Briefly: A new video featuring Andrew Stanton discussing WALL-E's storyline is now up at Yahoo! Movies. The clip is entitled "A Hero's Journey", and runs just under a minute forty-five seconds.

(via JV Pixar News)

WALL-E stills hit the web

I've just found these thrilling new stills from WALL-E at the movie website FilmoFilia.

(Slightly cropped all three to remove an unsightly watermark.)

It's hard to see, but if you look closely at the top image, you'll notice at that WALL-E is letting go of what appears to be the mysterious plant growing in the boot. EVE is somehow responding to seeing the plant. After all, that's what her type of robot was designed to do –search for plant life.

Can't wait till June 27!

Jonathan Ive helped with EVE design

Fortune magazine reports that Apple Senior VP for Industrial Design Jonathan Ive (famous for his stunning concepts for the iMac, iPod, iPhone, etc.) assisted in the design of WALL-E's true robotic love, EVE.

It's been known for some time that there was co-operation between the two sister companies for WALL-E, but these are really the first details about the relationship. Fortune calls EVE the result of "the first design collaboration within Steve Jobs' culture-shaping Apple-Pixar-Disney axis."

Editor-at-large Richard Siklos writes that it all started with a phone call from director Andrew Stanton to Steve Jobs, who sent Ive to consult for Pixar. If you're familiar with Apple, Jobs, and Ive, you'll know this type of thing never, ever happens.

Ive, who is notoriously private, consults for no one else in any industry. His work at Apple has been likened to that of the most covert of government agents. The guy is the James Bond of the consumer electronics industry (and has a CBE from the Queen to show for it).

Even Ive's consulting at Pixar had its limits. Stanton tells Fortune that he "couldn't even really allude to where the future of technology was going..." A bit surprising, considering Jobs' trust for the folks at Pixar. But then again, not that surprising.

So definitely expect to see Ive listed in the Special Thanks section of the WALL-E end credits.

Read the article in its entirety here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Q&A with David A. Price

Finally! The post you've all been waiting for: My email interview/Q&A with David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, which will be in bookstores on Tuesday.

Just before I forget, I'd like to thank Mr. Price here for taking the time to talk to me, and also Lena at Knopf/Random House for helping to set everything up. Thanks, guys!
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Q. Your previous book, Love and Hate in Jamestown, dealt with the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia—early American history. What made you want to write about Pixar?

A. After hanging out in the early 1600’s for around five years, I was ready to spend a while in my own century. I was attracted to the idea of writing Pixar’s history because I enjoy the films and it’s an important story from an artistic, business, and technological perspective. I also felt I had some of the tools with which to approach the subject since I’d been writing about business and I’d studied computer science.


Q. What similarities do you see between Jamestown and Pixar?

A. The stories are both about journeys into unexplored territory. Also, they’re both about start-up companies.

Q. What level of support did you receive from Pixar as you were researching the facts for the book? Also, what was the most challenging part of your research?

A. Pixar didn’t assist me at the corporate level, although some individual employees did. A lot of former employees also cooperated with the project.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but for me, books are less challenging to research than shorter pieces because they come with the luxury of time. In researching The Pixar Touch, if I wrote someone asking for an interview and then heard back from him six months later, which actually happened in one case, I could still use the interview. What’s really hard is having an article due in X number of days and not knowing whether the key people are going to return your phone calls. So the challenge with the book wasn’t so much in doing the research as it was in organizing the research I had.

Q. Changing topics, in the book, you go very easy on Jeffrey Katzenberg, a real-life "Syndrome". Why is that?

A. I don’t believe I go easy on Jeffrey Katzenberg. But why do you say he’s a "real-life Syndrome"?

My response: ...For his actions with Antz, stealing an idea, and such. He hit Pixar at the very worst time. Oh, come on, you know!

A. He didn’t handle A Bug’s Life vs. Antz the same way you or I would have. I’m with you there. But the situation was also a little bit more complicated than the way you’re setting it up. It was more that DreamWorks and Disney were shooting at each other and Pixar was caught in the crossfire.

The other thing to remember, I think, is that Jeffrey Katzenberg played an important role in driving the original Toy Story deal when he was at Disney. There’s a misleading mythology that has grown around this. The reality is that he brought in Pixar over the objections of others at Disney, and at a time when Pixar was getting turned down by other studios. Universal turned Pixar down. Columbia turned them down. Paramount turned them down. Jeffrey Katzenberg was able to recognize the value of John Lasseter’s talent and the potential of computer animation in feature films.

So I agree, he shouldn’t get a free ride, but I also don’t believe in vilifying him the way some other people have.

My response: Let's agree to disagree on that!

Q. Bob sends in this question, “[Do you] have any take on how much Disney has changed Pixar after the merger?”

A. With a few exceptions, my reporting ended around a year after the acquisition, so I don’t have a lot of insight into whatever changes Disney may have brought about since then. There are a few things that have seemed like departures. One of those was Disney announcing two Pixar features for 2011, Newt and The Bear and the Bow. It was an accomplishment for Pixar to get to one release per year, let alone two.

Another surprise was the announcement of Cars 2, considering the other Pixar films that were ripe for sequels. Not that I’m second-guessing their decision. My 10-year-old son was very pleased to hear about Cars 2.

Q. One last question: Are you a fan? What’s your favorite Pixar feature? Be honest.

A. I’ve been a fan since the shorts of the 1980’s. I still remember the excitement of reading in 1991 that Pixar had made a feature-film deal with Disney. In writing the book, I tried to show my respect for Pixar’s body of work by telling the story as accurately as I could. My favorite Pixar feature is Toy Story, followed by The Incredibles.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Special WALL-E screening on June 7 [Correction]

Pixar will be hosting another special screening of WALL-E at the studios this June 7th to benefit the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) and specifically their animation programs.

Tickets to the event are $125 ($100 for SFFS members) for regular seating, $250 for VIPs. Regular tickets include a reception, which starts at 6:00 PM. VIPs will get reserved seating and a special 5:30 PM reception with WALL-E producer Jim Morris (Andrew Stanton may also attend).

This is not the only event of its kind. Five days later, on June 12, Pixar will host an even larger event, that one in support of local Emeryville, California schools.
-----
Correction: This post has been edited to correct two errors. The screening will be held on Saturday, June 7 (as the post now reads) not June 6, as previously reported. Also, Andrew Stanton may attend, as opposed to "is expected to".

(Updated May 14)

UAE in talks to finance Pixar films?

In an article posted online tonight, Hollywood trade publication Variety discusses the newfound enthusiasm for film production that has developed in the Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and particularly its Emirate of Dubai (skyline pictured above).

How does this involve Pixar, you ask? Well, according the article, which was written by Variety's Middle East correspondent, there are rumours currently circulating around Dubai that claim that "officials there are holding talks with Disney execs about the possibility of establishing a multimedia fund that will include making [funds] available for Pixar features based on Middle Eastern-themed stories."

This is one rumour that sounds bogus to the hilt. Perhaps it's that I don't think that Pixar or Disney would —what's the word?— stoop so low as to develop a film as a result of a financial offer from a third party. Also, unlike other major entertainment companies, Disney has so far stayed out of the region when it comes to theme parks and resorts*.

On the flip side, investment in Dubai is obviously a huge fad in business right now, and so The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) may be wanting a piece of the action, without having to expose the company to the risk and expense of building an attraction there.

*To my relief –I'm a shareholder. I wouldn't think building a theme park in the middle of the World's Most Dangerous Neighbourhood would qualify as a good idea.

(Photo source: Wikipedia)

Friday, May 9, 2008

New photos from Disney/Pixar animation presentation

Upcoming Pixar points to the previously unseen photographs shown above, which were taken during last month's animation presentation (see here, here, and here) which was hosted by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar in New York City.

The photos, which feature concept art and rendered film images from Up, Newt, and The Bear and the Bow, were discovered today at a French-language special effects website, Effets-Speciaux.info.

As with yesterday's bunch of images from WALL-E, click to enjoy at full size.

Pixarians lose in beard battle

This made me laugh...

Pixar co-founders Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull were among the candidates in the "Silicon Valley Beard-off", a feature published by Fortune this week. And both lost, with Catmull finishing in second place.

Jobs' beard was described as "sparse", while Catmull's suggested "I know more math than you."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More WALL-E images released

These amazing high-resolution images from Pixar's WALL-E have just been made available at the Walt Disney Studios press site.

Click to enjoy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Disney Q2 earnings reported

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) reported today its financial results [PDF] for the second quarter of the 2008 fiscal year. As is customary, the results were revealed via a news release which immediately preceded a live audio webcast.

During the webcast, Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke briefly about Pixar, mentioning that he has seen WALL-E and it was "great". Also, Iger told listeners that Pixar's winter 2011 feature The Bear and the Bow will be incorporated into the Disney Princess franchise. (Boo!)

The market responded well to today's report, sending Disney's stock to its highest point in six months, during after-hours trading.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another WALL-E clip

A fourth vignette featuring WALL-E is now on the Disney.com homepage. This one, entitled WALL-E Meets Headphones, has WALL-E —you guessed it!— discovering how headphones work, and dancing along to the music.

(via Pixar Planet Forums)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Never-before-seen images from WALL-E [UPDATE]

/Film has posted a bunch of new images from Pixar's WALL-E. The pics were sent in by a reader apparently without any source information. They appear to be stills from either the film itself or an as yet unreleased trailer or TV spot.

(via Upcoming Pixar)
-----
Update: /Film has removed the images at the request of Disney.

Video of 'Ultimate WALL-E'

This is honestly one of the coolest things I've seen in a while...

For more on 'Ultimate WALL-E' go here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Andrew Stanton talks to NYT Magazine

This week's issue of The New York Times Magazine contains a brilliant new interview profile of Pixar director Andrew Stanton.

In the piece, Stanton discusses everything from his morning routine to his favorite drinks to his womanlike obsession with jackets.

Read it here.

My review of 'The Pixar Touch'

I am of the opinion that reviewing a book about a topic one is familiar with is an exceptionally difficult thing to do. After all, it is often quite hard to surprise an “expert” with new information on the topic of his or her expertise, especially when that information is of a historical nature. And that’s the dilemma I face when reviewing The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. I know Pixar, and it’s history, very well; I likely don’t represent the average reader.

Upon first hearing about The Pixar Touch, I was interested by the concept but not particularly thrilled, for the reasons above. Also, there is already in print an excellent authorised resource dealing with Pixar’s history, To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, written by Pixar associate Karen Paik, who authored The Art of Ratatouille book.

When I received my advance copy of Touch in the mail last week, I didn’t know what to expect. I soon found out. The Pixar Touch is a very informative book, even for a person knowledgeable in the subject. Having finished reading the book, I can say that I came away better informed on many aspects of Pixar’s roots, this due to the inclusion of various previously unpublished anecdotes. Most would find an even greater amount of the facts contained in the book to be new to them.

Touch delves deeply into the company’s history, providing a great amount of detail, even more so than To Infinity and Beyond!. Also, it is unrivalled when it comes to recounting the various feuds from Pixar’s past. From Steve Jobs’ near fistfight with co-founder Alvy Ray Smith (who left the company in 1991) to Roy E. Disney’s apt description of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the book did not fail to fill my large appetite for info on the nasty.

Thus, as much as I hate sounding like those talk show hosts who plug a book or movie or whatever, I would certainly recommend that anyone with an interest in Pixar –especially the corporate or really behind-the-scenes side of things– read this book.

However, Touch does have it’s faults. For one, I would have liked to see some humour throughout the book, or at least a greater number of humorous stories. That would have contrasted well with the more serious aspects of the book. Also, at times, Price speaks sympathetically about Pixar nemesis Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks Animation, a known jerk. He writes: “The studio’s treatment of Katzenberg in the book [To Infinity and Beyond!] was perhaps ungracious considering his role in giving Pixar its entry into feature animation.” Yeah, right. Poor Katzenberg, what a victim.

Nevertheless, all things considered, I do regard The Pixar Touch to be an enjoyable, very engrossing and different read. Just another key to the Pixar puzzle.
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Be sure to check back soon for my long-awaited Q&A with the book’s author, David A. Price.

Friday, May 2, 2008

More on Pixar/SEC case

Reuters has published new information regarding the pending SEC backdating case against former Pixar CFO Ann Mather.

Of note, Reuters quotes a source familiar with the case as saying that, if sued, Mather will point the finger at "Pixar's board, outside lawyers and auditors" as having "approved backdating long before she was hired".

(To clarify: The types of charges that Mather is said to be facing would be civil, not criminal, charges. Thus, the SEC action would come in the form of a lawsuit.)

Knowing the markets, this is not good news for anybody...

WALL-E video game site now live

The official website for WALL-E: The Video Game is now online. The site's URL wallevideogame.com (which redirects to wall-e.playthq.com) had previously been inactive.

While the site currently has little in the way of content (really only the trailer we got this past Monday), there are some very interesting features labeled "coming soon". Eventually, the site will feature game info and screenshots, profiles of the various robots, a downloadable trial version of the game, and more.

Will be checking back frequently...

Interview with Andrew Gordon

The Computer Graphics Society (CGSociety) has published a noteworthy interview with Pixar animator Andrew Gordon.

It's mostly about Gordon's teaching career and general animation-industry topics, but we do get to read about Gordon's directorial ambitions. He says: "I definitely do have to admit that I aspire to direct my own work one day, like a short, or make my own content."

Hmm, very interesting. Perhaps something is already in the works.

Read the complete interview here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

WALL-E theme for Firefox browser

Disney has released an official WALL-E theme for the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The theme, which was designed by London-based marketing agency Digital Outlook, has the futuristic, dark colours look of the WALL-E logo and posters. Currently it is available only for Windows.

Very nice...