Friday, April 30, 2010

NY Times on Toy Story 3 "cliffhanger" previews

Read this article by The New York Times' Brooks Barnes about the Special Cliffhanger Edition screenings of Toy Story 3 (the first 65 minutes of the movie) for college and university students across the United States. The piece goes into the reasoning behind the unconventional marketing strategy.

Lee Unkrich and others at Pixar and Disney are said to have had some reservations about screening only part of the film initially. But the idea was intriguing to John Lasseter and new Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross. Says Ross: "Today people in that age group [18-24] are less concerned about 'finished' — they love to see the process". Two words: right on.

Mark my words, the cliffhanger screenings are going to pay off for Disney on opening day. The tactic is getting thousands of young adults talking about Toy Story 3.

Read the article online at the New York Times website.

Lee Unkrich profile in San Francisco Chronicle

Lee Unkrich directing Tom Hanks during a recording session for Toy Story 3

In today's issue of the San Francisco Chronicle there's an excellent profile of Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich. Written by pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub, the piece traces Unkrich's education and start in live-action filmmaking, his impact on Pixar, and his task in helming 'TS3'.

The article includes some quotes from creative chief John Lasseter, who personally directed the first two Toy Story movies, that highlight his confidence in Unkrich.

Read it online at SFGate.

When you talk face to face with Lee, you can't help but notice his intensity —how much he cares about and respects the characters of Toy Story 3 and the series as a whole.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Australian 'TS3' poster focuses on 3-D

This poster advertising Toy Story 3 in Disney Digital 3-D to Australian audiences surfaced on the web today. A clever concept, but they could have made it cleverer by having Mrs. Potato Head looking around using her detached eye considering something similar happens in the movie.

Toy Story 3 is complete

"Toy Story 3 is finished. Pixar's 11th feature film is in the can," said director Lee Unkrich this afternoon on Twitter, announcing that production on the film is officially over after more than four years of hard work.

With all the finishing touches in place, Toy Story 3 is ready to head to theatres on Friday, June 18.

Congratulations to Lee, the production team, and the entire studio. Everyone at Pixar should feel very proud!

Three questions for Michael Keaton

The Los Angeles Times has put out a short conversation with actor Michael Keaton, the voice of Barbie's boyfriend Ken in Toy Story 3. It's really quick read at only three questions.

The paper notes that "Keaton can't keep from laughing" when talking about playing the famous doll. Having seen 'TS3', I can tell you that Ken is hilarious. He's one of the funniest characters Pixar has ever put on screen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day & Night picture book

Besides publishing The Art of Toy Story 3, Chronicle Books will also be releasing Day & Night, a 40-page, full-colour children's picture book based on Pixar's visually stunning short film of the same name, in theatres June 18 with Toy Story 3.

The author of the Day & Night book is none other than the short's director, talented Pixar artist Teddy Newton.

The book will be available sometime in the summer ("after Wednesday, July 21, 2010"). Expect a final cover by then. Visit the Chronicle Books product page for a short description.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Final cover for The Art of Toy Story 3

The Art of Toy Story 3 has gotten a beautiful final cover, replacing the first temporary one we saw late last year. The new cover is already shown on the book's page at Amazon.com and the website of publisher Chronicle Books, where it can be pre-ordered.

This cover, with its colourful concept art of Lotso conducting his tour of Sunnyside Daycare for Andy's toys, is considerably more attractive than the first one. It's gorgeous. If the artwork looks familiar, you may have noticed it in the background of this picture taken at Pixar I posted a couple of weeks ago as part of Visiting Pixar: Inside the Studio.

The Art of Toy Story 3, written by Charles Solomon with preface by John Lasseter and foreword by Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson, has a publication date of May 26. The 176-page book will show present over 250 pieces of concept art created by Pixar artists during production on Toy Story 3.

New international 'TS3' poster

A new international poster (in English) for Toy Story 3 was released this morning at Italian film site ScreenWEEK.it.

There's two versions of the one-sheet at right, with and without the tagline "The Great Escape". Besides that they're the same, with the toys making a nighttime escape from Sunnyside Daycare, cheered on by a friendly Lotso and co.

Personally, I liked the previous international poster (the one where the toys have broken out of the box) a lot better than this one for a number of reasons. You?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'TS3' video game trailer

Along with box art (see yesterday's post) for the Toy Story 3 video game, Disney Interactive Studios has brought out the brand-new gameplay trailer. It's embedded below via YouTube and available in 720p HD.

I'm not a gamer myself but Toy Story 3: The Video Game looks exciting, looks like something I'd play. And there seem to be high hopes for the title amongst gamers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Toy Story 3 featured on Pixar website

Pixar.com, the studio's (neglected) official website, now prominently features Toy Story 3 on the home page, replacing the previous Up theme.

Visitors will now see one of three stills from the movie; each links to the official Toy Story 3 website from Disney. Click here to see for yourself.

Toy Story 3 video game box art

Take a look at this cool final box art for Toy Story 3: The Video Game, coming June 15 from Disney Interactive. (PC/Mac version is pictured.)

The game, first announced in February, will be available for all the major gaming platforms: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC/Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable (PSP), and Xbox 360.

Unlike previous interactive games based on Pixar movies, the Toy Story 3 video game was developed internally by Disney in close collaboration with Pixar. This post has all the details.

"Vintage" Lotso commercial brilliant viral marketing for 'TS3' [UPDATE]

This very interesting video was uploaded to YouTube a few days ago and was noticed on Twitter yesterday evening by reader Matthew Ebisu (@MattEbisu).

It purports to be a worn-out VHS copy of a vintage (c. 1983) TV commercial for Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, aka Lotso, the most important new character in Toy Story 3. The idea is to (sneakily) convince viewers that Lotso was an actual toy from decades ago, like Chatter Telephone and Animal Lovin' Ken who appear in the movie.

The video is so well made and realistic that it convinced me of being authentic for a few brief moments. "I didn't know Lotso was an actual toy before Toy Story 3?" I tweeted. But upon further thought, a number of things make clear that the commercial is, in fact, a brilliant viral video for 'TS3'.

First of all, nobody's ever mentioned before that Lotso was based on a real, classic toy. Secondly, no reference to The Huggin' Company alluded to in the commercial can be found anywhere on the web.

But the crucial piece of evidence comes in the form of a tweet. The Lotso video was posted by a new YouTube user named MrCrazycommercials. Another one of this user's videos was linked to by director Lee Unkrich on Twitter on April 16, a full three days before the Lotso commercial was uploaded. That's way too big a coincidence. Is MrCrazycommercials actually Mr. Lee Unkrich?

If you're wondering, Disney Consumer Products is rolling out in June a real-life strawberry-scented Lotso plush bear as part of the deluxe Toy Story Collection. There's also a basic Lotso that's already started arriving at Disney Store retail outlets and is shipping from the Disney Store website.
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Update: Another "vintage" Lotso commercial, this time in Japanese, hit YouTube this afternoon. Watch it below. The video's release appears to coincide with an international press event being held in Japan this week to promote Toy Story 3.



(Updated Apr. 26)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Visiting Pixar: Under Construction

Over a year has passed since construction work began on the new Phase II building that will soon be a key part of Pixar's Emeryville, CA headquarters. The building, located on the southwest corner of Pixar's property, near the corner of Park Avenue and Hollis Street, is about halfway complete. It's scheduled to be occupied by this time next year.

Phase II is the most important expansion of Pixar's facilities since the studio moved to Emeryville in November 2000. It appears that much of what's currently in the original building —entire departments— will be moved into the Phase II building, which will have plenty of space to accommodate hundreds of employees.

Besides the expansion of certain departments, what will all that freed-up space in the original building be used for? Nobody outside the studio knows for sure, but it wouldn't be surprising to see, for example, RenderMan development move in. Right now, the team is based in a satellite office in Seattle.

Another possibility is Pixar bringing in child care. Currently, the daycare for employees' children is located in nearby Berkeley. An in-house childcare centre (similar to what Lucasfilm provides at its HQ) would allow Pixarians to be closer to their kids, and save them a stop on the way to work.

Whatever the case may be, Phase II will greatly expand Pixar's capacity to grow. Remember, the new building will have its own set of facilities, like a second café (along the lines of Cafe Luxo in the main building), theatre and screening rooms, game area (think pool table, arcade games), etc. This is essential when you consider how many new employees are being hired by the studio.

Below are almost one dozen pictures of construction on Phase II I took while visiting Pixar earlier this month. I hope I'll have the chance to go back next spring to check out the finished building.

Further details on the Phase II project can be found in this post, including site plans and information on the design team.


Construction as seen from inside the campus.

Approaching the first entrance into construction zone on Park Ave, walking left from Pixar gate.

Looking in. The current building can be seen in the background.

Construction notice as required by city by-laws.

A group of friendly construction workers from contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie. The Pixar attitude seems to have rubbed off on them.

Looking into the construction site through the rosebush hedge that surrounds most of the property.

Walking towards Hollis Street



An artist's rendering of what the new building's interior will look like when completed. Simply beautiful architecture. (Source: Aurora Development)

The final installment of the Visiting Pixar series will be published in June. A detailed chronological account of my trip to Pixar and Skywalker Sound, it will feature many new images including never before seen concept art from Toy Story 3.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monsters, Inc. 2 officially confirmed for 2012; 'Bear and the Bow' retitled, pushed back

In a special media event this afternoon on the Disney lot in Burbank, Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross made the official announcement that Pixar is working on Monsters, Inc. 2, confirming what has been rumoured for the past several years.

The sequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc. is scheduled for release in theatres on November 16, 2012. Who is writing, directing, and producing was not revealed, nor was any plot outline.

Confirming a second rumour, Ross also announced that Pixar's The Bear and the Bow is to be retitled Brave. Totally unexpectedly, however, the film's release date was pushed back. Originally scheduled to arrive Winter 2011 (which would have resulted in the first year with two Pixar releases), Brave is now set to open on June 15, 2012.

What effect this will have on Newt (the future Pixar project I'm anticipating the most) is not clear at the moment. The film was first scheduled for Summer 2011, then pushed to Summer 2012. It will now probably move to Summer 2013, or if Disney wants to be gutsy about it, Spring of that year. This may indicate that the studio is experiencing serious production troubles on Newt, the subject of yet another rumour, one I very much hope is untrue.

Japanese Toy Story 3 trailer

I don't usually post foreign-language stuff, like trailers and posters, on the blog, but this new Japanese trailer for Toy Story 3 warranted an exception. It's been making the rounds online for the past day or two.

It has a lot of exciting footage from the movie you haven't seen before. Some overly-sensitive types might even consider a few of the scenes to be "spoiler" material.

Toy Story 3 opens in Japan on July 10.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Visiting Pixar: Studio Grounds

The response to Visiting Pixar: Inside the Studio, published one week ago, has been nothing short of tremendous. Quite understandably, Pixar fans from around the world have been thrilled to see the new photos of the main building, with its grand atrium, chic employee eatery, and monstrous doormen!

But the studio building is, of course, only part of what makes Pixar's campus so remarkable. The beautiful, park-like grounds, with they're lush greenery and impeccably-manicured lawns, add much to the studio's unique work environment. And that's the theme of this post.

When viewing these photos, keep in mind that they're arranged in order as if walking through the campus grounds from the main doors (pictured above) to the massive gate on Park Avenue at Watts Street.

Once again, enjoy.

Giant Luxo Jr. lamp and toy ball. Made for the Australian stop of the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition, it's been at Pixar since April 2008 (original posts from back then are here and here). The lamp lights up at night.

A group of Pixarians engage in an afternoon discussion, while others get some exercise.

Around the amphitheater, the site of many employee picnics and barbecues.

Views of the long, tree-lined walkway between the parking lot and the main doors.

The Pixar parking lot. I've never been so excited about a parking lot.

Entrance driveway and gate, as seen from the inside.




Goodbye, Pixar...

Noticed that crane in the fifth and sixth photos from the top? Come back Friday (April 23) for over a dozen new pictures of construction work on the Pixar Phase II expansion.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pixar Canada opens in Vancouver [2 UPDATES]

Pixar Canada, Pixar's new satellite studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, was officially opened today. Selected members of the press were invited to visit the studio's 7,000-square-foot space inside a historic building located in Vancouver's Gastown district. B.C. premier Gordon Campbell (that like a "governor" for you Americans) came out for the unveiling.

According to Amir Nasrabadi, general manager of the Vancouver studio, Pixar hopes to expand its Canadian facilities to 20,000-25,000 sq. ft., perhaps moving to another location in the city at some point.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the Canadian studio "will begin training new staff in late May, and start work on its first short film by early August". There are currently twenty people on the payroll; the plan is to hire several dozen employees within the next year and a half.

As previously announced, Pixar Canada will focus exclusively on the production of non-theatrical short films and other projects based on Pixar's "legacy characters", such as Cars Toons and the rumoured Toy Story Toons. Using a "pipeline system", work done in Vancouver will be seen immediately in Emeryville, where the final stages of production on the shorts will take place.
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Update: A video of the event (via Upcoming Pixar) was uploaded to the Province of British Columbia's YouTube channel in the evening and is embedded below. It has talking points from Campbell and Nasrabadi plus some cool, blink-and-you'll-miss-them clips of WALL-E, Lightning McQueen, and Carl's house from Up in Vancouver.

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Update: New videos of the opening can be seen here, along with a nice still of a "sneak peak" at upcoming Cars Toons.

(Updated Apr. 21)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John Morris on 'growing up with Andy'

Actor's resource Backstage.com put out a featured interview about an hour ago with John Morris, the actor who's been the voice of Andy Davis in Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and who reprises the role in Toy Story 3.

He talks about his experiences auditioning for the role for the first time as a child and being called back to the role for 'TS3' as an adult after so many years. He also tells about his first acting gig and being 'blown away' by Pixar voice casts.

By the way, you can follow Morris on Twitter @john_morris. He's a really nice guy.