Sunday, May 30, 2010

Groovin' with Ken!

Disney/Pixar released on YouTube this morning Groovin' With Ken!, a purported old interview with Barbie accessory Ken from back in the '70s.

The very amusing video (not part of Toy Story 3) was first shown to attendees at last year's San Diego Comic-Con in July, then at the 2009 D23 expo in September; its arrival on the web has been highly anticipated since then.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Introducing Pixar Canada

A special video introducing Pixar Canada, Pixar's satellite studio in Vancouver, B.C, has been posted on the Disney/Pixar Facebook page and YouTube channel. It's produced by Leslie Iwerks, who directed the documentary The Pixar Story, found on the WALL-E special edition DVD/Blu-ray.

Pixar creative chief John Lasseter, president Ed Catmull, Pixar Canada creative director Dylan Brown, chief technical officer Darwyn Peachey, and general manager Amir Nasrabadi appear in the video to speak about the new studio, its purpose, and what it will add to Pixar as a whole.

Interestingly, Catmull mentions "half-hour television specials" in the same sentence as "various projects that we've got". A possible hint at Pixar's secret future plans, eh?

By the way, it's great to see Pixar paying so much attention to Canada these days. For example, next week, Chris Ford (who I met in Emeryville in April) and Dylan Sisson (creator of the RenderMan Walking Teapot) from the RenderMan team will be speaking in Toronto and Montreal at two sold-out events aimed at the CG community.

Tim Allen on Ellen

Tim Allen was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show yesterday. He and Ellen chatted about Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story 3, and hopes for a Finding Nemo 2 ("write your congressman").

Watch the segment below.









Thursday, May 27, 2010

AWN looks at the making of Day & Night

The Animation World Network (AWN) just published a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Day & Night, Pixar latest short film in theatres June 18 with Toy Story 3.

The publication heard from director Teddy Newton and others from the production team on the short's inspirations and origins, the pitch to John Lasseter, and being faced with a host of technical challenges, due in large part to the integration of CG and hand-drawn animation.

The AWN piece incorporates the new still shown above and four specimens of concept art. AWNtv has a clip and two animation tests from the original pitch for Day & Night.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toy Story 3 interview roundup (5/26/10)

A bunch of recent Toy Story 3-themed interviews hit the web throughout the day: Lee Unkrich spoke to parenting website Time Out New York Kids; Tom Hanks (voice of Woody) spoke with Film Gecko; and Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) discussed his thoughts on the movie in a Q&A courtesy of Disney.

These are all rather light Q&As, not in-depth by any means, but are still worth a look.

Time Out New York Kids asks Unkrich about his decision to become a filmmaker, his kids, and a couple of other points. The site is correct when they introduce their discussion by saying that "like all Pixar fare, TS3 appeals to viewers of all ages."

In their interviews, Allen and Hanks talk about what they feel makes audiences relate so well to Pixar's films.

"You can’t help but have tears in your eyes," says Hanks of the emotional element of Toy Story 3. "But it’s also a big adventure that has you constantly on the edge of your seat." Allen concurs: "Toy Story 3 is... so good they could have marketed the storyboard version."

Finally, three mini on-camera interviews with Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson filmed the day of the blogger junket at Pixar on April 1 were posted on the official Disney/Pixar YouTube channel and Facebook page. These you could say are short and sweet.

In the videos (embedded below and available in HD) Unkrich and Anderson answer questions like "What's the hardest part of the filmmaking process?" and "What are the differences between the Toy Story films?" We might see more of these in the next few days.

'TS3' clip and featurette: The Great Escape

Disney/Pixar released a new extended clip from Toy Story 3 and an accompanying featurette this afternoon. Both are themed to the "Great Escape" aspect of the movie: Andy's toys attempting to break out of Sunnyside Daycare.

The clip begins with the toys have been locked in a room using the "finest child-proof lock in the world", but Buzz finds an opening and subsequently discovers the truth about Sunnyside, that everything is not as it seems.

In the featurette, director Lee Unkrich says that the 'TS3' crew watched pretty much every single prison escape movie out there for inspiration.

Watch the clip and featurette below via YouTube, in HD if possible.

'TS3' soundtrack NOT getting CD release

A Walt Disney Records spokesperson confirmed in an email that the Toy Story 3 soundtrack album will be available for purchase only as a digital download; no audio CD version will be sold. The album will be released on June 15.

In March, it appeared that the soundtrack would be released on CD after Amazon.com and other online retailers listed it for pre-order. It was subsequently removed and the product page deleted.

While this will surely disappoint many fans —I was "super excited" about a physical CD myself— it does probably make sense from a business standpoint for Disney to release such albums digitally.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toy Story 3 in Wired

The June issue of Wired magazine features Pixar and Toy Story 3 (read: Buzz and Woody) on its cover, with an article entitled "Animating a Blockbuster: How Pixar Built Toy Story 3", written by contributing editor Jonah Lehrer.

The piece looks at the process of making Toy Story 3 step-by-step, from Day 1 to Day 1,084. It includes quotes from Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson, supervising animator Bobby Podesta, and supervising technical director Guido Quaroni.

Read it in print or online at Wired.com.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jim Morris to deliver SIGGRAPH 2010 keynote

Pixar general manager and executive vice president of production Jim Morris will deliver a keynote address at SIGGRAPH 2010, the 37th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

The theme of this year's conference, taking place July 25-29 in Los Angeles, is "The People Behind the Pixels".

In a press release, SIGGRAPH 2010 conference chairman, Terrence Masson, calls Morris "an industry leader and visionary" and says that "Jim's keynote will be one of many 'can't miss' moments of SIGGRAPH 2010".

Before joining Pixar in 2005, Morris worked for Lucasfilm for seventeen years. He served as president of Lucas Digital Ltd. for eleven years, overseeing Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lucasfilm Animation, and Skywalker Sound.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pixar helps pioneer Dolby Surround 7.1

On March 16, Dolby Laboratories publicly announced their new audio format for cinemas, Dolby Surround 7.1, created in close collaboration with Pixar.

Toy Story 3 will be the first motion picture to use the format (in select theatres), the most important advancement of theatrical surround sound technology since Dolby Digital Surround EX, first used in 1999 on Star Wars: Episode I —The Phantom Menace.

Bloomberg reports on the format's development in a new article published today.

If you think that the 5.1 surround setup currently found in most theatres is about as good as it gets, think again. Paul Cichocki, post-production supervisor at Pixar, explains that traditional 5.1 surround can't direct sounds 'precisely enough' to specific parts of the theatre, especially in a 3-D movie.

Dolby Surround 7.1 overcomes this problem by delivering audio through eight speaker channels, resulting in an omnidirectional "rain of sound".

The move to 7.1 will be relatively inexpensive for theatre owners. Screens already equipped with Dolby Digital Surround EX require only a free software update to switch; others with older systems will have to invest only a few hundred dollars on new speakers.

During my semi-secret visit to Skywalker Sound in March (stay tuned for complete account next month), I had the chance to watch a reel of clips from previous Pixar movies remixed in the format and the sound can only be described as incredible. Every effect becomes so real; I flinched a few times. It's 3-D for your ears.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Toy Story 3 TV spot #1

Disney/Pixar have released the first TV spot for Toy Story 3. It's got a couple of new shots from the movie and promotes '3' as "the biggest Toy Story ever".

The ad should begin airing on television any day now. There's less than a month left till 'TS3' hits theatres on June 18.

Watch it below or on the official Disney/Pixar YouTube channel.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Toy Story 3/Visa tie-in commercial

I may be partial to American Express, but I love this new Visa ad starring the Toy Story toys in a live-action setting, promoting Visa debit and Toy Story 3.

And as much as I love the Aflac Duck —AFLAAAAAAAC!— I like it even better then the Aflac one from Monday because the animation is original, rather than repurposed scenes from the movie. And it's narrated by Morgan Freeman, who's narrated some of Visa's previous advertisements.

Clip from Day & Night

/Film has posted a clip from Pixar's latest short Day & Night, in theatres June 18 with Toy Story 3.

The clip runs only 15 seconds, so it serves as a nice preview of what to expect without spoiling anything. Of course, the film is much more impressive on the big screen, in 3-D.

Watch it here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Toy Story 3 featurette: Look on the Sunnyside

This new Toy Story 3 featurette entitled Look on the Sunnyside made its way online today.

Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson, Jodie Benson (voice of Barbie), and Michael Keaton (voice of Ken) talk about the toys' experiences at Sunnyside Daycare.

The featurette can be seen in HD at Yahoo! Movies.

Aflac/'TS3' tie-in commercial

Aflac! Continuing their marketing relationship with Disney/Pixar that began last year with Up, supplemental insurance provider Aflac is releasing a new television commercial tied-in to Toy Story 3. It is the company's 50th TV ad featuring the "loveably grumpy" Aflac Duck (follow him on Facebook and Twitter).

The commercial (watch it below) begins airing today on network and cable TV in the United States. As part of the campaign, a print ad will appear in the July issue of Parents Magazine and Aflac will also be placing online banner ads and running in-cinema ads in theatres across the country.

Read Aflac's press release at PR Newswire.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Toy Story 3 rated G by the MPAA

On Twitter about a half hour ago, director Lee Unkrich let it drop that Toy Story 3 received a rating of G from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) today.

Any film that receives the G—General Audiences rating "contains nothing... that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture," says the MPAA.

Of course, Toy Story 3 fits that description. Although it does get intense at times; just as intense as the PG-rated Up, actually.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Exclusive: Newt is "cancelled"

Earlier this evening I received an email response from Walt Disney Company archivist Dave Smith (or a representative) informing me that Pixar's Newt "has been cancelled". This confirms the rumors that have been swirling around the film in the past few months.

When news broke a few hours ago that the film had been deleted from the latest supplement to Smith's Disney encyclopedia Disney A to Z, I emailed Smith at his public address dave.smith@disney.com:
Hi Dave,
I was just wondering why there's no information on Pixar's Newt in the latest supplement to Disney A to Z? The entry seems to have been deleted.

Best,
Mike Bastoli
Somewhat sneakily, I sent the question from my personal email address with no mention of this blog.

Shortly after 6:00 PM I received the short reply, which I really wasn't expecting. It was unsigned but came from Smith's address:
The film has been cancelled.
The rumors that Newt was in trouble began in February with a web comment made by Disney Legend and animation industry insider Floyd Norman saying that "Newt is dead". I didn't give any credence to Norman's statement at the time and, in fact, opted not to post about it because I couldn't confirm that it was actually him commenting on the Animation Guild Blog, which has been host to some anti-Pixar comments in the past.

Newt (officially branded newt, logo in all lower case letters) was first announced to media at the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios 2008 Animation Presentation in New York City in April of that year. The film was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2011.

The film was being directed by Gary Rydstrom, sound designer and director of Pixar's 2006 Oscar-nominated short film Lifted, and produced by Presto producer Richard Hollander. The official press release named Rydstrom and Everybody Loves Raymond writer/producer Leslie Caveny (she wrote some of my favourite episodes of the series) as writers on Newt.

Concept art was leaked online soon after the presentation, and Ain't It Cool News (AICN) published an excellent, insider report with details on the film's story and what was shown at the presentation.

Less than six months later, in September 2008, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter announced at a Disney media event in Hollywood that production on Cars 2 (originally scheduled for 2012) would be accelerated (pardon the pun) and that the film would be released in Summer 2011. This appeared to push Newt back to Summer 2012 and we heard nothing more about the film, except that a very cool NEWT CROSSING traffic sign had been put up at Pixar's headquarters.

But with the announcing of Monsters, Inc. 2 last month for November 2012, Brave (previously The Bear and the Bow) was moved to Summer 2012 and no mention was made of Newt's status and no new release date was given.

What a sad state of affairs. This is the first time I can remember I've been so disappointed with something Pixar has done. They've never publicly cancelled a film before. Why was it announced in the first place? It's a black eye to the studio that was able to bring Toy Story and Toy Story 2 to the screen under extremely difficult circumstances and with far less time and resources.

As I've said over and over, Newt was the future Pixar project I was looking forward to the most, right from the start. The tale of Newt and Brooke, the "last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet...forced together by science to save the species" sounded like a lot of fun and pure Pixar. An animated romantic comedy.

There's always the chance that production on the film will be restarted someday, having perhaps attained a sort of mythic status among animation fans, like an unreleased work by a musical or literary genius. Unlikely, yes. But Pixar should try.

Toy Story 3 screening to benefit SFFS

Pixar's Emeryville studios will be the site of a pre-release screening of Toy Story 3 on June 11 at 7:00 PM to benefit the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS). Tickets are on sale now.

Like previous SFFS benefit screenings (here and here), general admission tickets are $125 ($100 for Society members). VIP tickets cost $250 and get you access to a special reception, a guided tour of Pixar, and reserved seating for the movie.

Complete information is available on the SFFS website. No word yet on exactly who will attend but there will be many Pixarians present for sure.

Newt deleted from Disney A to Z

Without any accompanying explanation, Pixar's Newt was quietly deleted from the May 2010 supplement to Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia by Disney archivist Dave Smith. This means that Newt is clearly on hold for now, if not permanently canceled as has been rumoured.

Originally scheduled to be released in Summer 2011, then moved to 2012, the film was supposed to be the first Pixar feature directed by sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who previously directed the short film Lifted.

What a shame. If Newt has indeed been cancelled, it was a big mistake for the studio to announce it publicly.

Thanks Stitch Kingdom for the tip.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day & Night to premiere at Annecy

Briefly: Pixar's latest short film Day & Night (new still pictured) will be premiering at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in Annecy, France on Friday, June 11.

Director Teddy Newton will introduce the short and stay for a Q&A with the audience afterwards. Bob Whitehill, stereoscopic 3-D supervisor at Pixar, will speak on the studio's use of 3-D in its films.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brad Bird directing Mission: Impossible IV

Speaking with Empire magazine, actor Tom Cruise confirmed what's been rumoured for weeks: Pixarian Brad Bird has signed on to direct Mission: Impossible IV, slated for release in December 2011, as his first live-action project. The film is a Bad Robot/Paramount Pictures/Skydance production.
"We’re working with Brad right now. I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it but everything’s signed... Brad is doing it. The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille —Brad is enormously talented and J.J. [Abrams] and I are having a blast," says Cruise.
Evidently 1906, the live-action Warner Bros./Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar co-production Bird was working on for several years, has been shelved indefinitely.

There had been much speculation that production on the epic 1906, set during the time of the devastating earthquake in San Francisco, was not going ahead due to lack of financial support from the studios, which makes no sense whatsoever considering Bird's track record. However, if MI:4 finds success at the box office, which it will, the project should get restarted very quickly.

Bird also remains committed to Pixar. He was at the studio recently, overseeing [redacted]. Sorry can't talk about it.

Exclusive: Pixar atrium time-lapse video

You've may have heard that the atrium, the "town square" of the main building on Pixar's campus in Emeryville, California, is abuzz with activity throughout the day as hundreds of studio employees go through it, meeting and interacting with others. Now you get to see it as never before!

While visiting the studios early last month I had a chance to set up a camera and record a short time-lapse video of the atrium, embedded below via YouTube. It was a press day, of course, so the atrium was even busier than usual.

For music, I've used —hope I don't get in trouble— the score "To Infinity and Beyond" from the wonderful Toy Story soundtrack, composed by Randy Newman. The video is sped up and slowed down to match the music's tempo. Quirky!

'TS3' video game is "Toy Story 3.5"

The Toy Story 3 video game is discussed in a current post at CNET News' Geek Gestalt blog. It has a good history of the game's development by Avalanche Software (subsidiary of Disney Interactive Studios) in close co-operation with Pixar.

Since the press day for Toy Story 3: The Video Game took place yesterday at Pixar's Emeryville campus, the article includes quotes from Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson, and others.

Toy Story 3 story supervisor/head of story Jason Katz calls the game "Toy Story 3.5", explaining that the game stays 'true to its source material', but also stands well on its own and 'extends the franchise'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New still from Day & Night

Pixar Talk had the privilege of debuting the very first still (above) from Pixar's new short film Day & Night this morning.

You can see how the 3D images are placed inside the 2D characters, Night and Day. This looks absolutely incredible in stereoscopic 3-D, by the way.

The site also published a new portrait photo of director Teddy Newton, taken by Pixar's in-house photographer, Deborah Coleman. See it here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Toy Story Collection Jessie, Lotso, & Mr. Potato Head

If you haven't been on DisneyStore.com lately, you might not know that there are three new Toy Story Collection toys up for pre-order, among many other Toy Story-related items.

The Toy Story Collection Jessie doll and Lots-0'-Huggin' Bear plush (pictured) will ship June 1st, while Mr. Potato Head ships in under two weeks, on May 12.

Complete details are on the product pages, but its worth noting that each toy is interactive and speaks a bunch of phrases.

The 13″ high Lotso plush (mentioned last week in post about viral video) is strawberry scented and says over 45 phrases. He also has ticklish feet and thanks you when you give him a hug! Every kid is going to want a cuddly Lotso bear after watching Toy Story 3.

The long-awaited Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl doll (14″) speaks 33 phrases from the movies and is as highly detailed as the Toy Story Collection Woody released last fall (my review). Mr. Potato Head (8″) is also quite interesting. To stop him from talking you simply remove his mouth! Talk too loud and you'll scare him to pieces, as in all his pieces fall off.

Like all the toys in the collection, they are exact replicas of the characters from the movies, produced by Thinkway Toys, one of the best toymakers out there, using models from Pixar's own computers. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity.