Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Photo: Bono at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. By David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Between Monday and Thursday, the film made over $56 million at the "domestic" North American box office, according to Box Office Mojo. On Mon. and Tuesday, traditionally slow for movies, 'TS3' made more than $15 million each day.
Expect Toy Story 3' to crush the competition again this weekend, and stay tuned for final results on Monday.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The $100 million-plus opening weekend is the best ever for a Pixar film, and the second best for an animated motion picture in general. Pixar's previous best opening weekend record was set by The Incredibles in 2004, which earned $70.5 million in its first three days.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Back inside after the walk, all the other bloggers were about to start preparing for a series of roundtable discussions with Unkrich, Anderson, and others from the Toy Story 3 production team, while I prepared to go back to the hotel to finally get some rest.
In hindsight, I should have toughed it out and stayed. Not only did I miss out on the roundtables, but I later found out that the other Pixar bloggers had a chance to meet studio co-founder and president Ed Catmull and other well-known Pixarians.
Saying goodbye to the others (no handshakes, just fist bumps), I asked Chris sheepishly, “So maybe you guys will have us back again next year for the Cars 2?” “Yeah, we’ll see.”
I do hope to return to Pixar sometime next spring to learn about Cars 2 and also tour the Phase II expansion, which is scheduled to be completed by that time. Of course, I’ll share everything I can. My visit to Pixar honestly wouldn’t have been as worth it if I didn’t have the privilege of sharing my experiences with the thousands of readers who visit the blog each month.
Outside the campus, I walked along Park Avenue again, this time all the way to Hollis Street, taking many photos of construction on the Phase II building and talking with some of the construction workers, who were extraordinarily good-natured.
Back at the gate, I stood waiting for my cab. I couldn’t help but in look in one more time.
Friday, June 18, 2010
April 1, 2010
Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter entered the theater to enthusiastic applause. He spoke about Pixar, its culture, the studio building —noting Steve Jobs’ role in that— and the outstanding legacy Pixar is developing.
He related the story of a family where the grandmother was a painter on Walt Disney’s Snow White, and how proud they all were about that, especially her granddaughter. Lasseter’s vision is that the families of today’s artists at Pixar will be just as proud many years from now.
Lasseter shared his fondness for Day & Night and short films in general, and said how he’s looking forward to the release of Toy Story 3 and Cars 2. He concluded by introducing director Teddy Newton (pictured at right) and producer Kevin Reher. Newton, who also voiced Chatter Telephone in Toy Story 3, broke the ice by doing the voice of his character: “Get ridda that monkey.”
Some introductory comments followed, then Day & Night hit the screen in brilliant digital 3-D. Day & Night is, hands down, Pixar’s most unique short film to date, radically different than anything to come out of the studio —or any studio— before: 3D imagery, inside 2D characters, in stereoscopic 3-D!
After the film ended, Newton and Reher took some questions. I asked about the quote used in the short; it’s spoken by Wayne Dyer but based on a quote from Albert Einstein. On the way out, I asked Newton another question: “Can you do the Chatter ‘phone voice again?” Newton: “Get ridda that monkey.”
With some time to spare I finally —finally— had the chance to go into the Pixar Studio Store, which I had been waiting to do since arriving. I got a ton of stuff for myself and as gifts —caps, keychains, ceramic coffee mugs, stickers, and a jute bag. My only regret is not buying one of the big Ratatouille plush rats.
As lunch approached, business director Chris Ford and sales and marketing events manager Renee Lamri from the RenderMan unit came to our table . They were kind enough to present us with some RenderMan gift bags, each with a RenderMan cap and highly-collectable 2009 RenderMan Walking Teapot. (Actually, they had planned for only three Pixar bloggers and since I was the last one to arrive I got mine before leaving for the day.)
Just as Chris and Renee were about to leave, Up producer Jonas Rivera eyed the table right next to ours. As he approached, I congratulated him on the Best Picture nomination for the film; that brought him and Up co-director/writer/voice of Dug Bob Peterson to our table. They were kind enough to pose for a picture and autograph the other bloggers RenderMan caps.
Before we knew it, Lee arrived, wearing his Big Baby animation crew shirt. He later told us that he loves Big Baby, because he’s creepy at the start, but he turns out to be, well, a baby.
Lee asked us how we all enjoyed the movie, expressing regret that he could only show us an unfinished version. “Hated it,” I joked. The most embarrassing moment of the day for me came when the others brought out small gifts they each had brought Lee, something I had failed to do. “You brought me a camera,” Lee quipped, pointing to my Nikon on the table.
We chatted for about fifteen minutes about a variety of topics related to Toy Story 3. I said how much I like the idea of the Special Cliffhanger Edition screenings of Toy Story 3 for college and university students. Greg from Pixar Talk predicted a $100 million opening weekend for the movie.
April 1, 2010
Inside the building —the sun shining brightly through the skylights— all the bloggers signed in and were divided up into groups; each was handed a badge with a Toy Story 3 character assigning him or her to a particular group. I was with the Lotso group, as were the other Pixar bloggers. The grand tour of Pixar, conducted by Toy Story 3 supervising animators Bobby Podesta and Mike Venturini, began shortly thereafter.
Podesta and Venturini started by talking a bit about the building and its history and the atrium’s key role in the “unplanned collaboration” concept devised by co-founder Steve Jobs. Thinking about the building, particularly the atrium, it is very much like an Apple product: Beautiful and functional.
We then moved on to the "closed set" areas, where no photography was allowed, starting with the dimly lit Renderfarm area. The Renderfarm is, of course, the giant collection of linked computers used to process all the data that makes up each frame of film.
We weren’t taken into the actual room, but near the door there’s an original Pixar Image Computer from the company’s early days in the graphics hardware business. The computer is actually much longer than it looks in most photos. Also, right across from the Renderfarm, there’s a giant Tinny from Tin Toy.
Next on our tour was part of the animation department, namely the creatively decorated animators’ work areas located on the first level. As we went by, a group of animators left their offices to gawk at the bloggers.
Artwork and movies posters. Colored lighting. A collection of life-size amusement park animatronics. Toys galore. Tikis and faux greenery. A far cry from the neat organization of the atrium.
Inside animator Andrew Gordon’s office is the legendary Lucky 7, a fully-stocked bar and lounge used by animators and they’re guests. The Lucky 7 (not to be confused with the Love Lounge, which we didn’t see) is accessed by shifting a bust of William Shakespeare on an adjacent shelf, which moves the bookshelf the lounge space hides behind.
After the main tour came to a close, we made our way upstairs to the otherwise off-limits upper level of the building for two interesting presentations.
First up was Christine Freeman, Pixar’s archivist. She introduced a large exhibition of concept art from Toy Story 3 and showed us several priceless original artworks and a sculpture from Toy Story and Toy Story 2. She also unboxed a disjointed, goateed Fred Flintstone doll that dates back to production on Toy Story. The right foot is autographed “Tom Hanks as Woody”.
Pauley is responsible for helping to create some of Pixar’s most beloved characters; he had a key role in the design of Buzz Lightyear. Pauley went into the nitty-gritty of working with the characters again for Toy Story 3. He then talked about the movie’s many new characters and the ideas behind their designs.
Back downstairs, we filed into one of the theatres for an illuminating discussion with Bob Whitehill, stereoscopic 3-D supervisor at Pixar. He oversaw the 3-D in Up, the Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3-D double feature, and Toy Story 3.
Whitehill jokes that he’s ‘the guy to blame’ if you ever get a headache from watching a Pixar movie in 3-D. The studio tries hard to avoid that by using 3-D carefully. With every scene, there’s an important decision to be made about how pronounced the 3-D will be, depending on the emotion of the scene. Action-filled scenes, for example, require more intense 3-D than, say, a quiet, sentimental moment. In the latter, the 3-D effect is brought down almost completely.
As part of Whitehill’s presentation, we were shown portions of Up in 3-D and a slideshow explaining how Pixar uses the technology. Unfortunately, time restraints cut the presentation short. Moments later, we were taken to the other theater, where it was finally time for one of the biggest events of the day: watching Pixar’s latest short film Day & Night.
The next installment of Visiting Pixar: Stories & People will be published later today. In the meantime, check out other posts from the series.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
- Colin Covert/Minneapolis Star Tribune (4 stars out of 4)
"A funny, sentimental and unexpectedly thrill-packed payoff for the series that began 15 years ago."
- Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times (3 stars out of 4)
"I expect its target audience will love it."
- Rick DeMott/Animation World Network (4 stars; see also review of Day & Night)
"Few films make me want to turn around the see them right after I just finished watching it for the first time. If I could I would have bought a ticket right after the screening."
- Ann Hornaday/Washington Post (3 stars out of 4)
"The color scheme and bold visual design look terrific, right down to the little details..."
- Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicle
"The story mixes comedy, drama and action with impressive skill"
- Joe Morgenstern/Wall Street Journal (3 stars)
"I won't tell you what that ending is, but it took my breath away, and I'll bet it takes yours. Do see this lovely film sooner than later."
- Sean O'Connell/Filmcritic.com (5 stars out of 5)
"You'll be removing [your 3-D glasses] regularly to wipe away tears."
- Michael Phillips/Chicago Tribune (3 stars)
"This Disney/Pixar release represents a franchise taken seriously by its custodians."
- Katey Rich/Cinema Blend (4 stars out of 5)
"Toy Story 3 is the first truly must-see film of the summer"
Thanks to reader Andie T. for sending in the tip.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
- Paul Byrnes/Sydney Morning Herald (4 1/2 stars out of 5)
"This is certainly one of the films of the year and a crowning achievement for Pixar."
- Edward Douglas/ComingSoon.net (9.5/10)
"Funnier and more poignant than the previous two Toy Story installments... Toy Story 3 is up there with WALL•E and Ratatouille as one of Pixar's best-realized films"
- Marshall Fine/Hollywood & Fine
"It’s not just the best animated film of the year —it’s also one of the best movies, period."
- Owen Gleiberman/Entertainment Weekly (A)
"Toy Story 3 enchanted and moved me so deeply I was flabbergasted that a digitally animated comedy about plastic playthings could have this effect."
- Eric Hynes/Village Voice
"TS3, like its predecessors, is a clever, engrossing adventure"
- Scott A. Mantz/Access Hollywood (See it!)
"Toy Story 3 raises the bar for how much a film can work on every level for both kids and adults (and adults who were kids when the first movie came out)."
- Drew McWeeny/HitFix.com
"Toy Story 3 makes exceptional use of 3D, and it's visually designed to honor the simplicity of the first film..."
- Roger Moore/Orlando Sentinel (3 1/2 stars out of 4)
"Dazzling, scary and sentimental, Toy Story 3 is a daringly dark and emotional conclusion to the film series that made Pixar famous."
- Josh Tyler/Cinema Blend (5 stars out of 5)
"Pixar has already given us two utterly perfect Toy Story movies, yet this may be the best one yet."
After seeing so many photographs and videos of Pixar’s campus over the years, it was quite surreal to be there in person. “Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually here,” I thought to myself. Smile.
Everyone got their visitor badges and moved on to be screened by security. It was about 8 PM and the Pixar Studio Store and Luxo Cafe were already closed. No photography was allowed anywhere in the building as the Toy Story 3 decorations still hadn’t been put up. “You’ll be able to take plenty of pictures tomorrow,” we were assured.
Security at the theater door was about as tight as at the airport. All our electronics were put in plastic bags and left outside the theatre room. Metal detector in hand, a guard thoroughly searched the headwear and glasses of each person entering for any audio/video recording devices.
Lee and Darla exited, the lights went down, and the Walt Disney Pictures intro appeared on the screen. When Luxo Jr. and the Pixar logo followed, I let out a small “woot” to the amusement of the people sitting nearby.
Despite having a different director and screenwriter than Toy Story and Toy Story 2, ‘3’ stays true to what the series is all about. It fits in perfectly with the first two films, continuing and expanding on previous themes. In fact, the film is a return to the simpler storytelling of Pixar's early classics.
There’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in 'TS3', actually more so than in any previous Pixar film. Michael Keaton steals the show as the hilarious Ken doll, who has everything in the world “except someone to share it with” —that is, until he meets his partner in fashion, Barbie. And then there’s that demented surveillance monkey!
'TS3' never stops engaging the viewer. The second half of the movie makes it Pixar’s scariest since the first Toy Story in 1995. The villain (won’t say who) makes the misguided Prospector in 'TS2' look heroic. There is one expertly-timed scene —‘I’m sorry. They broke me!’— that will give you chills.
You can really see director Lee Unkrich's background in live-action film editing evident throughout the movie. Everything moves along at top speed. There isn't a single unnecessary scene —everything is in furtherance of the story.
Visually, TS3 is lightyears —pun intended— ahead of its predecessors, not surprising considering how far CG has come in the past decade and a half. The sets are detailed, character animation is fluid, and the “camera” angles could only have been dreamed of when ‘2’ was made.
But at it’s heart, Toy Story 3 is still the story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and rest of the toys, and how much they need and love their owner, Andy Davis. Toy Story 3 brings the story of their relationship with him —and his relationship with them— to a heartwarming conclusion and a perfect ending. And it brings the toys to a new beginning.
Stories & People continues Friday, with nearly two dozen new photos taken at Pixar
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Just as soon as everybody had introduced themselves, we were on our way to our first stop, lunch at the Primo Patio Cafe, an authentic, hole-in-the-wall Caribbean restaurant a few minutes away. Too bad nobody had told me beforehand that lunch was part of the itinerary, I had already eaten.
Following lunch, we headed for Skywalker Ranch in Marin Country, about an hour’s drive away. (By the way, it’s pronounced “ma-rinn”, not “marr-in” like Cheech.) Our destination was supposed to be a surprise “field trip”, but early on I was pretty sure I had figured out where we were going. No other bloggers were invited.
George Lucas’s 4000 acre Skywalker Ranch is home to Skywalker Sound and other parts of the Lucasfilm empire. The ranch has its own barn and vineyards and a magnificent library, guest inn, fitness centre, and store spread across several buildings. Our visit, though, was to be limited to Skywalker Sound.
After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, we travelled north on the Redwood Highway (stretch of U.S. Route 101 in California). The further we went on the narrowing roads, the more remote the surroundings got.
Unless you’re aware of your location, you could easily drive past 5858 Lucas Valley Road (coincidentally named after a 19th-century rancher, John Lucas, no relation to George) without noticing it. There’s no enormous gate like at Pixar. No sign announcing SKYWALKER RANCH. Only the number, barely visible: 5858.
Driving into the property, past the security barrier and a wild turkey, we headed for the Technical Building. I have a feeling we were being watched.
The first reel was made up of clips from various films recorded and mixed at Skywalker, followed by one of scenes from Pixar films (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2, Up, WALL-E) remixed in the new, state-of-the-art Dolby Surround 7.1 audio format. The 7.1 sound is the best I’ve ever heard.
When the lights went up, we moved on to the Scoring Control Room and Scoring Stage (pictured below), one of the best music recording facilities in the world, right up there with EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London.
We walked through the building, cool in both ambiance and temperature, to the Akira Kurosawa Stage, the main dubbing stage at Skywalker. On the door, a handmade sign: Sunnyside Mix; a smart allusion to Sunnyside Daycare in Toy Story 3. Inside, Academy Award-nominated sound designers Tom Myers and Michael Semanick and others were hard at work mixing sound on ‘3’.
Something else the team talked about in detail was how closely they work with the director (in this case Lee Unkrich) when designing and mixing sound on a film. It was like DVD/Blu-ray bonus material, live!
Chris Wiggum at Skywalker SoundWith that our tour of Skywalker Sound winded down. We made our way to the main doors and waited for our ride, rain pouring outside. We were driven back to our hotel to get ready to finally watch Toy Story 3 in the place where it was made.