Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day & Night most popular short on iTunes

Since going on sale last Tuesday, Day & Night is the best selling short film on Apple's iTunes Store in the U.S. and Canada.

Apple doesn't provide exact numbers for how many times the short has been downloaded but it's many thousands for sure.

Eight of the top ten best selling shorts in U.S. store are from Pixar; the other two are Disney classics. In Canada, all ten are from Pixar. Many of these have been available since iTunes began selling videos in 2005.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Exclusive: Bono writing music for Brave?

New information suggests that U2 frontman Bono is writing music —possibly an original song— for a future Pixar feature, most likely Brave (in theatres June 15, 2012).

Bono may be working with U2's guitarist The Edge, with whom he's collaborated on previous non-band projects.

I won't be discussing sources for this story and, of course, it couldn't be further from being officially confirmed. But it does seem reasonably solid at this point.

A while back, a Pixarian or two let it slip on Twitter that Bono had been to the studio in Emeryville. Didn't think too much of it at the time and so can't recall exactly when this was. I'm sure it was within the past year.

Those tweets are nowhere to be found now, so if you remember when it was —what month— please let me know.

In February, former Pixar CFO Ali Rowghani, who at the time was leaving the studio to become CFO of Twitter, tweeted about Bono's visit as his "Pixar memory #5".

Yours truly is a huge U2 fan. They made a stop in Toronto last September on their U2 360° Tour and I was blown away by the show —they're one of the biggest acts on the planet right now. Very disappointed when it was announced last month that the next leg of the tour would be postponed until next year due to Bono suffering a herniated disc in his spine.

So, what's your take on Bono/U2 doing a song for a Pixar movie? "Beautiful Day"? Or will you feel "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"?

Photo: Bono at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. By David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

'TS3' stays at No. 1; makes $59.3 million domestically

Toy Story 3 held its No. 1 spot at the North American box office this weekend, bringing in $59,337,669 according to Box Office Mojo, which just published final figures. This weekend's earnings brings the film's total domestic gross so far to $226,889,351.

The Los Angeles Times notes that 'TS3' made nearly as much money in its second weekend in theatres as this week's two major new releases combined.

The film also hit the $100 million mark at the foreign box office, having opened in a handful of markets in Central and South America, Europe, and Asia, but no major ones like France, Japan, or the U.K. Toy Story 3's worldwide gross earnings now total an astonishing $326,889,351.

Finding Nemo has held the title of Pixar's highest grossing picture since 2003. It made $339.7 million domestically, a figure '3' will "have no trouble surpassing", in the opinion of one industry watcher who spoke to MTV News.

Not many people are talking about this yet, but when you consider that Finding Nemo's total worldwide gross was over $867.8 million, and take into account inflation and current ticket prices and trends, Toy Story 3 may very well reach 1 billion dollars worldwide before it finishes its run. Agree?

Toy Story 3 a thrill the second time around too

Caution: Contains "Spoilers"

After a week of work and conflicting schedules with friends, I finally saw Toy Story 3 again Sunday evening —this time complete, with credits, and in brilliant IMAX 3-D— a couple of days shy of three months since I first enjoyed it at Pixar.

As expected, 'TS3' retained its ability to captivate and keep me on the edge of my seat. There were a few things I noticed upon second viewing that I missed or didn't fully grasp the first time. The significance of Andy playing with the toys one last time before giving them to Bonnie, for example.

Most of the extra scenes alongside the credits were excellent, maybe even better than the "outtakes" in Toy Story 2. They nicely tied up the couple of loose ends in the film and set the stage for the Toy Story Toons coming next year.

I might see 'TS3' again before it leaves theatres (it's off many IMAX screens this Tuesday) but, honestly, I would seek out a regular 2-D screening. Don't get me wrong: the 3-D is expertly done and makes for a phenomenal thrill ride at appropriate points in the movie. But Toy Story 3 doesn't need it as some movies do.

One other thing: It was pretty interesting to see the makeup of the audience at the packed 7:00 PM showing I went to. School is out for the summer (I think) but it was hard to spot a single kid. Most audience members were in their 20s or 30s. Going past the concession zone, one of them shouted: "I grew up with Andy!"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Excellent first week at box office for 'TS3'

Following last weekend's record-breaking opening, Toy Story 3 had a spectacular first week in theaters, bringing its total worldwide lifetime gross earnings to $210,951,682.

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

Toy Story 3 Official Movie Magazine

Yesterday, Disney Publishing Worldwide sent me a copy of the Toy Story 3 Official Movie Magazine, which is on sale now.

It's been on magazine stands for a few weeks, actually, but it's best to take a look at it after you've seen the film since it does give away the entire story.

The 96-page magazine, aimed at kids ages 6-12, includes a 56-page graphic novelization of Toy Story 3 that is surprisingly fun to read.

There are also games and activities throughout, such as "Pencil Like Pixar", a step-by-step guide to drawing the characters. Perfect for kids, or adults who wouldn't know how to draw if their life depended on it. Not that I know anybody like that :)

Lasseter co-directing Cars 2?

Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media was at Disney's latest consumer products showcase in New York City yesterday and claims that Disney reps there were "quite up front" about John Lasseter being "officially" the co-director of Cars 2.

Lasseter has been working closely with director Brad Lewis since production on the sequel began, and there have been whispers that Lasseter's involvement has intensified in recent months because of development problems.

So there is reason to believe that Lasseter is acting as a co-director and may be credited as such when the film is released. However, today's report is far from an actual confirmation. Pixar publicity declined to comment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

IMAX 3D release for Cars 2

IMAX Corporation and The Walt Disney Studios announced a couple of hours ago that they are extending their current deal with a new agreement covering three additional 3-D pictures.

Pixar's Cars 2, in theatres June 24, 2011, will be the third film released in IMAX 3D under this agreement, in addition to its regular 2-D and digital 3-D showings, of course.

This announcement shouldn't come as a surprise considering how well Toy Story 3, Pixar's first film to arrive in the giant-screen 3-D format, is doing at IMAX screens across North America.

Read the press release at MarketWatch and share your opinions in comments.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day & Night on iTunes Store

Pixar's latest short film Day & Night, playing in theatres with Toy Story 3, is available for purchase from the iTunes Store (U.S. and Canada) today.

It's only $1.99/$2.29 and is already in my playlist. Directed by Teddy Newton, the short runs 6:03.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3 weekend box office: $109 million [UPDATE: $110.3 million]

Toy Story 3 was the No. 1 film at the North American box office this weekend, making an incredible $109,000,000 dollars, according to estimates just published. Final figures will be released tomorrow.

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.

(Source: AP)
-----
Update: Final figures have been released. Toy Story 3 grossed $110,307,189 —$1.3 million more than yesterday's estimate of $109 million.

Toy Story 3's $110.3 million opening weekend is the best ever for a June release, animated or live-action.

A very limited opening in a few international markets brought in an additional 44.8 million dollars U.S., bringing the movie's total lifetime gross to $155,107,189.

(Source: Box Office Mojo)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Allen & Hanks brought together by Toy Story

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, stars of Toy Story 3, talk to USA Today about becoming friends as a result of being part of the Toy Story series.

Since their dialogue as Woody and Buzz is recorded separately, they got to know each other mostly when doing press for the films. And now, even when they're not working on anything Pixar related, they meet for lunch every once in a while.

Further topics are explored, such as what toys they wanted when they were kids but never got. For Allen it was an Easy Bake Oven.

Read the article online at USATODAY.com.

(Photo credit: Martin E. Klimek/USA Today)

The sound of Toy Story 3

Soundworks Collection brings us a great new video about sound design on Toy Story 3, with sound designer/re-recording mixer/supervising sound editor Tom Myers and re-recording mixer Michael Semanick from Skywalker Sound. Stuart Bowling from Dolby Laboratories and 'TS3' director Lee Unkrich also appear.

It's a must-watch for anybody who's interested in the topic, and that should be anyone who enjoys movies with sound.

The video brought back a lot of good memories of visiting Skywalker Sound in March and listening to Myers and Semanick discuss the sound design process and the new state-of-the-art Dolby Surround 7.1 format.

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People —Part V

(Continued from Part IV)

April 1, 2010

After some more time at the studio store—yes, that’s correct— I joined the Pixar bloggers and publicist Chris for a walk around the front of the campus and out onto Park Avenue. The weather was beautiful, pure California. It was then that I took many of the pictures seen in Visiting Pixar: Studio Grounds.

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.

Toy Story 3 earns $41 million on Friday

Toy Story 3 earned an estimated $41,000,000 at the North American box office on Friday, the best opening ever for an animated film. In comparison, WALL-E and Up both earned less than $25 million on their first days in theatres.

Yesterday's opening puts 'TS3' on track to easily reach $100 million or more this weekend, which would surpass the record set by The Incredibles in 2004, $70.5 million, as Pixar's all-time best opening weekend.

Toy Story 3 is currently playing at over 4000 theatres across Canada and the United States.

(Sources: AP and The Hollywood Reporter)

Friday, June 18, 2010

'TS3' 2nd best reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes

Toy Story 3 is now the second-best reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes,
with a 99% "Fresh" score. 149 reviews have been counted, 147 positive to 2 negative or "Rotten". This is quite an achievement. Everyone at Pixar, starting with director Lee Unkrich, should be very proud of what they accomplished.

The t
wo negative reviews published today, however, cost 'TS3' it's perfect 100% "Fresh" score and
the title of "Best Reviewed Film of All Time" on RT, still held by predecessor Toy Story 2 after eleven years.

One of the negative items was written by the notorious hack Armond White, who has disparaged every single Pixar movie, and countless other films loved by critics.
The problem with him and the other contrarian is that their track records make clear they're doing it only for the attention it gets them.
An online petition by movie lovers to ban White from RT (a site he's criticized in the past) has already gathered about 1400 signatures; mine is #779.

Of course, these lone cynical opinions, which were to be expected, mean nothing. The ratio of positive reviews to negative makes clear who's right. But what really matters is audiences —you! So, if you've already seen Toy Story 3, What did you think?

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People —Part IV

(Continued from Part III)

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.

It was now nearly time for a special lunch with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich —who worked tirelessly over the past four years on the film— and the other Pixar bloggers.

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.)

Chris Ford and Renee Lamri

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.

Jonas Rivera and Bob Peterson
..............................

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.

The food came and it looked delicious. Of course, when you’re suffering a miserable cold, complete with excruciating sore throat, you don’t exactly feel like eating. So while the others dined on savory, wood-fired pizza, my “lunch” consisted of a bottle of weird-flavour VitaminWater I bought from the cafe earlier.

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.

Lee Unkrich
Publicity photo by Deborah Coleman/Disney·Pixar

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.

In the conversation, Lee mentioned that the voice of Chuckles the Clown was provided by Boundin’ director, animator Bud Luckey, since retired from Pixar. “Wasn’t another actor doing the voice?” I asked, referring to James Anthony Cotton who had been listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as providing the voice and who had personally told me over the phone that Pixar had selected him for the role.

In fact, Lee told us, Cotton had never gotten the role; he only auditioned for it, but still put it on his résumé as role he was doing. Lee was not pleased, and neither was I, having been misled like that.

It was time for Lee to get going; he was needed for one of the other bloggers’ day events. A director's work is never done.

The Visiting Pixar series concludes tomorrow

Toy Story 3 hidden references

With Toy Story 3 in theatres today, /Film has compiled a post pointing out as many "easter eggs" and in-jokes as they could find in Pixar's latest release (they did the same last year with Up). The post includes stills wherever possible.

With so many sets in Toy Story 3, starting with Andy's cluttered bedroom, the artists at Pixar had the chance to continue the tradition in a big way, incorporating what seems like more references than ever.

Above, one of the easiest to spot: the Buy 'N' Large/BNL batteries that power Buzz, shown momentarily in the scene where he gets reset to Spanish mode. BNL is, of course, the conglomerate from WALL-E.

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People —Part III

(Continued from Part II)

April 1, 2010

Suffering chills and a bad sore throat —and probably running a low fever— I got up early to get ready for an activity-filled “bloggers’ day” at Pixar. ‘Going through the building with this cold, I’m going to set production on Cars 2 back a few days,’ I laughed to myself.

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.

The tour begins

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.

Wine bottles signed by John Lasseter at Lucky 7

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.

Christine Freeman

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”.

Toy Story 3 concept art

Toy Story concept art


Next, in a sleek, Jobsian room across the hall (past some wonderful Up artwork and maquettes) was a workshop with Toy Story 3 production designer Bob Pauley.

Bob Pauley

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.


Chuckles the Clown concept art

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.

Bob Whitehill
Publicity photo by Deborah Coleman/Disney·Pixar

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

Selected Toy Story 3 reviews (2) + RT update

Toy Story 3 remains at 100% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer, with 83 generally positive reviews from approved critics counted, to 0 negative.

How long the almost unheard of perfect score will last is anybody's guess (there's usually a dissenting voice or two) but the film has already been Certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes.

(RT also has a "spoiler"-free interview with Lee Unkrich, where he talks about the Toy Story 3 that never was.)

Here are links to eleven reviews (may contain "spoilers") published today, with hand-picked quotes. Part 1 of Selected Toy Story 3 reviews can be found here.

  • 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..."
  • 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"
  • Neil Smith/Total Film (5 stars out of 5)
    "One of the best films of the year, Pixar’s long-awaited latest scores in every department."
  • Dana Stevens/Slate
    "Toy Story 3 is a near-perfect piece of popular entertainment..."

Toy Story Toon coming with Cars 2

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich revealed in a just-published interview (and on Twitter) that there will be a new short film with the characters of Toy Story attached to Cars 2, in theatres June 24 next summer.

"We’re going to keep [the characters] alive; they’re not going away forever," says Unkrich in the MSN Movies interview.

This will undoubtedly be one of the new Toy Story Toons produced at Pixar Canada in Vancouver and might play in addition to the regular theatrical short we've come to expect.

Very exciting news for those of us who were sad at the thought of never seeing the toys on the big screen again after Toy Story 3.

'TS3' cast & crew interviews at Latino Review

Latino Review talks on-camera with Toy Story 3 cast and crew members John Ratzenberger (voice of Hamm), Jodie Benson (Barbie), Kristen Schaal (Trixie), Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head), director Lee Unkrich, producer Darla K. Anderson, Joan Cusack (Jessie), and Timothy Dalton (Mr. Pricklepants).

Highlights include Ratzenberger sharing some controversial views about Hollywood; Harris recalling how she first got the role of Mrs. Potato Head; and Unkrich confirming that Sid from the first Toy Story makes a cameo appearance in 'TS3'.

On the same page, Latino Review's got a quick look at the giant Ken's Dream House set up recently in the atrium at Pixar, complete with wardrobe and working lift.

John Morris Q&A on PopEater

Briefly: AOL's celebrity and entertainment news site PopEater brings us a short video Q&A with John Morris, voice of Andy in all three Toy Story movies. Watch it embedded below.

Thanks to reader Andie T. for sending in the tip.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'TS3' is Promoted Trending Topic on Twitter

Toy Story 3 made a little bit of internet history today by being the first Promoted Trending Topic on Twitter.

Promoted Trending Topics are part of Twitter's efforts to create revenue through interactive advertising, led by chief financial officer Ali Rowghani, former CFO of Pixar.

Full story at TechCrunch.

Selected Toy Story 3 reviews

We're only 27 hours away from June 18, 2010 —opening day for Toy Story 3. New reviews of the film are being published each hour (read mine). Below are nine such reviews by top newspaper and online film critics.

All of these reviews are overwhelmingly positive. If you're wondering where you can find a scathing review, well, you can't, because as of yet none have been published. Toy Story 3 is at 100% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer, with 25 reviews counted.

Be warned that many of these reviews give away major plot elements, including the ending. No "spoilers" are quoted below, however.

  • 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."

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People —Part II

(Continued from Part I)

March 31, 2010

After a couple of hours to ourselves, the coach bus —termed “toy wagon” in the schedules— departed from the main entrance of the Four Seasons, all the invited bloggers on-board and noticeably excited. With the rainy weather and heavy traffic on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, the drive from S.F. to nearby Emeryville took longer than expected.

Once in fashionable Emeryville, we drove through some not-so-fashionable commercial and industrial areas. After turning a few corners, we were on Watts Street, the Pixar Animation Studios gate directly in front of us.

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.

Photo by Deborah Coleman/Disney·Pixar

The theaters at Pixar (yes, there's more than one) are exactly what you'd expect to see at the world's best animation studio: state-of-the-art projection and sound, large capacity, and comfortable seating. The decor is nicely balanced between classic and contemporary elements. And when the lights go down, a fiber-optic star field appears on the ceiling for a few moments, complete with a shooting star effect.

Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson entered and introduced themselves. Before introducing the film, Unkrich personally appealed to the audience to help preserve the experience by not giving away plot points by way of a formal review until the film opens. It was fine to give our general opinion of the film, however.

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.

Thoughts on Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 explodes onto the screen with what is possibly the most vivid, imaginative opening ever for a Pixar movie. From start to finish, the film is incredibly gripping. It couldn’t have mattered less that the version we were seeing had temporary music and incomplete lighting.

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.
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Leaving the theater, each blogger got some cool loot —Toy Story 3 backpacks filled with goodies like a color-changing coffee mug and Toy Story/Toy Story 2 BDs, and a Construct-a-Buzz from LEGO.

It was cold and raining as everyone made their way onto the waiting bus, ready to head back to San Francisco. The six-hour flight seated across from a guy who sneezed 150 times had begun taking its toll on me.

Stories & People continues Friday, with nearly two dozen new photos taken at Pixar

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'TS3' clip: Bathroom Escape

Go to Apple Trailers for another new clip from Toy Story 3, the crucial escape of Woody from Sunnyside Daycare, after which he finds out the truth about the place. Everything about this scene is so funny, starting with the bathroom setting.

Lee Unkrich interview at AWN

The Animation World Network (AWN) has published a comprehensive interview with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, conducted by senior editor Bill Desowitz. Four pages long, the Q&A is filled with Unkrich's thoughts on working on the Toy Story trilogy (he was editor on Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and co-directed '2').

Unkrich considers how the dynamic at Pixar changed since the first two films were made. Everyone involved has gotten older and experienced more of life; John Lasseter wasn't able to personally direct 'TS3'; and Andrew Stanton is off directing the live-action epic John Carter of Mars for Walt Disney Pictures.

(The above photograph, by Pixar photographer Deborah Coleman, was taken at the very first script reading for 'TS3' at Pixar in October 2006. Pictured, from left to right, are Stanton, Unkrich, Pete Docter, and Mary Coleman from the development team.)

The discussion also goes into a couple of specific aspects of production on Toy Story 3, such as what scenes were the most difficult to craft. Tellingly, they're both part of the film's emotional conclusion.

Bob Whitehill talks 3-D with CNET

Bob Whitehill, stereoscopic 3-D supervisor at Pixar, talks to Daniel Terdiman of CNET's Geek Gestalt blog about bringing Pixar films, including Toy Story 3, into 'the third dimension'.

Whitehill goes into detail on the rendering process for a 3-D animated film, problems encountered, and how Pixar approaches 3-D in general.

You'll be hearing a bit more about Whitehill in Part III of Visiting Pixar: Stories & People on Friday.

Photo credit: Deborah Coleman/Disney·Pixar

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People —Part I

This is the first installment of Visiting Pixar: Stories & People, a detailed five-part look at my experiences at Pixar and Skywalker Sound earlier this spring, where I got a very special look at Pixar's latest masterpiece Toy Story 3 and accompanying short film Day & Night. Enjoy.
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March 31, 2010

I first caught up with the other Pixar bloggers —Thomas and Martin from Upcoming Pixar and Greg from Pixar Talk— and studio publicist Chris Wiggum shortly after noon in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, where Disney/Pixar had generously arranged for visiting journalists and bloggers to stay.

The Four Seasons is one of the finest luxury hotels in San Francisco, located right in the heart of the city. It has a five-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide, which named it “one of the finest properties in the world” for 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.

Looking very much like an old winery, the 155,000 square foot Tech Building houses Skywalker Sound. (The official website has a nice 360° QuickTime tour of most of the building, including areas I wasn't allowed to photograph. Be sure to check that out.)

Inside, the first stop on our tour was the main theatre/screening room, know as the Stag Theater. We were given a brief history of Skywalker Sound by our guide, then shown a couple of reels to demonstrate the earthshaking sound system.

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.

Staff recording engineer Dann Thompson showed us around and explained various aspects of the studio, like the adjustable acoustic system, achieved using sound-absorbing panels on the walls and ceiling of the stage that are extended and retracted to change the reverb time.

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’.

They played us the scene from the movie where Buzz overhears the Sunnyside toys’ conversation in their snack machine clubhouse and discovers that the daycare is not what it seems. First they played the scene with only the dialogue track audible, then only sound effects, then only score, then all the tracks together, everything properly mixed. Sound really is fifty percent of the movie.

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 Sound

With 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.

Visiting Pixar: Stories & People continues tomorrow