Friday, July 23, 2010

2010 RenderMan Walking Teapot

The 2010 edition of Pixar's RenderMan Walking Teapot was finally revealed at its Official Fan Club on Facebook this evening.

Dylan Sisson tells me that this year's design is based on Mr. Potato Head and that he modelled it —"his hat, eyes, and mouth"— using ZBrush digital art creation software.

Sisson created the first Walking Teapot in 2003 as an homage to the "Utah Teapot" created in 1975 by computer graphics researcher Martin Newell. Newell's teapot model is a standard reference object and famous in-joke in the CG community.

Keeping with tradition, 1000 of the collectable windup teapot toys will be given away each day at Pixar's RenderMan booth at SIGGRAPH 2010 next week, starting at 1 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. A complete schedule of RenderMan-related events at SIGGRAPH can be found at Pixar's website.

Pixar Artists Masterclass at VanArts

The Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts) will be presenting a Pixar Artists Masterclass in Animation and Story Development, September 24-25 in Vancouver, B.C.

The class will be taught by animator Andrew Gordon and story artist Matthew Luhn, who have worked at Pixar for a combined 31 years.

Cost to register is only $499 CAD and includes needed materials for the 2-day class. Seating is limited. More info, including daily curriculum, can be found on the VanArts website.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pixar "brain trust" consults on Muppets, Tron: Legacy

Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter in 2005 during production on Cars.
Photo by Deborah Coleman/Pixar.

Today's issue of The Hollywood Reporter (THR) describes how key people from the untitled Muppets movie in production at Disney were at Pixar's Emeryville headquarters yesterday for discussions with members of the studio's "brain trust"*.

The THR cover article doesn't say which "brain trust" members were present for the meeting, which included a read-through of the story, but notes that "[Pete] Docter is a particularly avid Muppets fan, so he almost certainly was one of the attendees. "

Just last week, Entertainment Weekly (EW) reported that Pixar assisted in the production Walt Disney Pictures' highly-anticipated Tron: Legacy, in theatres December 17.

(Watch the stunning new trailer released this afternoon at Yahoo! Movies.)

Late in March, "brain trust" members provided valuable feedback to the filmmakers after seeing a "very early working cut" of the live-action sci-fi epic. Disney even hired Brad Bird and Toy Story 3 screenwriter Michael Arndt to write some material for upcoming re-shoots.

Although no one from the studios would go on the record, something about both articles tells me that Disney wanted the stories out there. It's great press for the films and the entire Walt Disney Company (and CEO Bob Iger's management) that Pixar is working to make projects from other Disney-owned studios even better.

*As of 2010, the Pixar Senior Creative Team or "brain trust" consists of (in alphabetical order): Michael Arndt, Brad Bird, Brenda Chapman, Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Bob Peterson, Gary Rydstrom, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Disney·Pixar 2011 Weekly Calendar

Earlier today, I received in the mail an early copy of the Disney·Pixar 2011 Weekly Calendar, printed by Andrews McMeel Publishing. It's put together quite well, starting with an attractive cover that lets you know what's inside. The calendar feature isn't even the important part.

Each page has high quality punch-out bookmarks, collector cards, postcards, door hangers, and mini standees featuring characters from Pixar's films. The Ratatouille postcard with Paris in the background is one of my favourites, as is the Up bookmark with Carl clutching some balloons.

While it'll appeal first of all to Pixar-loving kids, fans of all ages should find the calendar to be pretty cool. It can be pre-ordered now from Amazon.com and .ca for around $12 and will be in stores soon.

Disney registers Finding Nemo sequel domains

Jim Hill Media has discovered that Disney registered four .net and .org domain names for Finding Nemo 2 and Finding Nemo 3 yesterday. This is confirmed by WHOIS search results which list Disney Enterprises, Inc. as the registrant.

Although domain name purchases have recently pointed to unannounced Pixar (and Disney) projects that were later confirmed, there's no indication that this is the case with these.

What would be the main addresses for any possible sequels to Finding Nemo —findingnemo2.com and findingnemo3.com— have been owned by Disney since March 2000. Yesterday's registrations are probably only a prudent step, common in the industry, to prevent opportunists from taking over domains tied to a valuable brand.

Man changes name to Buzz Lightyear

We've heard about extreme Pixar fans before, but nothing like this. Coinciding with the release of Toy Story 3 in the U.K. this week, 26-year-old Englishman Steve Bolton legally changed his name to Buzz Lightyear.

He explains:
"I'm a massive fan of Toy Story ...it's a great name, a great film and my girlfriend is going to love telling people she's going out with Buzz Lightyear."
That he has a girlfriend may be the most shocking part of the story.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

'Planes', direct-to-video spinoff of 'Cars', in the works?

Movieline claims that Pixar is currently developing Planes, a feature-length semi-sequel/spinoff of Cars, with plans to release it direct to home video. The various aircraft seen in Cars would take center stage.

The idea of Pixar doing direct-to-video sequels or spinoffs is astounding for long-time watchers of the studio. On the face of it, it doesn't sound like anything the studio would do. To many, direct-to-video is synonymous with low-quality flicks made only for the money, and members of Pixar's "brain trust" said as much about the cheap direct-to-video releases Disney put out in '90s.

But at the same time, it's a very intriguing idea. Like it or not, Pixar is part of The Walt Disney Company and must create value for shareholders. Profitable direct-to-video releases are an excellent way of doing that.

But Pixar must go about it very carefully, as you can be sure they would. Any deterioration of quality —real or perceived— could be extremely damaging to the Pixar brand. A direct-to-video release would inevitably be measured against the studio's previous theatrical successes.

If the story is correct, Planes would most likely be produced at Pixar Canada, the Vancouver satellite charged with developing ancillary releases based on legacy characters from Pixar's feature films. A great opportunity for the artists there to grow creatively.

It's possible that Planes could be one of those "half-hour television specials" Ed Catmull suggested Pixar Canada could do; the Disney Channel or ABC could be great venues. But a television special would be far less lucrative.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Report: Tim Allen signed on for Toy Story 4

Tim Allen has reportedly signed a contract to reprise his role as Buzz Lightyear should Pixar ever produce a Toy Story 4.

The studio and Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich have said there are no such plans and it certainly looks that way from Toy Story 3's ending.

The Wrap, responsible for today's report, correctly points out:
Allen's commitment to a fourth film doesn't necessarily mean that Pixar has plans to put another feature-length sequel into production. And it's certainly possible that Allen and others signed on for multiple films some time ago.

But the existence of Allen's contract does indicate that Disney and Pixar brass are thinking about the possibility of extending the franchise.
Pixar is doing just that: the first short from the Toy Story Toon series will be in theatres with Cars 2 next summer. Any continuation of Allen's contract would likely also embrace his participation in that and future short films starring Buzz.

Photo: Tim Allen with Buzz Lightyear action figure that spent 15 months aboard the International Space Station last year.

Ratatouille getting 3-D re-release

Pixar's eighth masterpiece, Ratatouille, is being prepared for a theatrical 3-D re-release. The studio's stereoscopic supervisor, Bob Whitehill, revealed this publicly for the first time while discussing his work on 3-D for Toy Story 3.

"Ratatouille is one [film] that we’re exploring doing [3-D conversion on] and Brad Bird is very open to some changes, you know, some very subtle changes but slight reframings," he said in part. His complete comments, taken from a video interview with U.K. movie blog HeyUGuys released yesterday, are found here.

Confession: I've known about Ratatouille getting the 3-D treatment since my visit to Pixar in the spring, but was asked not to mention it until it was made public by the studio. But I hinted at it in this post.

Digital 3-D conversions take considerable time, so we're probably still years away from seeing 'Rat' in 3-D. As with 'TS3', Ratatouille doesn't need the 3-D —not at all— but I'm of the opinion anything that gets Pixar's classics back on the big screen is a good thing.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Toy Story 3 is top earning Pixar film domestically

Toy Story 3 reached the $342 million mark domestically on Monday, becoming the highest grossing Pixar film ever at the domestic (i.e. North American) box office.

The record was previously held by Finding Nemo, which made $339.7 million over 29 weeks in 2003. Toy Story 3 has surpassed that in just over 4 weekends.

'TS3' still has a way to go to surpass Finding Nemo's foreign earnings of $528.1 million, which led it to a total worldwide lifetime gross of $867,893,978.

As of yesterday, '3' has earned $213.1 million internationally, bringing it's lifetime total so far to $555,140,500. The film opened in Japan this weekend and is set to open in the U.K. later this month.

The numbers in this post are from Box Office Mojo, an excellent resource for anyone interested in seeing complete current figures for Toy Story 3.

First look at Reign of the Dinosaurs [MAJOR UPDATE: Not a Pixar project]

/Film got a first look at this promo image from Discovery Channel's Reign of the Dinosaurs, being produced in collaboration with Disney and Pixar.

Exactly what Pixar's role is in the production isn't really clear yet. When the project was announced, studio publicity told me: "All the information available is in the release you received. Beyond that, we have no comment."

See the /Film article for bios on some of the people bringing their talent to the miniseries.
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Update: Discovery Channel released a statement to /Film expressly stating that Reign of the Dinosaurs is not, in fact, a co-production with Disney or Pixar.

It reads:
"Reign of the Dinosaurs is being produced by Creative Differences for Discovery Channel. While we are privileged to have incredible artists who have worked with Pixar and Disney on... Reign of the Dinosaurs, the production is not a Pixar project."
This must mean that RotD is not the much talked about unannounced Pixar "boy/dinosaur" film suggested by concept art, as was previously assumed. They are evidently completely unrelated.

So the mystery of Pixar's prehistoric project continues. Is it a short? A feature? Who's the director? What is it all about?

(Updated July 14)

AutoWeek covers Pixar Motorama

Photo by Mark Vaughn for AutoWeek

Head over to AutoWeek for a fact-filled piece (with video) on Motorama, Pixar's annual company car show now in its tenth year. Motorama got started at the studio when John Lasseter began doing research for Cars.

Also of interest, David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch, sent me a link yesterday to a gallery of photos from this year's event put together by Pixar animator Raphael Suter.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Toy Story 3 art created using iPad

U.K.-based visual artist Kyle Lambert usually creates sensational artwork using professional graphics tablets. But for his latest piece, he drew the Toy Story gang in the "New Toys!" scene from Toy Story 3 using Apple's iPad. At first glance, I almost couldn't believe this was done by hand, never mind on a touchscreen.

Lambert works on Brushes for iPad —a must-have app (there's also an iPhone/iPod touch edition). Last Monday, Macworld featured a striking iPad portrait he did recently of BeyoncĂ© on their website.

While we're talking about the iPad: I was extremely skeptical when it was announced back in January. Just "a big iPhone/iPod touch," I thought. But after trying it out in the store, I was sold. Typing on the large on-screen keyboard is a breeze —great for blogging. This post was written and published entirely on the road using the Wi-Fi + 3G model.

Pixar at San Diego Comic-Con 2010 [UPDATE]

The schedule for this month's Comic-Con International in San Diego was made public throughout the weekend and Pixar will be part of the experience at the world's biggest comic book and multigenre convention. However, in a break with recent tradition, there will be no panel for the studio's next feature Cars 2.

San Diego Comic-Con International 2010 takes place at the San Diego Convention Center July 22-25 with a Preview Night on July 21. Check the official schedule for exact times and room info for all events.

Ronnie del Carmen, story supervisor on Up and Finding Nemo, will take the stage for a presentation on Pixar's story process, to be followed by an audience Q&A. This will be on Friday afternoon, and there is a chance that attendees could hear a bit about Cars 2.

On Friday evening, Discovery Channel will host a panel unveiling Reign of the Dinosaurs, announced in April as a co-production with "the top creative talent from Disney and Pixar" —almost certainly Pixar's "dinosaur project" (see here and here). The schedule's description of the panel gives away several key pieces details about the "epic" program that combines natural history with high-quality storytelling.

First, Reign of the Dinosaurs is confirmed to be a miniseries and will air "next spring" on Discovery. Second, confirmed panelists (none from Pixar announced yet) will be "pitching their stories live" to the audience, strongly suggesting that 'RotD' will tell different stories rather than following a single arc in the episodes.

"The panel [will go] deep behind the scenes for an in-depth look at how this landmark production is creating stories, characters, and digital models for the new standard in realistic dinosaur storytelling." Expect a logo/title card for the program and perhaps further details on Pixar's role in the production.

Check back here on Saturday for a recap of the days events. Of course, for the most current updates follow me on Twitter.com/The_Pixar_Blog.
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Update: Reign of the Dinosaurs is not a Pixar production. Full details here.

(Updated July 14)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Toy Story 3 & Finding Nemo coming to BD/DVD Nov. 9? [UPDATE]

After more than a week of no major news, some news!

DVDDizzy.com/UltimateDisney.com is listing Tuesday, November 9 as the release date of Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray Disc (BD) and DVD and the epically long-awaited Finding Nemo BD.

The site is said to be usually reliable but the date is not confirmed by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and home video release dates change all the time. The timing of Nov. 9 makes sense at least for 'TS3' because it's not too late in the year and far enough away from the big BD debut of Disney's Beauty and the Beast on October 5.

Finding Nemo will probably be sold in a BD/DVD combo pack, as were the first two Toy Story films in March. Toy Story 3 will undoubtedly be sold in multiple editions on DVD and BD, including combo packs and an expected 3-D Blu-ray for consumers with new 3-D-capable TVs.

Shout-out to Jerrod Maruyama for the tip
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Update: The Digital Bits (via Stitch Kingdom) says that Toy Story 3 may be released on Blu-ray (BD) and DVD on Nov. 2. instead of Nov. 9. This is based on a reader-submitted photo of a retail display promoting the titles for pre-order with that date.

The Digital Bits also reports that '3' will be sold in up to five different editions: a single disc DVD, a 2-disc Special Edition DVD, a 2-disc BD, a 4-disc BD combo pack (which also includes DVD and Digital Copy) and a 4-disc Blu-ray gift set.

(Updated Aug. 5)
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Update: Amazon has listed Toy Story 3 for pre-order in three editions, with a release date of November 2.

(Updated Aug. 13)