Thursday, September 30, 2010

'TS3' questions to be answered on CNN.com

Got a question about Toy Story 3? Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson are teaming up with CNN to answer some queries.

Simply upload a video with your question to CNN.com iReport by 12:01 AM ET on Sunday, October 3 for the chance to have it answered. Videos must be 30 seconds in length or less.

Pixar expansion construction photos (Sept. 2010)

Reader Christine Free, who works near Pixar's Emeryville, CA headquarters, just shared with me these new pictures of the Phase II expansion being built on the Pixar campus.

You can see the new building, scheduled to open for work in the spring, is really starting to take shape. Scaffolding has been removed from part of the structure.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray review

One of my favourite animated classics, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, is finally coming to high-definition Blu-ray next Tuesday, October 5. It's the second release in Disney's prestigious Diamond Collection.

Last week, I received an early copy of the Diamond Edition (which also includes a standard DVD) and the picture and sound quality of the digitally-restored film can only be called spectacular.

Since it's not a Pixar production (though Pixar did have a hand in its creation), I've published my detailed review at The Disney Blog. I encourage everyone to read it and share your thoughts and questions there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pixar's new collaborative role within Disney

Reports surfaced in July that members of Pixar's senior creative team —the "brain trust"— were called in to assist the filmmakers behind Disney's upcoming Tron: Legacy and in-development Muppets movie.

An article in yesterday's New York Times provides some insight into just how those collaborations came about. Much of it comes down to new Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross desire, supported by Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, to effect "cross-polination" between Disney's various film studios.

Journalist Brooke Barnes writes that "Mr. Iger had faulted Mr. Ross’s predecessor [respected Disney veteran Dick Cook] for being unwilling to collaborate or even share information with other Disney units." "For the first time, Pixar feels like a true part of the team," remarks creative chief John Lasseter.

Read the story online at NYTimes.com.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Disney hints at Toy Story 3 3-D Blu-ray

Tucked inside the packaging of the Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition Blu-ray is an advertising booklet that shows, on its front page, the Toy Story characters promoting Disney Blu-ray 3D. "See your favourite characters leap off the screen in 3D!" the title says, while not mentioning an actual release of 'TS3' on 3-D Blu-ray.

This may be the strongest evidence yet that Toy Story 3 is coming to 3-D Blu-ray soon. Perhaps even the 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, screened as a double feature last fall, will follow.

By the way, I'm going to be reviewing the Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition at The Disney Blog soon. I'll have some updates on Twitter and will link to my post here. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Death of Andy Witkin

Andrew (Andy) Witkin, a senior scientist and software developer at Pixar, died at age 58 on September 12 while scuba diving off the coast of Monterey, California. The exact cause of death has not been reported.

According to Animation Magazine, Witkin joined Pixar in 1998 to develop software for creating realistic movement in virtual clothing, hair, fur and water in computer-generated animation. The results of his work can be seen in Sulley's fur in Monsters, Inc. and the eye-popping fire and water in The Incredibles.

In 2006, he won a Sci-Tech Oscar from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for "pioneering work in physically-based computer-generated techniques used to simulate realistic cloth in motion pictures." Most recently, Witkin worked developing new hair simulation techniques for Pixar's upcoming feature Brave.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finding Nemo Blu-ray appears in new video [UPDATE]

Chatter Phone Tipline: A113, a short video starring Chatter Telephone from Toy Story 3, was posted to the Disney/Pixar YouTube channel yesterday. Chatter Phone whispers about the famous "A113" in-joke that has appeared in every Pixar film. At 45 seconds long, it doesn't explain "A113" and its origins at CalArts all that well.

But the end of the video is where things get interesting. The upcoming 'TS3' Blu-ray/DVD combo pack appears, along with six "now available to own" Pixar Blu-ray titles: Cars, Up, WALL-E, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and... Finding Nemo?

Of course, the Finding Nemo Blu-ray has never arrived, despite being officially announced first in early 2008 and scheduled and rescheduled many times since then. Most recently, it was rumoured to be coming this November the same day as 'TS3', but instead we'll be getting Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales.

This is most likely just a simple mix-up at the promotional department, since Ratatouille, available on Blu-ray since 2007, is omitted, and the packaging is not the "combo pack" type Disney is currently using.

But it reaffirms that the 'Nemo' Blu-ray has been basically ready for a few years now, waiting to be sent to production. Why the delay? Perhaps Disney wants to wait until Blu-ray picks up a greater market share from DVD before launching.

In related news, TheHDRoom claims that there's a "good chance" that The Incredibles will be released on Blu-ray next spring. Here we go again.
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Update: As commenter Jordan points out, a new version of the video has been uploaded by Disney/Pixar, showing the available Finding Nemo DVD. Uploads of the original video can be found on YouTube, and I've embedded one above.

(Updated Sept. 27)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pixar 'air show' and 'TS3' bonus day

Your job sucks, doesn't it? So does mine (not the blog, my actual employment). So does everybody else's. Pixar employees, though, are one happy exception to that generalization. A couple of big events that took place at the studio today go to show you why.

Starting things off, a generous bonus tied to Toy Story 3's record-breaking success was announced to crew members who worked to bring 'TS3' to the screen. Everyone mentioned in the credits received extra pay.

Details are, naturally, confidential —Pixarians were reluctant to talk to me about it— but judging from their public reactions on Twitter (which I've been asked not to re-publish here), it's fair to assume the bonus was substantial, its amount a very pleasant surprise. I can only imagine the further incentive this gives employees working on future projects like Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters, Inc. 2.

The perks didn't end with extra green. Today was also the third time Pixar has held its company 'air show', actually a friendly paper airplane competition. The event, profiled in the Monsters, Inc. DVD extras, brings out droves of employees to throw paper planes from the atrium bridge at Pixar's Emeryville, CA headquarters.

Today's competition, the first in a few years, looks like it was the biggest ever. Even Lotso got in on the act. Chris Chua (@chrischua007), currently animating on Brave, tells me that the winning plane was named Shadowfax.

With all that, Wednesday's workday didn't include much work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales trailer

Watch this new trailer for Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales on Blu-ray Hi-Def and DVD, coming November 2. You can read more about the collection of nine Cars Toon shorts (including two brand-new ones) here.



(via Stitch Kingdom)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray and DVD complete details

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment officially announced in a press release today the upcoming debut of Toy Story 3 on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray Disc (BD) on November 2, 2010.

Read on for complete details on the single-disc DVD, 2-disc BD, and 4-disc combo pack (BD + DVD + digital copy), specifically on all the great extras you can look forward to.

Today's press release (not yet online) makes no mention of the 4-disc Blu-ray we heard about yesterday, the rumoured 3-D one. Perhaps WDSHE opted to reserve announcement of that for a future 3-D-centric news release.

Toy Story 3 DVD bonus features are as follows:
  • Day & Night – The innovative and entertaining short from the imagination of Pixar artist and Director Teddy Newton.
  • Toys! – A closer look at all of Toy Story 3’s beloved toys from updating the classic characters to the creation of the Sunnyside Daycare and Bonnie’s Room toys.
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure – Produced in conjunction with NASA, this hybrid animation documentary of Buzz’s visit to the International Space Station focuses on research in zero gravity and Buzz’s triumphant return to Earth.
  • Paths to Pixar: Editorial – Pixar editors, past and future share anecdotes about
  • their careers.
  • The Gang’s All Here – A touching look at the returning voice talent for Toy Story 3 and an introduction to the voices of the new characters.
  • A Toy’s Eye View: Creating A Whole New Land – A sneak peek at the new Toy Story-themed playland at Hong Kong Disneyland.
  • Studio Stories – A series of amusing animated anecdotes about life at Pixar.
  • “Where’s Gordon?” – An animator finds a hidden room at Pixar.
  • “Cereal Bar” – The majestic and expansive Pixar cereal bar is explored.
  • “Clean Start” – The Toy Story 3 animators shave their heads to mark the start of the film.
The 2-disc Blu-ray and BD/DVD combo pack include everything on the single-disc DVD plus:
  • Toy Story Trivia Dash – This cool game challenges you to sprint to the finish with Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Rex as you quickly answer questions about all three Toy Story movies.
  • Cine-Explore – Commentary by Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla K. Anderson.
  • Beyond the Toybox: An Alternative Commentary Track Featuring Leads from Story, Tech, Art and Animation – Commentary by Story Supervisor Jason Katz, Supervising Technical Director Guido Quaroni, Production Designer Bob Pauley and Supervising Animators Bobby Podesta and Michael Venturini.
  • Beginnings: Setting A Story In Motion – Screenwriter Michael Arndt analyzes successful opening scenes from Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.
  • Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story Roundtable – A roundtable discussion with Director Lee Unkrich and the story artists who brought the “Bonnie’s Playtime” scene to life.
  • Roundin’ Up A Western Opening – The development of the movie’s exciting opening scene.
  • Life Of A ShotToy Story 3 artists and technicians describe their contributions to a few of the shots in the film’s “Western Opening.”
  • Goodbye Andy – An exploration of character design, acting and animation in the scene “Andy’s Goodbye.”
  • Accidental Toymakers – By creating the Toy Story characters, the Pixar filmmakers found themselves in the unlikely role of toy designers. Meet the toy company that took a chance on manufacturing the now iconic toys and learn of their incredible success that began with a modest number of Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys 15 years ago.
  • Making of Day & Night – The story behind the unique 2D/3D blended short.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Toy Story 3 3-D Blu-ray coming in December?

Amazon.com is listing a mysterious 4-disc Toy Story 3 Blu-ray (BD) with a release date of December 19, 2010.

According to Blu-ray.com, rumour has it that this special edition, coming about a month and a half after the regular BD and DVD releases, will include 'TS3' in 3-D for viewers with 3-D capable televisions and players.

Keep in mind that Dec. 19 falls on a Sunday, not a Tuesday, the usual day of the week for home video releases, so the date may well be inaccurate.

Official confirmation of this ultimate edition should come in Disney's forthcoming press release about Toy Story 3 on DVD and Blu-ray.

Are you looking forward to seeing your favourite Pixar films on 3-D Blu-ray? What's your take on 3-D TV in general? (I'm not very positive about it.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Brave banner shows off new logo [UPDATE]

Five months after being retitled, the new logo for Pixar's summer 2012 feature, Brave (previously The Bear and the Bow), made its debut on a new banner poster put up at the Magic of Disney Animation attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Florida.

A photograph of the banner was posted to Twitter a few hours ago by @PaulChadkin, from which I cropped and enhanced the logo.

The similarities to the old Bear and the Bow title card are clear, but this one has a more "Celtic" look with the embellished lettering. The background of the poster appears to be stone, which definitely adds a sense of drama.

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Update: Pixar animator Chris Chua pointed out on Twitter minutes ago that Merida, the film's heroine, and her mother, another major character, can be seen in the poster. Yes, for real.

Where, you ask? You know I won't tell you that! Look closely.

(Updated at 11:29 PM)

Toy Story trilogy box set art

Box art for the 10-disc Toy Story trilogy Blu-ray/DVD set has been revealed on its Amazon.com product page. As you can see, the container for the discs features a fun wagon toy box theme. (I'm perplexed as to why evil Lotso was chosen to be the face of Toy Story 3 on the outside packaging.)

Its official name being the Ultimate Toy Box Collection, the box set includes Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3 on high-definition Blu-ray Disc, standard DVD, and as digital copies.

The set will be released the same day as the standalone Toy Story 3 Blu-ray/DVD —November 2, 2010.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pixar releases Newt concept art

At around 2 PM today, thirty pieces of beautiful, never-before-seen artwork from Pixar's now-cancelled feature project Newt were posted to the official Disney/Pixar Facebook page.
"As most of you already know, "Newt" is no longer in development at Pixar. However, that doesn't mean we can't share some of the Pixar artists' amazing artwork with our Facebook fans!" reads the album caption.
Besides the main protagonists, Newt and Brooke, and some marvellous set concepts, a lot of really interesting characters can be seen, like a two-headed snake and a group of vole-like creatures, not to mention the human newt researchers.

The release of this artwork is staggering. What is Pixar up to? This might be the first time ever a studio has made public concept art from a cancelled film so soon after ceasing production. It makes fans want to see the movie even more now —frustrating.

Is this a final goodbye for Newt? Or could it be that the movie's 'cancellation' is being rethought, and Pixar is intentionally building interest in the film for a future release? Please share your thoughts.

Thanks to everyone who emailed me about this.