Thursday, September 15, 2011

Q&A with Enrico Casarosa, director of La Luna

Photo by Deborah Coleman/Pixar.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of finally screening La Luna, via a secure online link. Pixar's latest short film is making the rounds in various festivals and recently had its New York premiere.

Without giving away the plot, it's Pixar's most artistic short to date, marked by simplicity, beautiful visuals and sound, and a boldly European feel.

On Monday afternoon, I spoke with Italian-born director Enrico Casarosa, active on Twitter @sketchcrawl. Read our "spoiler"-free discussion after the jump.

Enrico talks about his experiences developing La Luna, collaborating with talents like Michael Giacchino, and what he's working on now (it's not in any of the press notes).

La Luna will be in thousands of theatres with Brave on June 22.

Introduce viewers to La Luna.

It’s really the story of a little boy that's going out on a boat along with his dad and his grandpa for the first time to see their job. They’re kind of taking him to see the family work. They’re on the sea and he’s in for some big surprises.

The family job is pretty fantastic. I usually try not to give away too much ‘cause I feel like the sense of wonder and discovery is a big part of it. So that’s usually where I leave it at.

But it’s a lot about the kid finding his own way between these two strong personalities and it certainly connected [with] me, growing up with my dad and grandfather and [them] not getting along well, and being, you know, the little kid stuck in between two different strong people.

The kid seems worried throughout.

Yeah, that’s very true. I wanted him to be a little bit, you know, shy, a little timid. Maybe he’s been put in that place... but with that I wanted him to be curious. And even the [character] design is built so he’s all eyes. He’s looking at the world. He has a joy and a curiosity that his dad and grandpa have lost.

So I was, kind of, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of this little boy and, you know, the sense of wonder that we have as kids is something that would be great to retain and I think as adults very often we don’t.

So I heard La Luna has been brewing at Pixar for a while. When did it get it get greenlighted? How long was it in production?

Um, let’s see. Well we finished it roughly at the end of last year. With this short what happened was I was already working on my new job last November. But we hadn’t fully finished La Luna. There were still a few things we were still doing. So there was some overlap. And in the same way in the beginning, when I pitched, I was still working on other features.

So for full-on production it was probably nine months and it was mostly 2010. You know, we kinda started the end of 2009 and we were kinda done in the fall of 2010. And the first idea I probably was starting to develop at the end of 2008. I pitched it early in ’09 so it took a while before we had all the resources in place, you know.

For the shorts to work at Pixar we need to find these moments were there’s enough people available, so you have to pick the right moment where not too many features are in full crunch mode. And that gave me an opportunity to kinda [story]board it and start developing it before we were into production.

What went into the decision to go the festival route before having it attached to Brave next year?

Yeah, it’s not completely the first time we do that. I think Geri’s Game did it, I think Lifted did it. What happens is sometime if—this was ready. And it was ready early, right. We finished it early. And, you know, we were going to have to shelve it for a little while and kinda not show it till Brave.

So Pete Docter is the one that was like, ‘You know, maybe we just let it play in theatres’—not in theatres—in festivals next year and let it hopefully, you know, be ready for consideration for the Academy Awards this year instead of the next one.

And so that was—I certainly was very happy with that ‘cause it meant that it would have a little more it’s own life, you know, and an independent little bit of a spotlight, which is very lucky. And I feel very thankful for it.

One thing that I absolutely loved was the sound design. What were you looking for and who was the team behind it?

It was a wonderful process. We had—Justin Pearson is really the man behind it. He’s a wonderful sound designer, pretty new to Pixar. And that probably why I got lucky enough to have him on a short. He’s busy with a lot of feature work right now. Super talented. And, you know, my direction there was pretty simple. I wanted the—especially the stars, I think is probably what your gravitating towards when you talk about the sound design...


 ...because it’s one of the things that really, kinda, stands out. I wanted them to be mundane. I wanted them to feel like titles, nothing terribly magical, until maybe the end where they could be a little bit magical. So he totally, you know, latched on to that and all the recordings he made were really wonderful, and so we found this kinda rather unromantic kind of sound but it was really representing—almost like the way Papa and Grandpa see these stars. They’re wonderful little things but only the kid kinda seems to notice that they’re so amazing, you know, and I wanted the sound to support that.

And then, you know, you just got some great recordings. He really went out of his way to get great boats, up on lakes looking for wooden boats, and there’s a real art to sound design that I have a whole new, you know, knowledge and respect of. And then the final touches are put on at Skywalker [Sound].

And on top of all that we also got a little guardian angel there on the sound side, Gary Rydstrom, who you know has been at Pixar many years... He gave us great little notes, he would check in with us here and there. And he kinda, really liked the story so he was always happy to give us his take on it. And, you know, having a seven Oscars kinda of guy on the sound help was pretty amazing and we’re very lucky for that.

What was it like working with Michael Giacchino?

Oh! It was wonderful. He’s a great collaborator. Super, super easy. He’s really a storyteller. He thinks about it as a storyteller, so we kinda spoke the same language. Like, I talked a lot about emotion, so I had a pretty thought out emotional track of the whole short. You know, I could very easily tell him what emotions I was looking for different moments.

And I also bombarded him with a ton of great references from Nino Rota, a lot of Fellini soundtracks, and some old Neapolitan music. So I had a lot of music that had inspired me, so he really was willing to reach for his roots and let that inspire him. He really did a great job. There’s a little Fellini in there which is pretty awesome.

So you were looking for a very specific Italian/European feel?

Yeah, absolutely. You know, growing up there I feel that that’s the flavour I knew and that I could give. And carefully so: I was very careful with it not turning cliche in any way. But it was something we wanted there from the beginning.

You can’t tell me what you’re working on right now, can you?

No, I can, actually. I can. I’ve been the head of story for quite a few months on Pixar’s Untitled Dinosaur Movie, which is directed by Bob Peterson and co-directed by Pete Sohn. I’ve been working on it for a few months and it’s been a lot of fun. They’re a laugh riot. So we’re having a good time.

Being the head of story is a new experience for me, so it’s been fun. And they have a wonderful, wonderful premise for all this. So it’s been a lot of fun.


Jordan said...

I think anyone who is paying close attention to all La Luna news already knows that the "family business" is raising the moon every night.

Or at least, that's the general assumption that I'm geting.

Mike Bastoli said...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps they harvest cheese off the moon.

Mike Bastoli said...

That was my guess before seeing the short. But no...

Enough! said...

Is it impossible for you to post a bloody SPOILER WARNING?!?!?!?!?! I'm done with this blog. You don't post anything I can't find anywhere else anyhow.

Mike Bastoli said...

Where's the spoiler?

Anonymous said...

@ Enough!
Shut up.

LimeiBook86 said...

Great interview! I had the pleasure of seeing La Luna and getting a poster of it signed by Enrico at the Japan Society. The short is a lot of fun. It's easily one of my favorites and I can't wait to see it again before Brave! :) Thanks for the tweet about the screening. I never would have known of it otherwise!