Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cars 2 London artwork & 'Carification' concepts

Presented below is a selection of Cars 2 artwork and 'Carification' concepts set in London, England, a city that is getting its fair share of attention this week with the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

The photo at top of the Palace of Westminster and surrounding landmarks was taken in 2009 during a research trip by Pixar artists. For some reason, only a couple of pictures from the trip have been made public (unlike for Italy and Japan).

The regal "Knighting Room" (via Bleeding Cool)

Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Topper Deckington III experience a London traffic jam

The Mall imagined as a racetrack

Front and back views of the "New Houses of Parliament"

'Carification' involved adding automotive elements into structures, like the car grill arches on Big Ben.

Big Ben becomes "Big Bentley"

Cars 2 royal invite trailer & poster

Disney/Pixar just released this royal wedding-themed promo/trailer for Cars 2, complete with hilarious new footage from the film. Watch—



Isn't the lighting in the Buckingham Palace scenes absolutely superb?

Stitch Kingdom also found a wedding-themed poster with what has to be the corniest tagline ever, as well as a HD turntable video of The Queen (notice the licence plate).

Check back later today for Cars 2 London concept art and more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lasseter on Brave, 'Incredibles' sequel

Pixar creative chief and Cars 2 helmer John Lasseter talked to IGN recently about Pixar's 2012 feature Brave and the possibility of a sequel to The Incredibles.

After speaking about Pixar's interest in having a female as the main character, Lasseter said this about Brave:
"It's got phenomenal characters and the look of this thing is unlike anything you've ever seen. Even for Pixar, there's a gorgeous, unique look to this movie and it's very, very exciting."
The news isn't as good for those hoping for an 'Incredibles' sequel:
"We love [The Incredibles]. We love those characters and love that world too, but there's nothing in the works right now."
Read Lasseter's complete comments at IGN Movies.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cars 2 is "biggest effects film we’ve ever done", says producer Denise Ream

Photo by Deborah Coleman/Pixar

Cars 2 producer Denise Ream (pictured at far left with some familiar faces) lets drop some interesting facts about the film and its enormous scope in an interview with Collider published today.
"This movie is bigger than Pixar’s ever done," she says. "We go to way more locations, we have way more sets, way more characters, it’s the biggest effects film we’ve ever done."
The film was originally going to be even bigger, with the cars heading to a fifth international destination: Germany's Black Forest. An early draft also had the story open in Prague (Prayge? Prahge?), but director John Lasseter wanted a more intriguing opening sequence (think The Bourne Identity).

Ream also opens up about her career at Pixar. She joined the studio in October 2006 after thirteen years at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Her first role was as associate producer on Up, where she managed schedules, budget and staffing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cars 2 original soundtrack cover

Amazon.com added cover art for the Cars 2 soundtrack album (out June 14) overnight.

Keeping in mind that resolution is poor and there's a chance that this is a placeholder, What do you think?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cars 2 research trip: Italy

Here are a few selected photographs from the Italy research trip taken by senior members of the Cars 2 production team in May 2009. The pictures are among the hundreds of images released by Disney/Pixar on Thursday.

Such trips are essential to bringing an authentic look to on-screen locations, in this case "Porto Corsa", Italy. Team members also traveled to London and Tokyo and you'll see those photos in future posts.

Co-director Brad Lewis in race car

Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Director John Lasseter during a visit to Ferrari

Brad Lewis (foreground); Nate Stanton, franchise guardian Jay Ward, character art director Jay Shuster (L-R background)

Jay Ward (with camcorder) and production designer Harley Jessup

Giacchino composing music for Brave short? [UPDATE]

An anonymous tipster says the following on Michael Giacchino's next project for Pixar:
"Giacchino also composed the score for next year's short (in front of Brave). Too bad he doesn't do Brave itself.
After Cars 2 scoring sessions [were] done, the musicians stayed put and recorded the music for that short. It's a nice and clever short, very well-put together, and needless to say, Giacchino's music for the short is very fitting."
I can't independently confirm this, so treat it as a rumor for now. But something tells me it's for real.
-----
Update: Confirmed. The title of the short is La Luna.

(Updated May 5)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pixar celebration at Epcot May 13-15

This year's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will conclude May 13-15 with a special celebration Pixar's 25th anniversary and Cars 2.

Cars 2 composer Michael Giacchino, Cars franchise guardian Jay Ward, and Up producer Jonas Rivera will engage in a series of 'informal discussions'.

There will also be meet-and-greets with Pixar characters in selected areas of the park and an exhibition of studio artwork.

Further information as well as presentation times can be found on PixarWeekend.com.

Cars 2 scene progression: Lights of Tokyo

This scene progression from Cars 2 was released yesterday as part of a truckload of production photos and concept art from the movie. I'll be posting more of the images in the coming days and weeks as we get closer to June 24.

Storyboard

This frame shows the camera and character staging that precedes animation, known as Layout. The set models and dressing are still in progress and will be finalized once animation is completed.

This frame shows the final character animation poses. The primary and secondary characters are keyframe animated. Background cars that populate the road are added procedurally using a crowds software system.

The character and set shading encompasses the color, texture and material attributes of every surface, and determines how surfaces will respond to lights. In the world of Cars graphics play a big role in the shaded scene, especially with the many neon signs in Tokyo.

Virtual lights provide illumination from thousands of light sources such as street lamps, headlights and neon signs. The reflective car bodies and wet street require a computationally intensive technique called Raytracing.

Additional visual details such as lens flare from headlights and colored fog around the signs are added. The final rendered image is computed on a Renderfarm and has to be free of any visual artifacts.

John Lasseter in TIME 100

Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter has taken a spot on the 2011 TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

(Earlier this month, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich was nominated in the TIME 100 poll. Voting closed with him at #51 out of 203.)

TIME selected Pixar staple John Ratzenberger to write the appreciation. He begins: "If any of us had the good fortune to choose our neighbors, we would ask for John Lasseter."

In a short video on TIME.com, Lasseter talks about who he would pick as 'most influential' and reveals a previously unknown collaboration between Pixar and Apple. His pick is Steve Jobs, of course, who inexplicably didn't make the list this year.

Lasseter reveals that Apple built him a special iPad app to facilitate his directorial duties on Cars 2. It allows him to review stills and video during his hour-long commute, record his voice for notes, and email everything to the correct people.

Directing a $200 million animated feature? There's an app for that.

The TIME 100 issue will be on newsstands tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michael Giacchino interview at MovieWeb

Briefly: MovieWeb just posted a new conversation with Michael Giacchino.

The Cars 2 composer talks about what it's like to work with Pixar, what makes the studio "stand out from the crowd", and his inspirations for the music of Cars 2.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cars 2 London vintage posters

Following the rollout of the Cars 2 London characters come these two retro/vintage London-themed posters.

Don't care much for the left one, but the one on the right is definitely snazzy with its old-school thriller vibe.

The Pixar Studio Store You Don't Know About

Sometimes good stories come from the most unexpected places. While looking at different e-commerce providers for my day job, I discovered something I didn't know about Pixar.

For the past several years, the studio has operated a low-profile online store for employees using Shopify—an online version of its employees-and-guests-only studio store in Emeryville (pictured).

This explains why the Shopify homepage features Pixar as a star client, alongside Rovio Mobile (creators of Angry Birds), Tesla Motors, and others.

Password-enabled employees access the store through pixar.myshopify.com. Apparently to throw off 'visitors from the outside', the page reads "Pixar Swag will be opening soon..."

Digging further, I found a news article from early 2007 which mentions the store:
"[Shopify] has also been used to create an online store for employees of computer cartoon giant Pixar Animation Studios. The company sells Pixar movie-branded items on the site to employees before those items are available to the public.

"This was all done through word of mouth. A developer had heard of it," said Scott Lake, co-founder of [Shopify parent] Jaded Pixel. "One of the developers said, 'look we should try this.' They called and asked if we could set up this store and we said, 'Of course. You're Pixar!'"
It would be off-the-charts cool if Pixar opened the online store to the public. Companies like FedEx and Google have done it, why not Pixar? Special items could still be sold exclusively to employees. What would you buy?

Cars 2 character: Chauncy Fares [UPDATE: More British Characters]

Disney/Pixar gave me this early look at new Cars 2 character Chauncy Fares, one of the British characters met by Lightning McQueen and crew during the London leg of the World Grand Prix.

"No one knows the sites, streets or shortcuts of London better than the jovial Chauncy Fares, a quintessential London black cab," reads his official one-line bio.

I had the pleasure of visiting London last month and it is such an unbelievably cool, stylish place. I can't wait to see Pixar's take on it in the world of Cars.

On Friday, technical director Michael Frederickson tweeted that it's been his job to build the "40,000 buildings" that make up the city in the movie. He later added: "Perhaps the weirdest moment of working on London for so long was realizing I knew my way around a city I've never visited."
-----
Update: As noted above, Chauncy Fares is one of a group of British characters appearing in Cars 2. Four more have been unveiled via HeyUGuys and they're a lot of fun.

Topper Deckington III is a classic British double-decker bus in a vivid shade of red who relishes in his daily Killswitch route through London’s famous bustling Petroldilly Circus.

With the final stage of the World Grand Prix racing through the historic streets of London, England, the Queen is quietly elated she was invited to preside over the finish line by Sir Miles Axlerod.

Painted in shades of the most royal blues and never without her jeweled crown, the Queen is the definition of decorum and regality, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy a bit of first-rate competition!

(From the "E" insignia on the wheel trim, it looks like she shares a name with her real-world counterpart.)

Prince Wheeliam of England is an avid racing fan. He can’t believe his luck that the final race of the one-of-a-kind World Grand Prix is happening on the streets of London. Though he must remain impartial when by his grandmother the Queen’s side, he is privately rooting for his fellow Brits Lewis Hamilton and Nigel Gearsley to cross the finish line first.

Sgt. Highgear is a member of the regiment assigned to London’s landmark Buckingham Palace. With a recognizable tall bearskin cap atop his scarlet body, he stands guard at his sentry box with pride and conviction.

(Updated 12:20 PM)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Facts about Cars 2 triptych + individual sections

Some interesting technical facts about the unbelievable Cars 2 triptych that debuted yesterday have been posted to The Fan Carpet.

Featured Characters

  • Tokyo: 130 posed characters, 2 simulated crowds
  • London: 145 posed characters, simulated traffic
  • Italy: 140 posed characters, simulated crowds
  • Total: 415 posed characters
Composition

  • Total shots: 20 cameras and locations per poster = 60 individual shots
  • Total staff: 20-25 people: CS TDs, layout artists, master lighters, matte painters, simulation TDs
  • Total time to complete: 5 months
Camera/layout artist John Anon says on Twitter that he thinks the staff "was more like 40 [people] when you include project management, art supervision, etc."

Technical director Michael Frederickson tweeted that the triptych was originally rendered at 10k resolution. "It's absurd the amount of detail you can see in the 1:1 version," says Frederickson.

The three individual sections of the triptych were released today. Italy is pictured; London and Tokyo are here and here. Click to see them larger. And try to spot Mater and McQueen (?) in the London one.

Pre-order Cars 2 soundtrack

The Cars 2 soundtrack is now available for pre-order on CD from Amazon.com and other online retailers. It will ship on June 14.

No cover art or track listing has yet been made available.

As I reported last month, in addition to Michael Giacchino's original score, the album will include two new songs from the film.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cars 2 triptych poster [UPDATE]

This amazing seamless triptych of scenes from Cars 2 just debuted at Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers site. Click to expand or download at full resolution.

Update: See here for equally amazing details on how the triptych was created.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unkrich is Chagrin Falls "hometown hero"

With the success of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich has become a very popular guy all over the world. But nowhere is this truer than in his hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Unkrich will serve as the grand marshal of the town's annual Blossom Time Festival parade this May, which is expected to draw nearly 100,000 spectators. He'll also be participating in a public question-and-answer session in a local park.

Watch (or read) this report from NBC affiliate WKYC-TV in Cleveland—



Today is also the last day to vote for Lee in the TIME 100 poll, where he's one of the nominees for the magazine's 'most influential' list. He's currently at #52; ahead of big names like Oprah and Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hawaiian Vacation world premiere photos

These photos from last Friday's world premiere of Toy Story Toon Hawaiian Vacation have been released via WireImage.

Don Crum with Lightning McQueen (from "Agents on a Mission" tour) outside the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Crum with young Pixar fan

Crowd outside screening room

Crum beginning his presentation

Four new Cars 2 characters + three Japanese posters

The Cars 2 character rollout just shifted into high gear with the debut of four new Japanese characters from the movie (with short bios) plus three stylish Japan-themed posters.

As a professional Sumo wrestler at an arena in Tokyo, Japan, Kingpin Nobunaga is a gold-painted micro van who fights his fiercest matches when he’s wearing his lucky purple mawashi.

Okuni is a micro car Kabuki dancer who dons the traditional white-painted face and an exquisite colorful kimono for her performances at the Kabuki theater in Tokyo, Japan.

Pinion Tanaka is a gold-painted micro van and a professional Sumo wrestler from Tokyo, Japan, who’s always a menacing sight in the ring in his signature teal mawashi.

A master in the art of sculpting the serene zen rock garden at the Tokyo museum, Zen Master wears his old woven reed hat and uses his antique wood rake to create mesmerizing patterns in the garden’s sand.

Of this set of retro posters, the Mary Blair-esque one at right is my pick, though the other two look most authentically Japanese. (Then again, I'm not Japanese, so what do I know?)

'Incredibles' Blu-ray in stores

As if you could forget, The Incredibles is out on Blu-ray today. If previous Pixar releases are any indicator, the combo pack should top the week's Blu-ray/DVD sales charts.

If you've already gotten your copy, please share your comments below. If not, you might be interested in reading my review and watching these great clips from a couple of the extras.

Also on sale today is Cars on a newly-issued Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Authorized Steve Jobs biography to be published in 2012

Simon & Schuster announced this evening that they will be publishing the long-awaited authorized biography of Apple CEO and Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs early next year.

The book, titled iSteve: The Book of Jobs, is being written by respected biographer Walter Isaacson, who has previously chronicled the lives of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, among others.

Jobs fully cooperated with Isaacson and granted him unprecedented access to the people closest to him. In a prepared statement, Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp calls the result a "landmark book".

Though a focus on Jobs' incredible career at Apple is natural, expect at least one chapter on his role at Pixar, the major part of which took place between 1986 and 2006. I'll be picking up a copy regardless.

(Source: AP/ABC News)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Checking out the "Agents on a Mission" tour

The Cars 2 "Agents on a Mission" Tour drove into my neck of the woods this morning, stopping at the NASCAR SpeedPark in Vaughan, just north of Toronto.

Here are a few pics of the life-size replicas of Lightning McQueen, Finn McMissile, and Mater.

If you ask me, the venue wasn't right for the event, for a number of reasons. But the cars themselves are awesome, even if they weren't animatronic as I had expected. These pictures don't do them justice.

The paint and design work on Lightning, Finn, and Mater is superb. That's real rust on Mater, created using a "proprietary system". Since the cars were fabricated from Pixar's digital models, they're identical to the characters in the film.

If you're planning to head out to your local stop, aim to get there early. People were lining up nearly an hour before opening time. I heard more than one "Ka-chow!"