Thursday, May 31, 2012

Must-See Concept Art for Disney's Paperman

Take a look at these four gorgeous concepts from Walt Disney Animation Studios' Paperman. The color script, like the short film itself, was created in black-and-white.

Paperman will be premiering to huge buzz at Annecy next week and will be attached to Wreck-It Ralph on November 2. Earlier this month, Disney released the first of a series of 'Paperclips', brief featurettes explaining the idea behind the short. Watch—

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Brave Featurette: "Cutting Class"

I haven't been posting all the Brave featurettes and clips; only the ones that really grab me. This is one of them. King Fergus spices up his daughter's clan history lesson with a bit of friendly sword fighting.

Watch via Pixar Post (unfortunately not in HD)—

Not entirely sure whether it's part of the actual movie or simply a promo, but the action is as fluid as I've ever seen. The virtual camera work is insane.

Brave opens in theatres June 22.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Outspoken: Alvy Ray Smith and the History of Pixar

Photo by Kathleen King
Pixar. It’s a name that rolls off the tongue. Last month, the man responsible for giving the company its name, co-founder Alvy Ray Smith, agreed to answer, via email, any questions I had about the studio’s early history and his role in it.

Since leaving Pixar in 1991—just before Toy Story revolutionized animation forever—Smith has been on a mission to tell the world about his role and deconstruct the legacy of the late Steve Jobs at the company. It was to this that our discussion quickly turned.

“I’ll certainly cop to ego,” Smith says. “I want my credit back.”

Although Smith has talked to journalists before (e.g. David A. Price based his book The Pixar Touch in part on interviews with Smith), rarely has his point of view come through as loud and clear as in our conversation.

“Ed and I had a difficult time funding [Pixar],” Smith began. “As you probably know... we went through a dozen or so venture capital firms without a fit, and then we went through about as many strategic corporate partners including, in particular, Ross Perot’s EDS division of General Motors, which came almost to completion.

“Steve stepped forward as our money just as we thought all options were closing. For that I, of course, think highly of him. In fact, in general, he was a great money man for us. He was also a great money man for my second startup too. And late in the Pixar story, Steve did wonderful negotiations for us.

“He was scary in the negotiating room. He came through for Pixar in the IPO ... movie negotiations with Disney, and finally the buyout of Pixar by Disney. Like I said he was a great money man and I respect him highly for those skills.

“But then we get to the aspects of him that I don’t like at all. He took his marketing skill to the hilt in designing and selling his own story. And since that story departs from the truth, my final analysis of him is not high.

“He marketed [that] Pixar was his idea, making the movies was his idea, that he ran the company, that he bought the company from Lucasfilm, that the company was on the wrong track and he saved it.

“In short, he manufactured the story that Pixar was another one of his great creations – all his idea, executed by people he hired to do so. None of these is correct. The extent to which they are still believed is a measure of his marketing skill.

“What he did dishonorably was to deny me my co-founding credit for Pixar, and further to claim it for himself. I believe it is still true today that the Pixar website has been scrubbed of my name.

“It’s the website omission that has disturbed me the most for years, and still does”, he later told me. “That’s where people go look for details. I shouldn’t even have to be saying any of this. Why do you think I am having to?

For this, he lashes out at Jobs: “Basically people tell a tyrant what he wants to hear. But the tyrant is gone now.” As if excusing his choice of words, he adds: “You know, Mike, Steve Jobs was just another guy.”

Steve Jobs did not lead Pixar”, Smith had written earlier, in all caps. “The founding of a company is the idea of it, the vision of it. Steve came along in the process much later than that. The amount of ownership by the funders does not grant them cofounding status. He did not claim cofounder status until after I left and Toy Story was known to be a success.

“Steve financed the spinout corporation. This is standard practice and does not make him in charge of Pixar or its cofounder. It makes him Pixar’s money, its venture capitalist, its investor. Standard practice and terminology. Only in the case of Steve Jobs do the meanings get lost. I claim this is his self-marketing. Boy, lots of people bought it!

As our conversation progressed I asked whether he has ever raised the issue of recognition with the studio, perhaps with Catmull personally. “Of course... loud and clear, and in writing with Ed and the others ... I got pissed. I’m also interested in Ed’s getting his full credit.”

Through it all, though, he insists that he’s on good terms with Pixar, and is interested to see the films when they come out. “I especially love [Brad Bird's movies]. There’s something about his wit that hits me between the shoulder blades.”

“[I've visited] the Emeryville campus. It’s just down the road from my house. Not often... I don’t know hardly anybody there anymore. When I left, Pixar was, oh, about 200 people, maybe. Now it’s over 1200! Probably larger.”

Does he regret leaving Pixar when he did? Emotionally? Financially?

“Emotionally, I would probably still be at Pixar today, about to retire, if I hadn’t been bullied by Jobs, but once that happened so ferociously I was happy to be rid of him and haven’t looked back.

“I was the first of the original Pixarians to make my fortune. Steve, again as a financial person, helped me get there.” He points out that even as he was leaving Pixar, Jobs actually helped him by acquiring a 10% stake in his image software startup Altamira, which was acquired by Microsoft in 1994.

“I want to emphasize that I did not leave until I was sure our 20-year dream of making the first digital movie was underway and would be done. Ed finished negotiating the contract with Disney.” He adds: “Ed, not Steve”, using the Latin abbreviation n.b., nota bene, or 'take special note'.

“I am extremely proud of my baby Pixar.”

'Cat in Paris' U.S. Release Trailer

A Cat in Paris (Une vie de chat) was a surprise contender in the Animated Feature race at the 2011 Oscars. The film was initially released in France in October 2010, but hasn't been seen by many North American viewers, and that would include me.

Independent distributor GKIDS plans to correct that with a limited U.S. theatrical engagement beginning June 1 in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, with the potential for a national expansion in the following weeks.

A supporting English trailer is up on Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers page. The dubbed voice work is, unfortunately, horrible. (U.S. voice cast includes actress Marcia Gay Harden.)

Directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, A Cat in Paris tells the tale of feline Dino, a pet by day to little girl Zoe, burglar assistant by night. One evening, Dino leads Zoe to the man who murdered her father, the ruthless gangster Costa.

More info on the film can be found on its official website and Facebook page.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Full-Length Trailer for Finding Nemo 3D

Disney/Pixar released a second trailer today for the 3-D re-release of Finding Nemo, coming to theatres September 14. Not as good as the teaser we got in January with Beauty and the Beast 3D. Watch–

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Brave World Premiere June 18 at Dolby Theatre

The erstwhile Kodak Theatre will officially reopen as the Dolby Theatre on June 18 with the world premiere of Pixar's Brave, The Walt Disney Studios and Dolby Laboratories announced on Friday.

The red carpet event is billed as a special presentation of the 18th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival and is being sponsored by Visit Scotland.

Brave opens wide on June 22.

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Brave Clip: Tart Thieves

AMC Theatres debuted this extended clip from Pixar's Brave today. It's the scene shown in the trailers wherein Merida's triplet brothers—Harris, Hubert, and Hamish—pilfer shortbread tarts. Watch—

Monday, May 7, 2012

Teaser for Wallace & Gromit Jubilee Short

Here's a teaser for Aardman Animations' new Wallace & Gromit short, Wallace & Gromit’s Jubilee Bunt-a-Thon. It will play at historic National Trust properties across the U.K. next month and will likely be released online after that.

As the you might have guessed, Bunt-a-Thon is themed to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (puzzled Americans, see here). It's directed by franchise creator Nick Park, and very brief at only one minute long (which means the teaser is about half of the story).

The short "begins in the familiar setting of 62 West Wallaby Street with... Gromit sitting at his sewing machine making miles of bunting" for the Jubilee celebrations, explains Animation Magazine, which has six stills from the short.

According to Aardman, Bunt-a-Thon took a team of 30 artists about 500 hours over three months to complete, from storyboard to post production. "8 hours were spent brushing the grass on set with a fork to get it looking just right!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Academy Panel to Explore Development of Digital Animation

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be hosting a panel 'exploring the development of the digital animator' in Beverly Hills the evening of May 21 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Disney/Pixar's John Lasseter, visual effects animation director Phil Tippett (Star Wars, Jurassic Park), and Antz co-director Tim Johnson (animator of the first CG Pillsbury Doughboy) are among the ten announced panelists for the event.

Tickets are only $5 for the general public. Visit the Academy website to pick some up.