Friday, August 31, 2012

Q&A | Pixar Stereoscopic Supervisor Bob Whitehill

Bob Whitehill in 2011. Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar 

On Monday morning, I had the pleasure of attending an early press screening of Finding Nemo 3D and Partysaurus Rex. As I tweeted afterwards, both look incredible in 3-D. My full review will be up around opening day, September 14.

Until then, here's a brief Q&A I did via email earlier this week with Pixar stereoscopic supervisor Bob Whitehill. He's been in charge of bringing Pixar films into the third dimension since Up.

How is the stereoscopic process different on a catalogue title than a new release like Brave or Monsters University? 

The first thing we have to do on a catalog title is to resurrect it so we can re-render in a current version of our software. It's a process we call "digital archeology" and can be quite challenging depending on how old a film is. Simply opening a text file from ten years ago can sometimes be tough—imagine re-opening the complicated files that comprise Finding Nemo

But once we complete that process, setting the 3D cameras and making decisions about how the shots will look their best in 3D, is similar to what we do on current shows. 

Are you/your team more cautious than others when it comes to applying 3-D to a film? (I ask because I prefer a more pronounced 3-D effect.)

That's a fair assessment. Our theory of 3D is similar to what James Cameron does, which is to keep the point of interest in a shot (wherever the audience is looking) relatively close to the screen in 3D depth.

We've found that to our taste bringing characters or objects dramatically off screen works well in short bursts but we are not interested in creating that effect throughout the film. We view 3D as akin to score or other filmmaking tools to create an overall experience. Score, 3D, set design—all should be used in our view in service of the story not to draw consistent attention to themselves.

That said, our films have grown in their use of 3D depth and I hope you'll find Nemo and our upcoming films every bit as rewarding as our competitors while still maintaining graceful companionship with the story.

How long did the conversion of Nemo take?

The digital archeology process I mentioned earlier took about 9 months and the re-rendering also took about 9 months. But the reward is so worth it. Imagine trying to re-film a live-action movie 10 years later. Reassembling the sets, getting the actors to look exactly the same, the lighting to match identically—it would be impossible.

But that's what we're able to do on a movie like Nemo. The look, performances, world are all nearly exactly the same, we are simply able to re-film the entire feature - this time at higher resolution and in 3D. We're very lucky to be able to do it this way.

Generally, is there a prime spot in the theatre to get the best 3-D experience? 

Yes. Obviously, its best to sit in the center from left to right, but in today's theaters with stadium seating, it's best to sit in the center of the screen from top to bottom as well. But not too close.

So a perfect seat would most likely be about 2/3 of the way back in the theater, dead center left/right and top/bottom. Hopefully its a bright, clear projection and soon, you'll be scuba diving with Nemo.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mike Wazowski Struggles with Glasses on Monsters, Inc. 3D Poster

Here's the advance poster for Disney/Pixar's 3-D re-release of Monsters, Inc., coming to theatres December 19. Poor Mike Wazowski, he can't watch 3-D movies, or see anything in 3-D for that matter.

( via Stitch Kingdom)

CONTEST: Art of Pixar Postcard Set [WINNER]

Next month, Chronicle Books will release The Art of Pixar, Volume II—a set of 100 collectable postcards featuring concept art and final frames from Ratatouille through Brave, and 18 Pixar shorts released since 2007.

Volume II is a follow-up to the first Art of Pixar postcard set from 2005, which is still in print. At under $15 on Amazon, both sets make great gifts for any Pixar fan (including yourself).

Chronicle wants to give away a copy of the new set to one Big Screen Animation reader. To enter, send your name and mailing address to

Contest closes at 6 PM ET tomorrow (Aug. 28) and is open U.S. addresses only. E-mail subject line should be "Art of Pixar Giveaway". One entry per person please. Always wear a helmet.
Congratulations to Sawyer Jinkens of Apex, NC on winning the set. It'll be on its way soon from Chronicle Books in San Francisco!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Finding Nemo 3D Featurette: 'Like You've Never Seen a 3-D Movie Before'

Watch this new featurette for Disney/Pixar's 3-D re-release of Finding Nemo, swimming into North American theatres on September 14 (sooner in other markets). It was uploaded to YouTube by Walt Disney Studios New Zealand.

I'm not too sure about Andrew Stanton's pitch that it's like he'd "never seen a 3-D movie before", but John Lasseter's description of how good the "particulate matter" looks with the added dimension sounds very appealing.

(via Stitch Kingdom)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fox Distribution Deal for DreamWorks Animation

After months of industry speculation, and a near deal with Sony Pictures, DreamWorks Animation SKG has signed a distribution agreement with 20th Century Fox, reports Deadline Hollywood.

The new deal was precipitated by the expiration this fall of DreamWorks' longtime pact with Paramount Pictures.

To quell investor fears, which have driven DWA stock to record lows, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had 'promised analysts that DreamWorks would have a new deal by Labor Day'.

Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that DreamWorks had decided against distributing their own films.

The first film covered by the deal will be prehistoric/caveman comedy The Croods (written and co-directed by Chris Sanders), opening March 22, 2013.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Watch First Clip from Toy Story Toon: Partysaurus Rex [UPDATE]

The first clip from Partysaurus Rex (coming to theatres with Finding Nemo 3D), is now up on YouTube. Is looks like it could be Pixar's zaniest Toy Story Toon ever.

What do you think? [Update (9:35 PM): Disney got all uploads of the clip pulled from YouTube. Will embed again as soon as it resurfaces.]

Thursday, August 9, 2012

First Look at Next Toy Story Short

Pixar has revealed two new stills and plot details for their latest Toy Story Toon, Partysaurus Rex, which will be attached to Finding Nemo 3D on September 14.

Partysaurus Rex finds our favourite plastic dinosaur putting on a party for fellow "bath toys". Director Mark Walsh explains to EW:
"If you’re a bath toy you get really intense playtime. It’s like a party. Then when the water goes down you can’t move. You’re helpless. And that’s pathetic, these guys in bottom of the tub all the time." 
As the only one of the bath toys with limbs (puny as they may be), Rex is able to 'turn on the water and get the party going' for the rest of the toys. A 'glow-in-the-dark, bubble-filled rave' ensues. The short's dance music was created by electronic musician BT.

As you easily see, the  top frame includes a a few references to other Pixar stories. I hope that toilet seat cover doesn't explain why there's going to be a Monsters, Inc. prequel instead of a sequel.

Partysaurus Rex is likely to premiere with Nemo 3D at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in early September.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Brenda Chapman Leaves Pixar

Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar
Well, this comes as no surprise: Brenda Chapman, the initial director of Brave, has left Pixar to work as a consultant for Lucasfilm Animation, reports Pixar Portal.

Since being replaced by Mark Andrews amid a whispered storm of creative differences, it was practically a given that Chapman would leave the studio.

Shortly after the news broke in October 2010, I received an anonymous tip from a source who said that Chapman remained at Pixar only "technically" after being replaced as director, while 'contract squabbles' were resolved.

As of the end credits of Brave, Chapman was still named as the movie's co-director and a member of the Pixar Senior Creative Team (aka the Brain Trust).

Her official departure now sounds about right. With Brave come and gone from theatres, it seems like the best time for her to have made the move.

Chapman came to Pixar during production on Cars. Prior to that she directed The Prince of Egypt for DreamWorks and worked in the story and art departments of several Disney films, including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Limited DVD Release for A Monster in Paris [UPDATE]

At last year's Toronto International Film Festival, I had a chance to screen A Monster in Paris, a surprisingly enjoyable, low-budget CG animated film from Shark Tale helmer Bibo Bergeron.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the story and music (you might remember that it was my Best Music pick for 2011), I've been waiting for it arrive on video. After nearly a year, it's finally happening next Tuesday.

Unfortunately, it's a DVD (Region 1) release only—no Blu-ray—and Americans won't find it on With distribution limited to Canada, the best place to find it for pre-order is, which does ship to the U.S. and internationally.

U.K. viewers got a better deal when the film was issued in a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in June. But that release is Region B/2 exclusive, which leaves North Americans in the dark.

However, if you're not a resolution nut like myself, the DVD should suffice. I recommend you pick it up and let me know what you think. In the meantime, watch the trailer above.
Update (11:47 PM): A Monster in Paris is available for pre-order in both standard definition and 1080p HD from the iTunes Store (Canada), with an "expected release date" of August 14.

Kung Fu Panda 3 to be Co-Produced in China

In addition to its stated goal of making films for the Chinese market, DreamWorks Animation's Chinese joint venture, Oriental DreamWorks, will co-produce Kung Fu Panda 3 for release worldwide in 2016, the studio said today.

The announcement came as part of the revealing of plans for ODW's $3.1 billion cultural and entertainment district in Shanghai, called the Dream Center, which will accommodate ODW's animation facilities.

(via Animation Magazine)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Clip From New 'Lorax' Short 'Wagon-Ho'

Watch this 45-second clip from Wagon-Ho, one of the three new mini-movies included on The Lorax Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. As you can see, it looks great—very colourful—but the storyline is pretty thin.