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Pixar'€™s long, scrupulous process to create resonant animation

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Singapore   /   Wed, May 13, 2015   /  08:46 am
Pixar'€™s long, scrupulous process to create resonant animation

'€˜Inside Out'€™: This film looks at the five emotions inside the head of a young girl, Riley, who moves from the US Midwest to San Francisco. Courtesy of Pixar

The upcoming feature films from Pixar Animation Studios '€” The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out '€” have been more than five years in the making.

While the process has been financially and mentally challenging, Pixar president Jim Morris talks about it with smiles, taking obvious pride in the company'€™s creative process in delivering widely acclaimed animated films.

'€œYeah, we screwed up a lot,'€ Morris said, laughing, during a recent interview with journalists in Singapore. '€œIt takes a lot of work to get this thing right.'€

The Good Dinosaur, which revolves around the adventures of a boy and his Apatosaurus in a world where dinosaurs never became extinct, was originally expected to hit theaters last year.

However, a major reworking pushed the release date to this November.

The problem was that Pixar executives spotted a fundamental flaw in the story after the film had been in development for four years, Morris said. '€œIt seemed funny at first '€” and then it looked like something that was maybe insulting to some. [We] couldn'€™t quite find the way to fix it, so we stopped that whole direction.'€

Korean-American director Peter Sohn '€” the film'€™s co-director at that time '€” was appointed to take over, bringing a new approach to the existing characters.

'€œThat'€™s a very expensive and emotionally difficult thing to do,'€ Morris said. '€œIt was very dramatic for the company, but we felt we just thought [the existing work] wasn'€™t good enough.'€

jim Morris - Courtesy of PixarJim Morris - Courtesy of Pixar

The redevelopment of The Good Dinosaur appears to pay off, Morris said. '€œIt'€™s really emotional film. I know that'€™s funny talking about emotional dinosaur '€“ you'€™ve got to trust me on this one.'€

Meticulous attention to details has been part of Pixar since it was founded in 1979 as the computer division of Lucasfilm. Every Pixar movie, Morris said, has gone through detailed assessment before reaching the silver screen.

Under Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and John Lasseter, Pixar'€™s chief creative officer, the company introduced groundbreaking use of CGI animation.

'€œIt seems to me that it took the courage of John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and the key leadership there to look at things very carefully - and admit to themselves when it wasn'€™t working even if it was very painful to do,'€ Morris said.

Pixar, acquired by Disney in 2006, has delivered a set of critically acclaimed and box-office-conquering animations, such as Toy Story; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo and The Incredibles '€” most of which had a gestation process that topped six years.

Telling a story that resonates to people is essential, according to Morris.

'€œIt'€™s not like we come up with ideas and assign them to direct this '€” we kind of do the opposite,'€ he says. '€œIf we have somebody that we work with and we think that they have a unique sensibility or a unique quality about them as a creative person, we'€™ll invite them to pitch three ideas.'€

He continues. '€œWe ask them to pitch something that is a reflection of some emotions that they have or something that they'€™ve gone through emotionally.'€

Finding Nemo, for example, was driven by director Andrew Stanton anxiety about being a new father, while the superhero family of The Incredibles reflected the family of director Brad Bird.

At the end of April, Morris and Andrew Millstein, the president of Disney Animation Studios, spent days in Singapore to discuss with Disney regional team, local animators and filmmakers in Singapore how to make animation more appealing to audiences in the region.

Morris said that the Southeast Asia market '€œhas the most untapped potential'€, given its large millennial population.

The visit was also a chance for Morris to introduce Pixar'€™s latest feature, Inside Out, which takes the audience into the mind of a young girl named Riley, whose five emotions '€” joy, anger, disgust, fear and sadness '€” try to advise the girl through everyday life.

Although the world of mind seems like an abstract and complicated concept, Morris believes that Inside Out, slated for an August release, will lure children.

'€œIn the focus group, they asked the kids what the film was about. And this little girl pitched it better than [director] Pete Docter,'€ Morris said.

'€œI think we always underestimate how smart children are, how quick they get stuff.'€

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