There’s something very special about the films of Pixar. Creating a billion-dollar industry by making a successful first animated feature with Toy Story. Making everyone in the audience cry with Up. Turning people into a fishetarian with Finding Nemo (OK, maybe that’s just me..). After 6 exciting episodes of [the films of] a pattern was starting to take shape, one I shattered with the biggest, most challenging and most fun episode I could imagine. Check out how [the films of] Pixar Animation Studios took shape in this extensive look ‘behind the scenes’.
One thing everyone knows about Pixar is ‘the lamp’. Yes, thanks to their logo Luxo Jr. is about as famous as the studio itself and seeing him squash Pixar’s I gives you that special feeling you get when you know you’re about to witness something exciting. What better way to open the video than with mr. Luxo jr. himself?
After the intro, wham, straight into Michael Giacchino’s The Incredits. Each segment in the video represents certain aspects of Pixar films: this one is the fantastic action.
Then we head into segment two, which has that young Pixar-vibe. The music here is The Scare Floor by the wonderful Randy Newman from the soundtrack for Monsters, Inc. The idea was to catch the freshness of computer animation and the very first few films they did, and also some of the humour. I really love the jazzy vibe those early films have and I hope they invite Randy Newman to score Monsters University in 2013.
My name is Doug. I have just met you, and I love you.
I always thought Up was more pre-The Incredibles Pixar than post-The Incredibles. That’s why it’s among Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo here.
I can’t cook, can I?
I love how Linguini is just thrusting the olive oil on the fire here, completely unaware of what he is doing. No one in their right mind would add that much olive oil to a tomato soup. The great thing with this project was that I got to scroll through the movies frame by frame. Then you really see the hard work each animator, lighting & texture artist etc. brought to the movie. I never really noticed this but I had a blast finding it all out. I can actually recommend watching these films frame by frame, they’re just that good and you’ll find all kinds of details you never would if you were just watching them regularly.
HOW GORGEOUS is this lighting.
Little Cars 2 cameo here. The reason there’s not so much Cars 2 in there is because I could only work with the trailers, so nothing personal.
Great animation on Remy here. That painful expression is just brilliant.
Finding Nemo is my favourite film of all time. There, I said it. Everything is just perfect: it’s a gorgeous film to look at, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s exciting and filled with details. If only it were on Blu-Ray, that would make my life.
Oh yeah, we’re in the third segment, by the way. This one’s to capture the beauty of the films, the wonderful animation and design in all their films. I also wanted each Pixar composer to get featured so this is Giacchino’s little moment right here.
The transition between these two segments was notoriously difficult. Eventually I just had to give it more space, more space, more space. I think it turned out OK.
Here comes the fourth segment, which highlights the perfect sense of emotion in the films. Even though you’re looking at animated characters, you feel more connected with them than in most live-action films. Filmmakers can really learn from the way Pixar present their characters: clear and understandable yet very layered and loveable. I mean, it says something that you can’t help but feel a little sad for Lotso at the end of Toy Story 3, the guy’s just traumatized.
My favourite Pixar composer of all is Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo, Wall-E). This segment is set to Fronds Like These from the Finding Nemo soundtrack. Even though I chopped up a lot of footage for this segment, it still retains that sense of emotion, which I’m very proud of (even though it says more about the films than about my editing).
Ugh, wow, the ending of Toy Story 3. Is there a better way than to end the trilogy?
If you look close you’ll see Rex waving behind Woody, which is almost sadder than Woody’s goodbye because Rex hasn’t been the ‘star of the show’ all that much, yet he’s sure to care about as much for Andy as Woody.
The fifth segment is set to Peter Gabriel’s Down to Earth (with the Soweto Gospel choir). It felt like a great blend of nostalgia, beauty and excitement for the future of Pixar.
One thing I don’t get to do very often is tell a story in the traditional way, because I usually chop up a lot of different films and throw them together. This moment is a little more down to earth, if you will, and tells the story of Up a little more extensively.
If you listen to the music on a good pair of speakers, you’ll hear a bass note drop just as the footage slows down. That edit just felt really good. I did hestitate for a while, because it’s a little ironic having Gabriel sing about the restrictions of gravity and then Buzz attempting to fly (and if you’ve seen Toy Story, you’ll know he fails), so I put a shot of Buzz and Woody flying ahead to counter that.
The next 12 pictures or so will probably be about my frustrating attempts at putting the logos in the footage, so get ready. This one wasn’t so hard, I had to cut out the Toy Story logo and then I rotoscoped the car track to put it in front of it. This is probably the easiest one.
No I lied, this one was the easiest. I just had to tell it the background is blue.
This is a combination of coloy keying and rotoscoping. I ‘told’ the computer the color of Woody’s ears and hair so that the logo would go behind it, and then I had to manually cut out his arm to put it in front of the ‘2’.
This one’s done in After Effects, and it took a really long time to figure out the exact proportions and movements of this 2D-image to make it look like it was in 3D space.
This one was pretty easy also, I color keyed the green of the sea and then roughly cut out Nigel (sorry Nigel) to make sure the logo would stay behind him until it faded in.
This was a mean one. Putting the plane in front of the logo was cake, but to have it act like a 3D image was pretty tough and I had to do this frame by frame. I initiated motion blurring to give it that blur effect when it flies out.
This is one of my favorites, I like how it slowly appears out of the dust. I duplicated the footage layer and color keyed the dust and then had it slowly lose opacity.
This one looks easy, but is difficult as well. Motion tracking wasn’t an option because the black window bars were too abstract, so I manually adjusted the logo (which I had to cut out as well) frame by frame.
On this one I use the extract effect in Final Cut Pro. It’s great for shots like this but it takes ages to render and is very sensitive, so you have to get it just right.
This one was great, I just had to color key the blue from the sky and then I could have Carl pop up before it. It moves to the left slightly to give the illusion that it’s really there in the sky.
This one was disastrous. It just refused to do anything I threw at it and eventually I just gave up. It looks good, but not as real as I wanted it to. There’s a focus blur effect on the logo half-way through the shot to give it the illusion that it’s in the back at the trees.
This one just snapped into place, the camera movement on the original footage is consistent so I could easily put the logo in there.
Let me just say that I love Brad Bird and his two films at Pixar. I hope he returns one day. There’s a French restaurant here in The Hague called Pastis and every time I go there I eat the ratatouille, not because I like it all that much but just because I love the movie. I know, it’s pretty lame. I usually end up watching the film after that as well.
So there you have it! Let me justify why I chose Pixar rather than Brad Bird or John Lasseter: if you look at behind-the-scenes footage from Pixar, it’s very rare to see someone who hasn’t been there for at least a 5-year period. Pixar films are consistent because their team is consistent and the atmosphere seems to be above perfect. With filmmakers it’s usually the case that a director hires the same crew for different projects, so you’re really looking at a film by that director and his team. With Pixar the exact same thing occurs. The director is someone from the team (with the exception of Brad Bird) who just happens to be in charge. That team spirit really shines through with them and that’s why I decided [the films of] Pixar Animation Studios wasn’t such a crazy idea.
The video also turned out a lot longer than the others, but there was just no way I could capture that Pixar-feel if I left out one of the segments. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right. Not just a tribute or a shout-out, but a video that actually represents the studio that’s given me and so many others so much joy over the past years. So I tried to make it as authentic as I could by using only Pixar music and showing the variety in that music by picking different composers. I tried to show everything that makes their movies great, like the humour, the action, the attention to detail, the emotions, and then I tried to balance them out so that it could be condensed to under 4 minutes. All in all, I hope that fans of Pixar enjoy the video and that if any Pixar employees stumble upon it, they feel that their company is well represented here.