I enjoy learning pretty much anything related to the wizardry that goes on at Pixar which is why I jumped at the chance to chat with director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera at WonderCon all about Pixar's forthcoming film, Up.
We spoke directly after the two men previewed clips from the movie to a large and enthusiastic crowd and later that evening I watched a special screening of the first 45 minutes of the film. I don't want to give anything away because I know how much I enjoyed my first peek, but I'll say there is much more to this movie than the trailer implies.
The footage I viewed contains everything we've come to expect from Pixar: outstanding animation, charming characters, and big laughs. And like Wall-E, the movie touches on some adult concepts. In fact, the entire audience (including myself!) was crying within the first 15 minutes.
We talked about this sophisticated nature of Pixar's storytelling compared to other animated films and lots more during our roundtable with the guys. To check out the interview,
Warning: The following interview may be a bit spoilery so if you don't want to know a thing about this movie before watching it then look away friend, look away!
On animating humans vs. robots (or cars, or fish, etc.):
Docter: It's a good question because especially on this film we made a concerted effort from the onset to make it more caricatured and stylized and so you'll see [the movie's main character] Carl moving in a much more stylized way than say Mom in Toy Story. We just felt like this is a world where you have a house floating into the sky — it's gotta have a sense of caricature and simplicity to it that supports that reality.
On making nearly all Pixar characters so freaking adorable:
Rivera: It's just really about draw and draw and draw and draw and get those designs where we think they're just really super appealing. In our medium . . . humans are really, really hard to make look real and if they look too real they start looking dead and creepy and weird and so we found that mooshing the shapes and caricaturing them — Carl's only three heads high and so forth — and really playing with proportions to make them appealing almost made them look more real.
On whether or not they feel an inordinate amount of pressure after the success of Wall-E:
Rivera: I do!
Docter: Where I feel the most pressure is the other guys that I work with. Before we show it to you guys or the rest of the world I have to make [Wall-E director] Andrew Stanton and [writer/director Ratatouille] Brad Bird laugh or cry or whatever. You know, that's a tough order. But that's I think a part of the success of the films.
Rivera: I mean, this is the tenth film we've done and, you know, everyone's really liked the films so far that we've done so you do definitely hope they like it as much because you're so close to it. I mean honestly we've been in there for four years and have been looking at this every day and somehow you go home and you're like, "Man, dogs talk and . . . I don't know. Is this good? I don't know?"
Docter: Yeah, is this just weird or is it funny. . . .?
On telling surprisingly sophisticated stories through animation:
Docter: I think that for me when I sit down in a movie theater and the lights go down, I want to see something that speaks to me that I can recognize about myself and about the world. So we don't really think of these as, "Oh, we're making little kid movies" or " oh, we're making animated movies." We're just making movies and they happen to use this amazing technology that Pixar's developed and we get to work with these incredible artists, but first and foremost we're just telling stories that speak to us.
On what goes into research at Pixar:
Docter: Actually this film has a lot born out of Peter Pan in terms of the styling. One of the great things about working at Pixar — a bunch of us go down to South America and do some research and as we were walking around we were like, "Hey that looks like Peter Pan!" We actually got to hike up one of these tabletop mountains.
Rivera: That's how big of dorks we are. We're in the jungle saying "That looks like Peter Pan!"
Images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures