Friday, July 20, 2007

Pixar Stuff

So hopefully everyone's seen the glory of Ratatouille, right?
If not, check out these preview videos:

For those of you who haven't picked yourselves off your rear ends to go see it, do yourself a favor and go before it leaves theaters. The good theaters. See it in digital whenever possible.. and be amazed.

I'm serious!!! If you haven't seen the film yet... do it!!! What are you waiting for!??! It is sooo beautifully done and an excellent story - amazing considering Brad Bird took over and pretty much rewrote everything, redid the art style, the characters, the rigs, everything. He's just phenomenally amazing.

So, I went to this really cool event yesterday. Naveen sent me an email in the afternoon saying:
Open to All Staff & Students
Event: Pixar Studios Digital (Lighting) Artist/ FS Grad - Jeremy Vickery
Date: Thursday, July 19
Time: 5:30p.m.
Location: FS3B-106 (Auditorium)
Since graduating from Full Sail in 1997, Jeremy Vickery has traveled through the animation industry fine tuning his skills so that one day he could land the gig he always dreamed of, working for Pixar Animation Studios. Pointing to the Pixar classic "Toy Story" as the fuel for his love of animation Jeremy proudly states, "Pixar makes the best films in the world, and I wanted to be a part of that." With dedication and focus early in his career Jeremy achieved his goal in 2003 when he was hired on at Pixar as a Lighting Artist to work on the Oscar winning animated feature, "The Incredibles". His second Pixar animated feature was one of the most anticipated summer films of 2006, "Cars." And this year marks the release of his 3rd Pixar animated feature "Ratatouille". See this talented digital artist and Full Sail grad talk about his experiences in the industry. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The event is open to all Full Sail students & staff.

So I decided to take a chance and get over there (lucky for me they weren't checking for school badges) - Naveen picked me up and I got there around 4:30 (the lines were supposed to be huge, so I went early and took a couple bridal magazines)!!! I didn't get back until about 8pm. Aside from a lot of waiting around, the lecture itself ran about 2 hours and was amazing.

I took about.. well let me count them... 12 pages of notes. I really do not have time to type them all out right now... not to mention a lot of this is more or less "confidential" and was a closed event that honestly I must admit I wasn't supposed to see... ;) But Jeremy was a great presenter and a lot of fun to listen to while he ran through his history (4 rejection letters from Pixar and some great experience working on Veggie Tales and Delgo before finally getting into Pixar to work on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and now, Wall-E (see teaser video here).

So, briefly:
According to John Lasseter in a presentation to Disney corporate investors:

"WALL-E is the story of the last little robot on Earth. He is a robot that his programming was to help clean up. You see, it's set way in the future. Through consumerism, rampant, unchecked consumerism, the Earth was covered with trash. And to clean up, everyone had to leave Earth and set in place millions of these little robots that went around to clean up the trash and make Earth habitable again.

Well, the cleanup program failed with the exception of this one little robot and he's left on Earth doing his duty all alone. But it's not a story about science fiction. It's a love story, because, you see, WALL-E falls in love with [Eve], a robot from a probe that comes down to check on Earth, and she's left there to check on and see how things are going and he absolutely falls in love with her."

(source: Wikipedia)

I don't know about you, but I got chills when I saw the teaser before Ratatouille. I was really uneasy, scared even, because of the quality poured into this brief glimpse into Wall-E's world, and gazing into the stars. Everything about this teaser was magical, and knowing that Andrew Stanton (director of Finding Nemo) is behind it, I just get chills. I think it will be great.. but right now I'm actually scared, I think it will be so great.

Jeremy spoke only a tiny bit about Wall-E, and showed a faux-commercial for the Wall-E robot (kind of like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind did for the memory erasure procedure). I can tell you that, because the information is publicly available, again on the Wiki page: "A fake commercial based on the film is included in the Ratatouille video game. It shows that WALL-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth-class. and is sold by a fictional company called Buy and Large Corporation (Buy N Large). There is a 'disclaimer' at the end that mentions, a web site for the fictional company featured in the movie."

I wasn't surprised to hear about Pixar having another couple films in the woodwork right now, Wall-E being one, Up being the next, and of course Toy Story 3. However, Jeremy shared insight that there are 7 (count 'em, 7) films currently in the works over there. He showed his own reel, discussed the Pixar production pipeline, and what they look for on their reels (emphasis on acting). It's no secret that lip synching should be more about body language than a jaw flapping. He showed this clip to prove it:
Fidel Castro Does a Beer Comerical

He also shared a lot of behind the scenes video about Brad Bird (IMDB) and top chef Thomas Keller who was a consultant on food preparation and philosophy for Ratatouille. Of the many inspirational tidbits I saw, I should share a few of my many scribbled notes...
"Commitment makes you great."
"Get people excited about what you're excited about"
"Love capturing moments that hit new standards... make the shot that no one has made"
"People have greatness in them: it just needs to be coached out of them"
"If you control the process, you limit the process; collaboration impactful"
"Sense of emergency - get tasks done quickly"

We also saw a Pixar computer commercial from 1986, which was humorous to say the least (seeing how the technology and company itself has evolved over the years); and we saw a sock puppet short bringing humor to San Francisco earthquakes, called 1906 (Brad Bird's IMDB page actually credits him on this) which I think is an Easter Egg on the Incredibles dvd; and yet another sock puppet short which was a Pixar-employee-created parody of Ratatouille's ending.

"It's amazing when you don't get a lot of sleep." - Jeremy Vickery

Finally, some Ratatouille inside jokes:

For those of you who have seen it, you can keep reading.

Yes. That was a disclaimer. Stop reading this if you haven't seen it... and come back when you have.

Ok are they gone?

It's just us cool people now right? We can joke around about the movie?


  • Of course you may have seen the "coffin" room inhabited by critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole), but did you notice that his typewriter resembled a skeleton head? This was to symbolize how one of Ego's reviews could bring success or more likely death to any Parisian restaurant.

  • Linguini's full name is Alfredo Linguini.

  • When Linguini is trying to suggest where Remy the rat should hide to help him cook, he lifts away his pants awkwardly as if the rat would want to descend down there to control Linguini's cooking ability. Obviously he ends up using the hair on his head - but when Linguini shows his shorts, Incredibles underwear shows. Later he rips open his shirt to reveal a Superman "S" but this is a joking 3 frames that probably no one could see.

  • A cockroach appears in Linguini's apartment, and a dog's shadow appears later. Apparently we'll be seeing more of these characters in 2009.

  • The Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story makes an appearance on a French Riviera bridge while head chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) chases Remy who is on the run with some secret information.

  • 611, the number of the animation room where Brad Bird worked hard at CalArts, apparently appears in all Pixar movies and in this case, was on a tough rat's tagged ear. Similarly, Sonya Struben hid her last name on a kitchen knife as the brand, and Michael Wasch hid his last name on a washing machine.

  • When Linguini feeds hungry Remy with some cheese, we are so focused on Remy's satisfaction that we neglect to notice he is sitting on a shelf with jars of Nemo Brand Caviar... which I think is horrible but hilarious.

  • Bomb Voyage character from The Incredibles makes an appearance as a street mime.

  • And finally - probably the funniest joke: the old woman who fires a bunch of rounds into the walls of her home reaches for a box of bullets. The box art reads "Cheney SportShot Shotgun Shells" - which is going to be removed when the film goes to DVD, for legal reasons. ;)

So hopefully you enjoyed that - and hopefully none of that is private information (I was careful only to include public information that you can find on the internet somewhere). There's lots more to tell but you'll have to ask me in person. ;)


Anonymous said...

Hello Laura,

My wife stumbled across your blog and forwarded this to me. I'm so glad you were excited by the talk and all things Pixar. :) And thank you for your respect in keeping the sensitive parts of the talk off the blog.

Jeremy Vickery

Laura "Sko" said...

Hi Jeremy!!!

I'm thrilled that I was able to see your talk. It was great! I think I took about 12 pages of notes.. did I mention that??? It's not news to anyone that Pixar makes inspiring films, but, for the gazillionth time, I will put my 2 cents in: Pixar is awesome!!! I have to find a way to get there. Someday! :-)


Laura "Sko" said...

A friend at Animation Mentor posted a really cool link with more inside info on all the Pixar movies (plus images!) at this url: