Sunday, March 01, 2009

"The Pixar Story" is a documentary feature on its own (on WALL*E supplementary DVD from Disney)


The bonus DVD for “WALL*E” (original theatrical film reviewed here July 3, 2008) contains an important feature on its own, “The Pixar Story” (87 min), directed by Leslie Iwerks.

The film starts with the background of the 1970s, particularly the dreams of John Lasseter, who at got fired from Disney when his ideas for computer generated animation were not at first accepted. However, technology institutes in California and New York pushed the idea along, and in 1979 Pixar was founded with part of the computer division of LucasFilm as a Graphics Group, when Dr. Ed Catmull was hired from the New York Institute of Technology.

The documentary mentions some of the earliest features that used computer animation, including "Futureworld" (1976, a sequel to “Westworld” (1973), where nothing ever goes wrong) and "Tron" (1979) (“Users are what our programs are for”), where a silicon semiconductor chip became a universe.

Pixar would eventually receive investment from Steve Jobs of Apple. In the meantime, George Lucas was getting tired of trying to supplement his living by selling his technology to the medical industry. John Lasseter would produce Pixar’s first film, "Luxo Jr." a 2-1/2 minute film with two Anglepoise lamps as characters. In general, the new animated film culture would build stories out of abstraction, with objects conceived of as characters as well as people and animals.

Eventually Pixar had to issue and IPO and become a full-fledged studio, rather than “just” a production company. But eventually Disney would acquire Pixar, with Lasseter as the Chief Creative Officer.

The documentary goes through the evolution of Pixar’s now widely lauded masterpieces, such as the "Toy Story" movies, "Monsters, Inc.", "A Bug’s Life", and "Nemo", and finally "WALL*E", directed by Andrew Stanton.

The documentary discusses 2D and 3D animation, without thoroughly explaining the difference. 3D animation does not imply the use of 3D glasses. But a few years ago the demand for 2D animators apparently dropped, and many lost their jobs.

The DVD also have some other extras.

There is a series of brief short subjects on the fictitious “Buy N Large” corporation of the Wall-e movie. The company reminds one of “Buy More” in the NBC show “Chuck” (or even “Best Buy”). The shorts are “The History of Buy N Large” “Operation Cleanup” “All Aboard the Axiom” “Captaining the Axiom” “Meet the Bal Boys”. Note: “BNL Shorts” invokes “SNL Shorts” (without Andy Samberg), although “Laser Cats” almost fit here. Some of the BNL shorts capture what “passengers” in a “space city” (the Axiom – a name that I used to imagine belonging to a mortgage company in my own fiction efforts) really might encounter as part of their “lifestyles.”

The shorts regarding the making of Wall’e are “The Imperfect Lens: Creating the Look of WALL*E”, ” “Captain’s Log: The Evolution of Humans” “Notes on a Score” “Robo Everything” “WALL*E and Eve”.

The deleted scenes are interesting, and bring up topics like “bone loss” which would occur in space travel. The director Stanton explains how an overly detailed “ideological” scene can stop the momentum of the story of a movie.

There is also a "Families" section of "Treasures and Trinkets" and bots (with a "Lots of Bots" storybook). They don't seem the same kind of bots we work about with P2P or Internet security.

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