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Q&A Interview with John Lasseter of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Award winning director John Lasseter is known for his work at Pixar.

In addition to his many and varied feature animation film credits, Lasseter serves as Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering.

A graduate of CalArts with a BFA in film, Lasseter is the only two-time winner of the Student Academy Award® for Animation for his student films “Lady and the Lamp” and “Nitemare.”  Lasseter made his feature film directorial debut with the now classic “Toy Story,” which was the first-ever feature length computer animated motion picture.

He subsequently directed the international box office hits “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Cars” and “Cars 2.” Creatively overseeing all films and associated projects from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, his executive producing credits include the Oscar®-winning and nominated Pixar films “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.”

He also served as executive producer for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award®-nominated features “Bolt,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled,” as well as the studio’s most recent release “Winnie the Pooh.” Lasseter is also the executive producer of Pixar’s new animated feature “Brave,” which will be released in 2012.

Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering John Lasseter with his star at the John Lasseter Star Ceremony in front of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Tuesday, November 1, 2011. (Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

On November 1st, John Lasseter was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on November 2nd, the Disney/Pixar film “Cars 2″ will be released on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD.

Here is a media Q&A interview with Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter.

Is it a testament to Pixar that you create such well-loved characters?

John Lasseter: At Pixar, we have been very fortunate to produce a number of incredible movies with characters that people really love. We’ve had the “Cars” and “Toy Story” movies, as well as “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles,” “WALL•E” and “Up.” Each of these sets of characters has struck a chord with the audience. I always say that we strive to create characters that are loved beyond the boundary of the film. To me, that is why our films are so successful.

 

How important is it to keep your characters alive when a movie finishes?

John Lasseter:  It’s incredibly important. We did a series of shorts with the “Cars” characters called “Mater’s Tall Tales” in between “Cars” and “Cars 2.” That was extremely fun to do, and it’s something we will continue to do.

 

How important are the shorts?

John Lasseter:  The shorts are a very important tradition at Pixar. They’re not only fun, but we use them to help develop talent. It’s an opportunity to let some of the younger artists and animators take a step up and create a story, or be a directing animator, or even direct.

 

From a production point of view, how is “Cars 2” different from previous Pixar movies?

John Lasseter:  One of the things that is dramatically different in this film is the level of complexity. It’s ten times more complex than any previous Pixar film. We really pushed the envelope with “Cars 2.”

 

What have been the biggest technical advances utilized for the new movie?

John Lasseter:  One of the big technical advances that looks great is the water in the movie. In the opening of “Cars 2,” you’ll notice how amazing the water looks. It’s really unlike any computer-animated water to date. We’re really proud of it.

 

Were the water simulations the result of technological advances?

John Lasseter:  Our guys found this new mathematical algorithm that plots the math of the ocean and the ocean waves. They implemented that into our system, which was a brand new way of looking at ocean waves. It really is amazing.

 

What else stands out for you about “Cars 2”?

John Lasseter:  I love the way that car imagery is found in every building and every landscape in our “Cars” world. If you look at the level of detail of this movie, it’s unlike anything that Pixar has ever created before. The more you look at it, the more you’ll see.

 

What research did you undertake in order to create “Cars 2”?

John Lasseter:  A ton of research goes into making all of our movies at Pixar. For example, we studied a lot of classic car racing movies in order to come up with the race scenes in “Cars 2.” We looked at movies like “Grand Prix,” “Le Mans” and “Days of Thunder” to see how cars and racing have been portrayed in films. It was really exciting. We even got a wide-screen print of “Le Mans” and showed it in our theater at Pixar. Those racing scenes are spectacular. They blew us away.

 

Did you speak to anyone involved in TV coverage of motor racing?

We talked extensively to a TV sports director named Artie Kempner, who works on the NASCAR broadcasts. He’s elevated the energy of the sport on TV and he’s a fantastic man. We asked him, “Hypothetically, if you didn’t have to worry about the safety of the camera, the cars or the drivers, where would you put the cameras?” We could put our virtual cameras wherever we wanted, so this information was extremely useful to us.

 

It’s easy to think about the visual side of animation movies, but how much effort goes into creating quality sound for the movie, too?

John Lasseter:  We put tremendous effort into the sound on this film. We created a movie where lots of different cars compete in a worldwide race, so we have the awesome American V8 sound of Lightning McQueen up against this gorgeous, very high-pitched Formula One sound of some of the other vehicles. In order to convey these different, unique sounds, we recorded different types of racecars.

 

“Cars 2” is also a spy caper. Did you research spy movies as well?

We studied spy movies at length. In particular, we looked at the tremendous chase sequences in the movie “Ronin” with Robert De Niro, “The Bourne Identity,” which takes place in Paris, and “Bullitt,” which was made in 1968.

 

Does your approach to vehicles change because your characters are cars and not the humans driving them?

John Lasseter: That’s what’s interesting about “Cars 2.” Typically, when you watch the chase scenes in the spy films I mentioned, the shots cut between the chase and the inside of the car, which is where you see the driver. For research purposes, our editors edited out all of the shots inside the car because the cars are our characters and we don’t have any drivers inside. It was fascinating to learn from that. I think it really helped us in the creation of “Cars 2.”

 

 

 

 

How important is it for Pixar to create high quality movies?

John Lasseter:  At Pixar, we recognize that quality is the best business plan. A quality movie is a great story that is totally entertaining. It entertains adults as well as kids. That’s always our goal.

 

How important is the story process to Pixar?

John Lasseter:  I think Pixar’s success is due to the wonderful stories we’ve created. We’re extremely passionate about story at Pixar and that’s always our focus when it comes to movies. I love to be entertained by a great story; that’s where we put all our effort.

 

What’s your toughest challenge in creating these incredible stories?

John Lasseter:  Not everything goes according to plan. In fact, every single Pixar film has had a painful stage in the development of the story. At one point or another, they’ve all been the worst motion picture ever made because the story simply does not work. We don’t give up on it, though. We trust ourselves, we trust the process, we trust the story and we just keep developing. We keep pushing forward.

 

Is that how you ensure the continued quality of Pixar movies?

John Lasseter:  We won’t put anything into production if we don’t think it’s working. It takes more than four years to make one of these films. I’m not going to put something into production that costs our brilliant artists at Pixar four years of their lives if it’s not a project they can be proud of for the rest of their lives.

 

What’s the most fun aspect of story development?

John Lasseter:  What’s fun about the story development at Pixar is the fact that it’s a journey. You don’t just write a script and then that’s the movie you make. It’s this constant evolution and the collaboration with voice actors, artists and animators. It’s incredibly fun to make these movies and I hope it shows when the audience watches.

 

“Cars 2″ is available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd!

The Incredibles: 4-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Fantastic!  “The Incredibles” Blu-ray release features awesome picture quality, a magnificent lossless audio track and also new special features plus the original DVD special features as well!  This is a wonderful release and a must-buy for Pixar and “The Incredibles” fans!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Incredibles: 4-Disc Combo Pack

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2004

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Action Violence)

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2011

Written and Directed by Brad Bird

Produced by John Walker

Executive Produced by John Lasseter

Associate Producer: Kori Rae

Assistant Producer: Katherine Sarafian

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Andrew Jimenez, Patrick Lin and Janet Lucroy

Edited by Stephen Schaffer

Casting by Matthew John Beck, Mary Hidalgo, Kevin Reher, Jen Rudin

Production Design by Lou Romano

Art Direction by Ralph Eggleston

Featuring the voices of:

Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible

Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl

Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best/Frozone

Jason Lee as Buddy Pine/Syndrome

Sara Vowell as Violet Parr

Spencer Fox as Dashiell “Dash” Parr

John Ratzenberger as Underminer

Eli Fucile as Jack Jack Parr

Maeve Andrews as Jack Jack Parr

THE INCREDIBLES follows the adventures of a family of former superheroes who are rediscovering the true source of their powers—in one another. Once one of the world’s top masked crime fighters, Bob Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) fought evil and saved lives on a daily basis. But 15 years later, he and his wife Helen (the former Elastigirl) have been forced to take on civilian identities and retreat to the suburbs. Today they, and all superheroes, live as mere mortals. Bob and Helen lead all-too-ordinary lives with their children, Violet and Dashiell “Dash” Parr, who go out of their way to appear “normal,” and new baby Jack-Jack As a clock-punching insurance man, the only thing Bob fights these days is boredom and a bulging waistline. Itching for action, the sidelined superhero gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a top-secret assignment. Now, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the family must come together and once again find the fantastic in their family life.


In 2004, Pixar Animated Studios would go on to unfamiliar territory and that is creating a film not based on animals or insects but to create an animated film featuring humans.

With the first five animated films from Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney having great financial success, needless to say, there was a lot of challenges and stress that the crew had to face this time around and to spearhead the project was Brad Bird, the writer and director who has worked on “The Simpsons” and “The Iron Giant” (and would go on to direct the Pixar animated film, “Ratatouille”.

Needless to say, “The Incredibles”, which was budgeted at $92 million became a box office success, earning over $631 million worldwide, receiving nearly positive reviews from all critics and winning two Oscars for “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” and “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year”.

And now this successful animated film receives its HD treatment with a new Blu-ray release in April 2011 featuring new special features.

“The Incredibles” begins with showing us how people with superhuman abilities have helped society and one of the most popular heroes is Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson).  And shows us how a young fan named Buddy wanted to become his technological sidekick but is rejected by Mr. Incredible.

Mr. Incredible would go on to marry Elastic Girl (voiced by Holly Hunter) and all would seem to go quite well for the couple…until one day.

One night, a man who was trying to kill himself, leaped off a building and was caught by Mr. Incredible.  The man didn’t want to be caught and was hurt during the rescue process by Mr. Incredible and thus sued the superhero for millions and eventually winning.  This led to more lawsuits by the people against superheroes and in order to prevent the government (who was supporting the superheroes) from losing any more money, the superheroes were relocated and given new identities as part of the Superhero Relocation Program, so they can live their lives normally.

We are then taken to Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Helen (Elastic Girl) Parr’s life in suburban Metroville.  Together, the couple have a shy daughter named Violet Parr (voiced by Sarah Vowell) who has the power of invisibility, Dashiell Robert “Dash” Parr (voiced by Spencer Fox) who has the power of lightning quick speed and a baby named Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucelle and Maeve Andrews) who doesn’t seem to have any special powers.

Bob’s life is quite unhappy as he hates his job at an insurance company in which the boss wants him to not side with the clients all that much and to help the stockbrokers.  He also dislikes how much weight he has gained and Bob misses his old life of being Mr. Incredible and once a week (on Bowling Night), he and former superhero Frozone/Lucius Best (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), listen to the police scanner to observe crime in the city.

Meanwhile, Helen is the patriarch of the family who is proud that Bob has become a family man and avoided becoming a superhero.  She also tries to watch over her children, especially Dash who tends to get into a little trouble at school.

One day, as Bob is called into his boss’s office, it looks as if he is going to be fired and while his boss is admonishing him, he looks outside and sees a thief robbing an innocent victim and when his boss refuses to let him save the victim, Bob loses it and accidentally injures his boss, loses his job and once again, causes problems for the government (who has to pay for the damages).

Meanwhile, a mysterious person named Mirage (voiced by Elizabeth Pena) has been observing Mr. Incredible and manages to send him a package.  In the package, Bob is told that if he goes on a mission to stop Omnidroid 9000, a robot that has went out of control in a remote island, he would get paid three times his salary and also can do real superhero work and get paid for it.

Without telling his wife and family, Bob takes the offer.  We then see how Bob has changed from being unhappy, to happy and now making good money.  Meanwhile, his wife Helen thinks that Bob is moving up in the company and thinks that is why he has been quite happy of late.  But support changes to jealousy when she listens in on a conversation between Bob and Mirage and thinks maybe he is having an affair with another woman.  Then she discovers that his ripped costume has been mended and that the only person that can work on his costume is the famous superhero fashion designer, Edna Mode.

As Bob goes on the next mission, he is told by Mirage that she works for  a secret government agency ran by a person he knows.  When Mr. Incredible finds out who it is, it is Buddy (voiced by Jason Lee), the boy he rejected as his sidekick many years ago and that he has become “Syndrome” and the only reason why he has hired Mr. Incredible was to avenge himself against him and other superheroes for denying him.  Also, that he has killed other super heroes by luring them to the island to fight Omnidroid and used these heroes to fight Omnidroid in order to make better designs after these heroes revealed its weakness.  And now, he will become a superhero by staging an accident in Metroville and making people believe that he will stop the Omnidroid when it attacks the city.

Unfortunately, Mr. Incredible tries his best to outwit and escape from Syndrome but finds himself unable to escape the new and advanced Omnidroid and now is being held captive.

As for Helen, after visiting Edna, she feels that her husband may be in trouble (or will be in trouble after she is done meeting with him) and plans to go meet with him at the island that he left to.

While, Helen borrows a plane of a friend and flies it to the island, as she is preparing for her visit and also to tryout the new outfit that Edna had created for her, she finds out that Violet and Dash have become stowaways and rode on the plane without her permission (also sporting the outfits that Edna made).

But before she can be upset, unbeknown to Helen and the kids, Syndrome has fired missiles at their plane and successfully destroying it.  Mr. Incredible can’t believe that Syndrome has killed his family but Helen and the kids actually survive and now Helen, ala Elastic Girl will do what she can to save her husband from trouble.   But can she prevent her children from getting in trouble as well?

Will “The Incredibles” be able to stop Syndrome?

VIDEO:

“The Incredibles” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1).  First, let me first say that even though this animated film was released back in 2004 and within the improvement of computer animation in the last six years, the film still manages to hold up very well!   In fact, this is probably the best video version to date as the Blu-ray really shows off the vibrant colors of the film.

Hair strands are much more notable, but also the detail of the fabric of the clothing is also much more present and detailed that you can see the actual stitching.  Blacks are inky and deep and the special effects absolutely look awesome.    And while I didn’t see any compression artifacts or any major defects on the picture quality, I did notice very little banding.  In one scene, where Mr. Incredible shows off his new red costume, you can see a little banding but really, this is the best I have seen of “The Incredibles” by far.  From the debris, to the presentation of the city and jungle landscape, this film looks awesome on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Incredibles” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1.   And if there was one thing that really shined for this film on Blu-ray, it was the lossless soundtrack as not only was dialogue crisp but every sound and boom, you can feel it via LFE.  I love action films that know how to use the LFE and really make you fel it and in this case, “The Incredibles” delivers!   Also, the surround channels are well-utilized as you can hear various ambiance from surrounding objects to little rustling that can be heard as well.  Literally, the lossless soundtrack delivers in immersive sound that really gives you a feeling of the action that is taking place!  Awesome!

After watching “The Incredibles” so many times on DVD, the soundtrack, while very good, never made me take notice as it did with it listening to it on Blu-ray.  Not only was this lossless soundtrack magnificent, it definitely make a big difference during my viewing and enhanced my love for the film.  Audiophiles will love the lossless soundtrack!

As for subtitles, they are in English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Incredibles” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1

  • Director’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by producer John Walker and director Brad Bird.  Both go in-depth on the characters, the action, the performance, their powers, animation and more.
  • Animator’s Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by supervising animators Tony Fucile, Steven Hunter, Alan Barillaro and animators Gini Santos, David DeVan, Kureha Yokoo, Dave Mullins John Kahrs, Robert Russ, Angus MacLane, Travis Hathaway, Doug Frankel and Peter Sohm.  Both commentaries are split but definitely worth listening to if you are wanting a career in the industry. 
  • Boundin’ Commentary – Featuring director Bud Luckey’s commentary for the short.  This feature has optional commentary.
  • Jack Jack Attack – (4:42) A new animated short of what took place when the baby sitter was watching over Jack Jack.
  • Jack Jack Attack Explored – (4:43) Featuring commentary by director Brad Bird, story supervisor Mark Andrews and character designer Teddy Newton and animator Bret Parker on the making of this short.
  • The Incredibles Reunited – (22:06) Director Brad Bird, producer John Walker, supervising technical director Rick Sage, character designer Teddy Newton, supervising animator Tony Fucile, production designer Lou Romano, story supervisor Mark Andrews talk about the challenges the film faced during planning and production, the original ideas, making things credible, the relationships of the characters, using humans in a Pixar film, storyboarding, a staff with energy depleted, impressions of how they feel about the film today and more.
  • Elle’s Anthem – (7:15) Composer Rolfe Kent talks about the 91-piece orchestra and recording the music for the film.

DISC 2

  • Paths to Pixar - (5:53) – A featurette about the story artists, storyboarding for “The Incredibles”, the importance of storyboarding, the pitch and getting your food into the door.
  • Studio Stories: Gary’s Birthday - (1:25) A story how a party for the group ended up with the group receiving a cake that said “Happy Birthday Gary”.
  • Ending with a Bang: Making the End Credits – (1:35) A featurette about the 2D expression of the 3D of the film ala ’60s illustrations used for the ending credits and the making of them.
  • The New Nomanison: A Top Secret Redevelopment Plan – An interactive map of the New Nomanison island.  Featuring an introduction (3:30).
  • Deleted Scenes in HD - (33 minutes) A total of seven deleted scenes presented in HD.
  • Incredibles Teaser in HD – (2:01) The original theatrical trailer for “The Incredibles” presented in HD.
  • The Making of the Incredibles – (27:30) The original making-of featurette of “The Incredibles”.
  • Classic DVD Content – The following are content that appeared on the original “The Incredibles” DVD such as Story (7:15), Character Design (5:30), Evolution (2:45), Building Humans (6:17) and Building Extras (2:00).
  • Easter Eggs – Featuring the original easter eggs from the DVD release of “The Incredibles” including Incredible Socks (3:33), Dancing Bob (:30), Cake (:30), Buttons and Doors (2:30), H3A Classroom, Angus’ Guards, Incrediblunders, Frank & Ollie,Ball & Scooter and Markisms.
  • Publicity – Character Interviews (6:30) and Trailers (featuring theatrical and TV trailers).

EXTRAS:

“The Incredibles” comes with a slip-over cover case.  A DVD is included and is presented in 2:39:1 – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions, English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.  Also, included is a digital copy of the feature film which works with iTunes and Windows Media Player.


Pixar is known for creating a good number of wonderful films but I have to admit that “The Incredibles” has continued to become one of my favorites and probably is the only Pixar animated film that I have watch possibly over a dozen times and have not gotten tired of it.

I remember when I first watched the film, I was just amazed not just by the animation and design but also the storyline and the relationship between Bob and Helen and just grown-up things that happen in the film that probably would fly over the head of children but make the adults smile.

And I’m sure that many people own this film on DVD, it’s whether or not you want to upgrade to the Blu-ray version.  And the answer to that is YES!  You do want to upgrade as it is not only jsut a better video and audio transfer but you also have new special features featuring the crew of “The Incredibles” really giving us fantastic insight of what went on behind-the-scenes in the creation of this film.

We hear about the challenges and the long hours it takes to create an animated film but in the case of “The Incredibles”, I never knew that a higher-up at Disney opposed the film, I never knew about the intense feelings the crew had and how morale was low at one point because of communication issues.  There was a lot of things that happened during the making of this film and you start to realize how much of a challenge these individuals, these departments at Pixar had to face when creating this film.  Definitely it was not easy but at the end of the day, the entire crew delivered another Pixar hit!

Not only was it well-received, not only did it make a lot of money but it was a film that managed to hook in both young and old.  And it’s important to note that at the time when Pixar Animation Studios had films based on toys, insects, animals, etc., to have an all-human based storyline that was well-planned, well-written and well-executed made “The Incredibles” so entertaining and fun!

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine wrote that “The Incredibles” was #6 on his list of the best films of the decade and to tell you the truth, when I think about films that I have watched more than 3-5 times in the last decade, there are not many.  “The Incredibles”, I have probably watched about a dozen times or even more than that.  There are not many films that deal with many realistic issues that couples face and yet putting a superhero/sci-fi twist to it, “The Incredibles” is an exciting film that will continue to entertain generations to come.

“The Incredibles: 4-Disc Combo Pack” is an excellent release.  A first Blu-ray disc with the movie and new special features, a second Blu-ray with new and all the classic DVD special features, a DVD and also a digital copy of the film.  This is truly a magnificent release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and fans should be happy with this release, especially with how awesome this film looks on Blu-ray and its wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Highly recommended!

J!-ENT Special Feature: Roundtable Q&A with “Up” Story Supervisor Ronnie del Carmen, director of “Dug’s Special Mission”

November 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

With Disney/Pixar’s animated film “Up” which was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 10th, J!-ENT took part in a  roundtable with “Up” story supervisor Ronnie del Carmen.  Ronnie also directed the animated short “Dug’s Special Mission” (included on the Blu-ray and DVD release).  Here is an article written by J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith which includes a transcript from the roundtable event Q&A.

Click here to read our article

J!-ENT Special Feature: Roundtable Q&A with “Up” director/co-writer Pete Docter and co-writer Bob Peterson

October 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

With Disney/Pixar’s animated film “Up” to be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 10th, J!-ENT took part in a morning roundtable with “Up” director/co-writer Pete Docter and co-writer Bob Peterson on October 30th.  Here is an article written by J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith and also a transcript from the roundtable event Q&A.

Click here to read our article

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