Wednesday, November 4, 2009

DVD News: UP: A Backstage Pass!

Step behind the scenes as we bring you the lowdown on Disney Pixar’s dynamite DVD, Up. We’ve got a backstage pass to the making of the awesome animation – and you’re invited!

What’s the new Blu-ray about? “The story centers around a grumpy old man called Carl Fredricksen and an 8-year-old wilderness explorer called Russell,” explains the movie’s director, Pete Docter. “The pair fly off to South America for a wild adventure on a floating house suspended from helium balloons!”

“The original idea for the movie came from a drawing by Pete Docter,” explains producer, Jonas Rivera. “It was a simple drawing of a house being lifted up by hundreds of balloons and there was something wonderful about it. We decided we needed to create a story to go with the picture.”

The head of Pixar Animation – John Lassetter – was moved to tears by the original pitch of the movie. “It’s true,” continues Rivera. “John Lassetter cried when the idea was pitched to him. He was giving us feedback with tears in his eyes!”

A team of Pixar workers – including Pete Docter – took a trip to South America to research the movie and its stunning locations. “Pete bought just about every gadget he could find for the journey,” reveals the film’s character designer, Daniel Lopez. “The team got to experience what it truly felt like to be in the mountains for several days. They got dirty and muddy – and it was a great experience to inspire them.”

“When we started work on the movie, we didn’t have the technology to animate more than 50 balloons at a time,” admits supervising technical director, Steve May. “Our goal was to animate 50,000 balloons to lift up Carl’s home in the movie, so we had to severely upgrade our technology.” How did the upgrade go? “Eventually we were able to animate 130,000 balloons,” chuckles May.

The lead character in the movie is a cranky 78-year-old man called Carl – and a lot of time went into creating his animated appearance. “When we started animating Carl, we looked at a lot of older people for inspiration,” reveals character designer, Daniel Lopez. “We drew inspiration from actors from the past like Walter Matthau, or we looked at people we knew, like our grandparents and parents. We also looked at Spencer Tracey, who is a well-known actor from a great era. He’s a loveable guy who you want to hug – and that’s exactly what Carl is like.”

The crew at Pixar spent four years creating the animated action of Up. “We spent months coming up with the look of the simplest of characters,” admits supervising animator, Scott Clark. “We wanted to create a loveable guy with Carl, so he’s got a big nose like a Muppet character, as well as big ears and a big hearing aid. We spent forever working out the square shape of his face!”

A Pixar animator, Pete Sohm was a huge inspiration for the character of Russell. “Pete’s got these wonderful child-like qualities even though he’s a grown man,” reveals supervising animator, Scott Clark. “We took Pete into the yard outside Pixar and gave him a tent to put up, but we didn’t tell him that we’d turned it inside out. We filmed him trying to put it up – and he was hilarious. When you see Russell and the tent in the movie, this is where the idea came from.”

“Russell was one of the most complicated characters to animate because he has so much equipment on him,” reveals supervising technical director, Steve May. “He loses things as he goes on his journey and the articles he carries get dirtier as he progresses through the film.”

“The story of Up wasn’t always going to be about Carl,” explains character designer, Daniel Lopez. “It wasn’t about an old man in the beginning, but there was always the idea of a floating house or a floating city in the sky. Up wasn’t always set in the mountains of Venezuela, but when the director discovered the setting, he knew it would work because it’s so magical and unexplored. It’s above the clouds, it’s remote and it’s very adventurous. It’s perfect!”

“Up is the first title of a Pixar movie that doesn’t really tell you anything about the story,” explains the movie’s producer, Jonas Rivera. “We’ve had Cars, Toy Story and Monsters Inc., which all tell you what the movie will involve – but Up is different. Pete Docter thought Up felt right, so he fought to keep it. What other titles were in the running? We didn’t really look into it too much, but The Story Of Carl Fredrickson didn’t seem to work at all!”

The animators used a lot of real life props for inspiration during their work on the movie. “We tied a bunch of balloons together and took them outside the Pixar building to see how they react in the sky,” admits supervising animator, Scott Clark. “We also got an airship to fly over Pixar so that we could see how it soars through the air. We copied its movements for the villain’s airship in the movie.”

A huge amount of effort went into animating the animals as realistically as possible. “I visited a doggy day care centre in California where I filmed dogs walking around and playing,” admits supervising animator, Scott Clark. “We’d then look at the videos and try to copy the movements for the dogs in our animations.”

A colorful, 13-foot-tall bird called Kevin pops up during the South American adventure. “Kevin is based on quite a few different birds, including a pheasant, ostrich, heron, quail and cassowary,” reveals supervising technical director, Steve May.

The animators, artists and writers at Pixar are a multicultural bunch. “We have people from Spain, France, Australia, the USA, New Zealand, the Philippines, Canada, England, Japan, China, Germany, Italy and Mexico,” admits supervising animator, Scott Clark. “There are people from all over the world at Pixar!”

Disney Pixar Up available on High-Def Blu-ray and DVD November 10th!

In celebration of the November 10th DVD & Blu-ray Combo pack release of Disney•Pixar’s UP, we have a selection of 8 fantastic retro posters made for the film.

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