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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Story of Pixar’s Up Presentation at OIAF

By E. Corrado

I was waiting until I got a moment to write what I thought about the Up event that I attended on October 17th, 2009 in Ottawa. One week ago, I wrote about the Making of 9 event, and posted a short interview with Kevin Adams, art director at Starz Animation. Now I have the pleasure of sharing with you a report from The Story of Pixar’s Up, (including a bit about Dug’s Special Mission), as well as a two part interview with Ronnie del Carmen and Peter Sohn. The first part of the interview will be coming soon.

About the presentation: The Story of Pixar’s Up was held at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the Ontario border from Ottawa as part of the OIAF. The presentation took place in their theatre there from 6:45 pm to 8:45 pm. The theatre used was very big and nice, and I would look forward to attending more events at this venue.

The event itself started with the Up trailer played on the theatre screen, and then Ronnie del Carmen, story artist at Pixar and presenter for the event, came out on stage to begin the actual presentation.

He started with two questions that are frequently asked of him: 1. Where do you get your ideas, and 2. How do you know if there’re good or not. The answers are endless and varying as you may well imagine, so much so, that to try to re-cap everything here, would be ridiculously long. Mostly though, he talked about ideas in general. They often come when you least expect them, or from a drawing, such as the picture that Pete Docter drew of a grumpy old man carrying a bunch of happy, colourful balloons. To those Pete Docter showed the picture, they wanted to know more... Was the thing that was intriguing about the picture the contrast? What was the story behind this character? What made him interesting? Because ideas have to be developed before you know if they are going to go anywhere.

The thing about being a story artist, is that you have to be a great storyteller. Not only do you have to be able to write a good story, you have to be able to communicate it to others, be it through speech, actions, or, as storyboarding artists do, drawing. If you want to be a storyteller, not only do you want to be able to communicate what you want, (or others want), through the drawings, you have to learn the art of pitching, or ‘telling’ the story that goes with the pictures. These skills are only really learned through practice - in front of an audience. Essentially, you improve on the job.

Think you want to be a story artist though? Well, as spoken about in the panel, you have to learn how to take constructive criticism well. You may work for hours, days, even weeks getting your storyboards pitch perfect, (perfect for pitching), only once you present them, everyone has ideas how to improve your, as you see it, ‘perfect’ idea. This is an inspiring lesson for all artists of any medium. Often, it is when others really like your work, that is when they want to help you make it even better. When many people believe in your project, they will want to help you. When you are getting constructive criticism, take it as a compliment to your work, everyone wants to help, and often, your idea will become better than you ever imagined because of it. You can’t really make a film that will touch a wide audience of people without letting a wide breadth of people help you develop the project to it’s full potential.

I found the whole presentation so inspiring. To finish his presentation, Ronnie del Carmen showed the way that even storyboards can touchingly convey a story, by showing a little short based on his childhood in the Philippines, in storyboards. Then to top the whole thing off, those of us who were there were treated to a sneak preview of Dug’s Special Mission! That’s the five minute short film that will be available on the Up DVD next month. I won’t spoil anything for you, although I will say that it is very funny, and you are in for a real treat when you get the DVD/BluRay. The short itself is done in the same style as Jack-Jack-Attack, and BURN•E, in the sense that it shows what takes place to a certain [group of] character[s] during the film, while we were watching something else.

To end, I will say this. Next year, those of you going to the OIAF, Pixar presentations are definitely worth it. I had a great time at this presentation. It was funny, smart, well put together, and didn’t feel even close to 2 hours long. I guess great story artists make great presenters. They have a way of keeping your attention.

UP NEXT: An interview with Ronnie del Carmen and Peter Sohn - Part 1...

...and while you're waiting, you can read a couple of reviews of The Art of Up here.

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