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Friday, November 6, 2009

Q & A with Pixar's Ronnie del Carmen and Pete Sohn - Part 3

By E. Corrado

Here is Part 3 of my three part interview with Pixar's Ronnie del Carmen and Pete Sohn. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. For my thoughts on Ronnie del Carmen's Up presentation at the OIAF, see here.

What was your specific work on Up? Ronnie del Carmen: I was working in the story department, doing storyboards, but also overseeing other aspects of the art, and doing concept drawings...

Pete Sohn: Well, you know I did the scratch voice for Russell, but mainly I’m an animator and story guy, so I did most of my work in both of those departments on Up.

What is it like seeing these films go through their development stages? Ronnie del Carmen: It’s just amazing. I think every one of these films goes through a point where they just look really bad. And we look at them like, how are we ever going to get this together? So then, we have to step back for a second, do more screenings for each other and get input, and think, ‘Ok, what isn’t working here, how could we improve this.’ Eventually though - and it’s often really close to the end - everything starts to look better, and it actually looks like an actual film. Sometimes we end up changing things - and it can be the beginning, middle, or end - sometimes even elements of all three. Really, it’s just a process, and if I didn’t know that it worked as well as it does, I wouldn’t believe it myself.

Pete Sohn: There are so many talented artists at Pixar, and how the movie started out, often develops into something so much more. As he said, these films go through so many changes along the way. We are all a part of that - of making them the best that they can be. To see that happen, and be a part of it, it’s just a really great experience.

Question for Pete Sohn: What was the design process for Partly Cloudy like? A lot of it was really challenging from a technical standpoint - not that other things aren’t - but we were trying to design a character that is floating, has no a physical shape, and is transparent. He ended up needing to wear a 200’000 particle suit.

At first, we had tried different things, but basically, some of them made his movements too choppy - and not cloudlike. Designing his face was also interesting, since we had to find a way to give him eyes that worked and a mouth that you could see. We just wanted him to be a really appealing, cute character. I loved that we were using new techniques for lighting and shadows with the particles. It was challenging, but a lot of fun.

Now two questions for Ronnie del Carmen: When did you find out that you would be doing the short for the DVD? Well, I had an idea for it back when the movie was still in the production stages. By the time I had it ready for pitching, in storyboard form, it was Spring ‘08. It was then that I pitched it to Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera.

How long were you given to get the short together? The approval for Dug’s Special Mission, to be the short film for the DVD, came in January ‘09 from Disney, and we finished it in June. I would have started it earlier, but I was also illustrating My Name is Dug, as well as there was the fact that our third act for the film was taking longer than expected. So, we were working on a deadline, but we always are - it keeps us on track...

Another question for both of you: Would either of you ever be looking to direct a feature film of your own? Ronnie del Carmen: No. ...I’m joking. Of course I would! The thing is that even with the shorts, once you start to get into it, it’s like you never realized just how hard it is to do, and then you’re like, why would anyone ever do this? But in the end, it’s so rewarding to see the whole thing come together. At Pixar, there is often a point in production, where these movies look really bad, and we are like, how are we ever going to get this together? But then, eventually, things start to turn around and we fix problems and the stories become stronger because of it. So if I had a story to tell, the answer would be yes.

Pete Sohn: Yeah, I mean, doing a short film was such a great experience. Again it would have to do with a story, but maybe someday, down the road...

Are there any other upcoming projects that you can tell me about today? Ronnie del Carmen: No, sorry. I mean a lot of them are still in early development stages, so there’s not much we can say right now.

That’s ok, I kind of figured that would be the answer...

I want to thank you both for taking the time to speak with me today. I love hearing about how all of these films come together. Ronnie del Carmen: Thank you! It’s been great.

Pete Sohn: Yeah, thanks. Glad you were able to make it from Toronto!

One Movie, Five Views thanks everyone at Disney and Pixar for setting this up. We also thank Ronnie del Carmen and Pete Sohn for taking the time to speak with us, and for such an interesting interview.

Pete Sohn & Ronnie del Carmen after the Up panel at OIAF 2009.

Photo credit: E. Corrado.

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