Friday, June 29, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Ratatouille Theatrical Release

On this day in 2007, Pixar's film Ratatouille hit theaters. Ratatouille was directed by Brad Bird and co-directed by Jan Pinkava, and has probably my favorite score of any Pixar film, which was composed by Michael Giacchino. Box office results started off slowly but ended up doing quite well. It had one of the lowest opening weekends for a Pixar film at a little over $47 million and ended its domestic run at $206 million, which places it in the bottom third of Pixar films. Even still, it just missed the top ten domestic box office hits for 2007, ending in 11th place and only $4 million behind 300. It also did very well internationally, making over $417 million which puts it in 4th place for all Pixar films (only behind Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo and Up). Ratatouille won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and was nominated for 4 other Academy Awards including Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Music (Original Score) by Michael Giacchino, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It also won a number of Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature.

Ratatouille was released with the short film Lifted, which marked the directorial debut of Gary Rydstrom. Rydstrom also directed last year's Hawaiian Vacation, which was released with Cars 2, and was to make his feature-length directorial debut with newt until it was cancelled in 2010.

The fictional story of Remy and rats in the kitchen seems to have recently played out in the real world with the closing of the Hidden City Cafe. Well known by Pixar fans, the closing of the Point Richmond, California landmark was the topic of a blog post I wrote last week while visiting the Emeryville area.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Cars 2 Theatrical Release

One year ago today, Pixar released Cars 2. The John Lasseter/Brad Lewis-directed film opened to the worst critical ratings for any Pixar film, garnering only 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. Fortunately, people are smart enough to make up their own minds and the film made over $66 million in its opening weekend and ended up with over $191 million in total domestic sales. This placed it in the #8 spot for total theatrical grosses for 2011, just behind Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (directed by Brad Bird).

I have previously written of my love of the first Cars film. It may be true that the sequel didn't pull the heartstrings like other recent Pixar films such as Up and Toy Story 3, but it was still a fun and entertaining film with awesome sets, animation and lighting. The opening ocean scene and the one on the streets of Tokyo were amazing.

Cars 2 was released with the short film Hawaiian Vacation, directed by sound-man extraordinaire Gary Rydstrom. Rydstrom has done sound for Pixar films going all the way back to Luxo, Jr..  He made his directorial debut on the short film Lifted.

Monday, June 18, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Toy Story 3 Theatrical Release

2 years ago this day, the largest grossing animated film of all time was released! Of course I'm talking about Toy Story 3. Directed by Lee Unkrich and produced by Darla K. Anderson, Toy Story 3 had an opening weekend of over $110 million and ended up making over $1 billion worldwide, placing it in the top 10 of the highest grossing films of all time. The film also helped solidify Anderson as the most successful film producer of all time (in terms of box office revenue).

Toy Story 3 was also recognized by the critics and award organizations. It received an almost perfect 99% on the Tomatometer (only 3 rotten reviews out of 253 total). It also received numerous awards including Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (We Belong Together by Randy Newman).

Along with Toy Story 3, the unconventional and ingenious short film Day & Night was released. Day & Night was directed by Teddy Newton. It also was successful during the awards season, winning the Annie Award for Best Animated Short, and an Outstanding Achievement award from the Visual Effects Society.

Remembering the Hidden City Cafe (UPDATE 2)

Pixar has a history of including real locations in their films. From their home city of Emeryville in Cars to the nearby Fentons Creamery and Restaurant at the end of Up, they seem to enjoy including these Easter eggs in their work.

© Disney/Pixar
Another location highlighted in a Pixar film is the Hidden City Cafe, just a couple of blocks from Pixar's old studio location in Richmond, CA. The Hidden City Cafe had a cameo in Monsters, Inc., as seen in the image at left. And if you watch the teaser trailer for WALL•E, you'll hear Andrew Stanton explain how there was a meeting held at the cafe to come up with future film ideas as production of Toy Story was winding down.

Sadly, the Hidden City Cafe has closed down, and it looks like for good. I am in the San Francisco area this week with my wife celebrating our 25th anniversary. We drove to the cafe this morning for breakfast only to find it closed. The artwork that had been displayed on shelves along the walls was gone, the tables and chairs removed, and there were just some boxes and other miscellaneous items sitting inside. I had been fortunate enough to visit the cafe a couple of times, including sitting at the table supposedly where the meeting mentioned above had occurred! The food was always good and I enjoyed talking to the owner Shelly and the other servers like Kevin. Below are some photographs I had taken on those previous trips.

Some Up artwork, plus bottle of wine from Lasseter Family Winery

Street view from the cafe

Hidden City Cafe - you may be gone but not forgotten!

UPDATE (June 21, 2012): I went by the cafe today on my way to the Donut Savant and took the following pictures. As is apparent, Hidden City Cafe will NOT be coming back; the place is totally gutted and the owner is looking for a new renter. The door was open and workers were inside cleaning.

All the artwork has been removed

Ironically, it seems to have suffered the same fate as Gusteau’s in Ratatouille. Here is a picture of the health inspector notice, dated April 30, 2012:

Here is a close up of the main section:

From what I can make out, it says:
          Complaint Investigation - There are rats in the kitchen and sewage in crawl space
  • Numerous rat droppings in the kitchen and the cash register area
  • Approximately 6" standing water observed in the crawl space directly under kitchen. Leak determined from dishwasher sink
  • Facility hereby ordered to cease and desist operations until rodent/rat activity and plumbing issues repaired
Perhaps the story will continue following the plot of Ratatouille, and Shelly and team will find a new location for their cafe. Otherwise it seems this is the end of the story for the Hidden City Cafe.

UPDATE 2 (June 22, 2012): Peter Sciretta at /Film has done an extensive article on the cafe including a video of owner Shelly Bourgault announcing the cafe's closing. One note, I tried to go to her website ( and my browser blocked it as a known malware site. Hopefully she will be able to get that cleaned up soon; in the meantime I would not recommend visiting her site.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Cars Theatrical Release

On this day in 2006, Pixar released Cars to theaters. Cars opened to over $60 million and ended up bringing in approximately $462 million worldwide. The film was directed by John Lasseter and co-directing credit was given to the amazing story artist Joe Ranft, who sadly passed away during the production of the film.

Cars was released with the short film One Man Band. One Man Band was directed by Andrew Jimenez and Brave director Mark Andrews, and included music by Michael Giacchino.

While Cars may not have been one of Pixar's most profitable films, it has definitely been the largest generator of Pixar merchandise. It is also the inspiration for Cars Land, a new and major expansion of Disney's California Adventure park that is opening on June 15, plus a wing of the Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World, opening on June 18.

Cars is one of my favorite Pixar films. I fell in love with the nostalgia of Route 66, and the film inspired me to take a road trip with my son along Route 66 later in the summer of 2006. We caught The Mother Road in Illinois, drove through Missouri and Kansas, and ended our trip at the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK. It was a great trip - we drove along some wonderful portions of Route 66 such as single-lane cement and red brick segments. We also saw locations visited by Pixar research trips and met a number of friendly people. In particular I remember the owners of the Pig Hip Museum, the Ariston Cafe, both in Illinois, and the Eisler Bros. Store in Kansas. Sadly, as I was doing research for this post, I discovered the Pig Hip Museum was destroyed by fire less than a year after we visited it, and its long time owner and founder Ernie Edwards passed away this past April. It saddens me to see such a slice of American history disappearing forever.

Below are a few photos I took during our trip. I truly feel as Lightning McQueen did, when he said, "...they're driving right by, they don't know what they're missing." In fact, maybe I will watch Cars tonight!

Ready to head out for our week-long trip!

The Pig Hip Museum, Broadwell, IL. Sadly, it was lost in a fire in 2007

1920s segment of red brick road near Springfield, IL.

Ariston Cafe, Litchfield, IL

There were often multiple segments of the Mother Road
as it was reroute over the years


I believe the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO,
was the inspiration for the Wheel Well Motel.

Eisler Bros. Store, Riverton, KS.

There were so many great bridges along the route.

Single-lane segment, Oklahoma.

The end of our trip, Catoosa, OK.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brave screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Brave may not be making its UK theatrical debut until August 17, but it will have its European premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The festival, which takes place from June 20 through July 1st, was established in 1947 and will include 150 films plus 19 world premieres. Brave will be screened as part of the Closing Night Gala on June 30th. There's been no word yet on if any of the Brave cast or crew will be attending the event; I will update this post if I learn more.

Tickets for gala sold out quickly but the festival may obtain additional tickets, so I would recommend following them on Twitter or registering on their website to receive their newsletter.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Art of Brave Booksigning with Author and Pixar Artists!

If you live near Los Angeles, you have the opportunity to buy The Art of Brave book and have it signed by the author and other Pixar artists! Gallery Nucleus will be holding an Art of Brave Artist Q&A panel at their store in Alhambra, CA on Saturday, June 23. The event starts at noon with the artist panel and Q&A session including author and Dreamworks story artist Jenny Lerew, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats and Pixar visual development artist Paul Abadilla, followed by the book signing. The event is free, and if you mention the event on Facebook or Twitter you will get 10% off the price of the book! Check the Gallery Nucleus website for more information.