Friday, September 21, 2012

Pixarian Start and Birth Dates, September 2012 Edition

Welcome to another edition of Pixarian start and birth dates! It turns out September has been a busy month for new employees!
  • Dave Mullins (2000) - Mullins began his Pixar career as an animator on Finding Nemo. He has worked on a number of other films such as The Incredibles, Cars and Ratatouille. He also co-directed Monsters, Inc. commercials for McDonalds and directed Cars commercials for General Motors. He was a directing animator on Up and supervising animator on Cars 2. Prior to Pixar, Mullins graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked at Acclaim Entertainment and Disney Feature Animation.

  • Steve Purcell (2001) - Steve started at Pixar as a story artist on Cars. His story-telling skills and early drawings of Merida convinced Brenda Chapman to ask him to be head of story for Brave. His passion for the project led him to be promoted to co-director, along with Chapman and Mark Andrews. Steve is also known as the creator of the comic book series Sam & Max. Purcell graduated from the California College of the Arts in Oakland.
  • Dan Scanlon (2001) - Dan started at Pixar on September 10, 2001. He was a story artist on Cars, and directed the short film Mater and the Ghostlight. He is now directing Pixar's next feature film, Monsters University (to be released June 21, 2013). Prior to his arrival at Pixar, Scanlon was a storyboard artist on The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea and 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure. Scanlon is also known for his live-action mockumentary Tracy.
  • Jay Shuster (2002) - Jay started at Pixar as a concept designer for Cars. He went on to being a character designer on WALL•E, and was the character art director for Cars 2. Before coming to Pixar, Shuster worked at Lucasfilm as a concept artist on films such as Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Shuster graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI.
As for birthdays, Pixar director and filmmaker extraordinaire Brad Bird was born in September, 1957 in Kalispell, MT. Brad became a fan of animation at a young age, and even was invited to visit the Disney Studios at the age of 11 after sending the studio samples of his work. After high school, Bird attended the California Institute of Arts as a student in the newly launched character animation program with classmates John Lasseter, Tim Burton and Henry Selick. He was an executive consultant on The Simpsons, and directed the critically acclaimed film The Iron Giant before coming to Pixar where he directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille. He also directed the live action film Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Dave MullinsJay ShusterDan Scanlon
Steve PurcellBrad Bird

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Michael Graves, Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing

Architect Michael Graves wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times earlier this week. In the article he talks about the death of drawing in architectural design due to the computer. Listening to Graves speak of the art and creative process of architecture, it is easy to draw comparisons to the animation industry.

Disney's Dolphin Resort
If you're not familiar with Michael Graves, he has designed many buildings including a number of Disney-related buildings such as the Swan and Dolphin Resorts at Walt Disney World, and the Team Disney Building in Burbank, CA. He is one of my favorite Disney architects, along with Robert A. M. Stern, whose designs include my favorite Disney World resort - Disney's Boardwalk Inn & Villas.

If you are a fan of architecture, especially Disney architecture, I would recommend picking up a copy of Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture, by Beth Dunlop. It mostly covers buildings from the past 20 or so years, and has many beautiful, color photos, and features both Graves and Stern plus a number of other architects.

Thanks to Cartoon Brew for first bringing this article to my attention.

Disney's Boardwalk Resort

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: The End of Toy Story's Theatrical Run

16 years ago today, Toy Story ended its theatrical run*. Given that it came out on November 22, 1995, you might think, wow, that's a long time in theaters, and you'd be right. Toy Story was the number one film for 1995, earning almost $192 million, and spending an amazing 37 weeks in theaters! That length of time is almost unheard of nowadays. For instance, The Avengers, the number 3 largest domestic grossing film of all time at $620 million, has been in theaters only 18 weeks, less than half that of Toy Story. Granted, it's still playing in theaters, but it doesn't seem too likely it will stay much longer. Or what about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, the fourth largest grossing film worldwide? It was in theaters only 19 weeks! And what about Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time ($761 million domestically)? It was in theaters 34 weeks - a good, long run but not as long as Toy Story. Even Toy Story 3, the highest grossing animated film of all time, was in theaters only 24 weeks.

It hasn't always been this way. Toy Story 2 was out for 35 weeks. That same year, Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace was in theaters for 37 weeks. In 1994, the year before Toy Story was released, The Lion King was in theaters for 36 weeks. And in 1997, Titanic, the second highest grossing film of all time, stayed in theaters 41 weeks!

This trend of films spending less time in theaters has been going on for a number of years. Films are expected to have a blockbuster opening; if they don't they're immediately considered a failure (case in point, John Carter, which Disney was practically writing off as a failure even before its release). They're not given time to build up a following. My cynical side says it's all about profit. I know very little about film distribution, but I'm guessing the studios make a lot more money getting the films to home video and onto cable pay-per-view. This is too bad; films are meant for the big screen. I love going to see a film opening weekend with a large crowd, then going back a few weeks later to see it again. But nowadays, by the time I want to go back the film is gone. Unfortunately, I don't see this trend reversing. At least for Pixar fans, we can look forward to their films being re-released in 3D so we can again experience them as they were meant to be: on a large screen being enjoyed with other movie fans.

* - All figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo.