Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pixarian Start and Birth Dates, January 2014 Edition

It's been a long time since I've done one of these posts, but it's a new year, and this is an exciting month for Pixarian start and birth dates! Let's begin with some Pixarians whose Pixar career began in January:
  • Alan Barillaro (1997) - Alan has been with Pixar a long time, working on early films like A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. He was also a supervising animator on The Incredibles, WALL•E and Brave.
    Casarosa, middle, with myself and
    my son Sam at the 2011 CAM Benefit
  • Enrico Casarosa (2002) - I discussed Enrico in the October 2012 edition of Start and Birth Dates. One thing I didn't mention is the book he co-authored with fellow Pixarian Ronnie del Carmen and well known illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi. The book is Three Trees Make a Forest, and is filled with awesome drawings and illustrations by the 3 authors. Most of the artwork was originally created for the Three Trees Make a Forest exhibit at the Nucleus Gallery in Alhambra, California. I love looking through this book; each of them brings a different style to the book. If you enjoy Casarosa's water-themed and watercolor art in this book, you'll also probably enjoy his book The Venice Chronicles.
  • Julian Fong (January 21, 1999) - Fong began his Pixar career in Emeryville doing technical support for RenderMan. He continues working to enhance and improve RenderMan and related tools. Prior to coming to Pixar, Fong studied Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. He has also worked at the National Research Council of Canada, Electronic Arts and Vertigo Software.
  • Austin Lee (2002) - Lee started at Pixar doing modeling and rigging for Elastigirl and the Underminer on The Incredibles. He has done modeling/rigging work on a number of other characters such as Colette from Ratatouille, WALL•E, and Buzz Lightyear and Molly from Toy Story 3. Lee received a Best Character in an Animated Feature award from the Visual Effects Society for his work on WALL•E. His latest work was on Brave. Lee studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and received a double major in Fine Arts and Computer Science.
  • David MacCarthy (2001) - David is a technical director, and has worked on many of Pixar's films including Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars. He was also an effects supervisor on WALL•E and Brave. MacCarthy was born and raised in Cork, Ireland. After moving to the United States he studied sculpting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Colin Thompson (2002) - Thompson started his Pixar career doing sets and character shading on Finding Nemo. He did similar shading work on The Incredibles, Cars and Ratatouille. He was the sets shading lead on both Up and Brave. Thompson graduated from Skidmore College in New York with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, specializing in painting, sculpting and computer graphics. Prior to coming to Pixar, Colin was a technical director on the Blue Sky Studios film Ice Age.
  • Derek Thompson (2005) - Thompson is a story artist at Pixar. He first worked on WALL•E and also worked on Brave. Previous to Pixar, Thompson worked at Dark Horse Comics, worked on video games at Rhythm & Hues and did storyboards for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for Lucasfilm. Derek received his BFA in Illustration from Otis Parsons Art Institute.
Now let's look at some January birth dates:
  • John Lasseter (January 12, 1957) - John Lasseter is the Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. He is also the Principal Creative Advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering. Lasseter started at Pixar before it was Pixar, back when Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith were running the computer graphics lab at Lucasfilm. His first work was animating on The Adventures of André and Wally B. He was one of the forty original employees of Pixar when it was spun out of Lucasfilm in 1986. He has directed 5 Pixar feature films (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2), and has been executive producer on almost every Pixar film and all the Disney Animation Studio films since Pixar was bought out in 2006. Lasseter and his wife Nancy have 5 sons and own a winery in Glen Ellen, CA.
  • Bob Peterson (January 18, 1961) - Peterson is one of the earliest Pixar employees, hired in 1994 to do animation on commercials before moving over to animate on the original Toy Story. He was a story artist on both A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 and was story supervisor for Monsters, Inc.. Peterson wrote the screenplay for Finding Nemo, along with director Andrew Stanton and David Reynolds, and they were nominated for a Best Writing Academy Award for that screenplay. He co-wrote and co-directed Up, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Film (you know, back when Pixar was being recognized by award organizations), and he was again honored with an Academy Best Writing nomination, along with director Pete Docter and Tom McCarthy. Peterson is also well known for voicing many memorable Pixar charaters, such as Roz in Monsters, Inc., Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo and Dug in Up. Peterson was scheduled to make his sole directorial debut on The Good Dinosaur but sadly was removed from the project late last year.
  • Jenifer Lewis (January 25, 1957) - Not a Pixar employee, but Lewis is well known in the Pixar universe as the voice of Flo in Cars and Cars 2. Lewis has done other voice work, such as Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog, and Motown Turtle in Shark Tale.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Animation Awards Season (UPDATE)

UPDATE 4/2/2014:  I've added the major award organizations, plus a few more of the minor organizations.

Well, here we are again, in the midst of the awards season. Close to 3 dozen critics organizations have announced their winners, and we are now close to some of the major award ceremonies - the Golden Globes will be awarded this weekend, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be announcing the Oscar nominations next week, plus we have the Annies and BAFTA awards coming up over the next few weeks.

Below is a list of the critics organizations that have awarded a Best Animated Film (or in a couple of cases a Best Family Film), and the winner of that award:

Academy AwardsFrozen
Alliance of Women Film JournalistsThe Wind Rises
American Cinema Editors Eddie AwardsFrozen
Annie AwardsFrozen
Austin Film Critics AssociationFrozen
BAFTA AwardsFrozen
BAFTA Children'sDespicable Me 2
Boston Society of Film CriticsThe Wind Rises
Critics' Choice AwardsFrozen
Central Ohio Film Critics AssociationThe Wind Rises
Chicago Film Critics AssociationThe Wind Rises
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Florida Film Critics CircleFrozen
Golden GlobesFrozen
Hollywood Film AwardsMonsters University
Houston Film Critics SocietyFrozen
Iowa Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Kansas City Film Critics CircleDespicable Me 2 / Frozen (tie)
Las Vegas Film Critics SocietyFrozen
Los Angeles Film Critics AssociationErnest & Celestine
National Board of ReviewThe Wind Rises
Nevada Film Critics SocietyFrozen
New York Film Critics CircleThe Wind Rises
New York Film Critics OnlineThe Wind Rises
North Texas Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Oklahoma Film Critics CircleFrozen
Online Film Critics SocietyThe Wind Rises
People's Choice AwardsDespicable Me 2
Phoenix Film Critics SocietyFrozen
Producers GuildFrozen
San Diego Film Critics SocietyThe Wind Rises
San Francisco Film Critics CircleFrozen
Southeastern Film Critics AssociationFrozen
St. Louis Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Toronto Film Critics AssociationThe Wind Rises
Utah Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Washington DC Area Film Critics AssociationFrozen
Women Film Critics CircleThe Wind Rises

Here is a summary of the animated films and the number of Best Animated Film awards it has won:
Despicable Me 23
Ernest & Celestine1
Monsters University1
The Wind Rises11

For the most part, I'm not surprised by these results. I thought Frozen was an excellent film with a great story, good characters, good music and amazing animation, sets and effects. I haven't seen The Wind Rises but given the history of Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki, it's not surprising it has won a number of awards.
© Pixar

What does shock me is that Monsters University has won only 1 award! Really?! I recently wrote about how Disney Animation has really upped the quality of their films over the past few years.  But it seems that as Disney has continued to deliver better films, people are acting as if Pixar is going the other way and delivering lower quality films, which I disagree with. I thought Monsters University had a great story with some really nice, unexpected twists. And while Disney continues to improve upon the technical aspects of their films, Pixar still reigns supreme in this area. They continue to lead the way in areas like physically based lighting and shading and rendering optimizations. Being able to put such detail into the large and varied range of characters in this film is stunning. I have an image of Dean Hardscrabble as my iPad's background image, and I still look at it in awe whenever I wake up my iPad.

How did Monsters University do in terms of critical reception? Below is a table with the 5 animated films that have won awards this season and their Rotten Tomatoes ratings:

Despicable Me 274%
Ernest & Celestine100%
Monsters University78%
The Wind Rises81%

Again, with Frozen at 89%, it's no surprise how many awards it has won. But Monsters University is only a couple percentage points behind The Wind Rises. I don't see how that translates into almost a dozen more wins for The Wind Rises. And Monsters University did better with the critics than Despicable Me 2, but the latter has 3 more wins. Monsters University didn't even score a nomination from the Golden Globes (The Croods, which has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 70%, took the third spot along with Frozen and Despicable Me 2). So I really don't understand what's happening this year. Some people may say I'm just being too biased. And yes, I am biased (I think the word Pixar is somewhere in the name of this blog). But I can also say that Frozen is a wonderful film and deserves award recognition. Over the last couple of years we have seen a number of excellent animated films from other studios getting recognized (I'm thinking of Wreck-It Ralph, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie), and that's a great sign for the industry. But I still think Monsters University was technically better than the majority of the other contenders, and storywise it's on par with Frozen and better than Despicable Me 2. So how this translates into only 1 award is beyond me. In any case, I'm looking forward to the rest of the award season and to see how all these films fare.

If you're interested in seeing the nominations and awards bestowed upon Monsters University, take a look at its Pixar Wiki page!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Upcoming Pixar-Related Events at the Walt Disney Family Museum

If you happen to live near San Francisco, there are a few upcoming animation events at the Walt Disney Family Museum that will be hosted by current or former Pixarians.

© Alex Mandel

The first event is a workshop titled Music and Animation with Alex Mandel. This workshop will explore the role that music has played in Walt Disney feature films and shorts, and will highlight some of the people involved in creating this wonderful music. The workshop will be led by Mandel, a Pixar manager who is also a very talented musician and composer. Alex wrote 2 songs for Pixar's 13th feature film Brave, Into the Open Air and Touch the Sky (which he co-wrote with director Mark Andrews). Mandel also composed the score for the short film Your Friend the Rat, which won the Annie Award in 2007 for Best Animated Short Film. The workshop will take place on Saturday, Feburary 8, 2014 from 10am - noon. It is limited to only 25 students, so I would recommend getting tickets soon!

The second event is a talk titled Disney Animation Directors, being hosted by Disney historian Don Peri and my favorite Pixar director Pete Docter, who directed Monsters, Inc., Up and Pixar's next film Inside Out.  The talk will center around how to direct an animated film, and will discuss and highlight some of the key Disney directors. The talk will take place at 3pm on Saturday, March 1.

Finally, there will be a panel discussion entitled Women in Animation, taking place from 11am - 12:30pm on Saturday March 15, 2014. The panel is being moderated by Jenny Lerew, previously a storyboard artist at Pixar (and author of The Art of Brave) and now story artist working on Dreamworks' next film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Also on the panel will be Brenda Chapman, creator and co-director of Brave, plus Disney visual development artists Lorelay Bove and Claire Keane. This panel sounds awesome and I'm sure will be inspirational as they discuss their struggles and successes in the male-dominated film-making industry.

© Walt Disney Family Museum

There are a number of reasons I would love to live in the Bay area, and one big reason is to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum.  Besides all the in-depth and rare exhibits covering the life of Walt Disney, there are a number of film screenings and animation-related workshops and classes. There are screenings and events occurring almost every day. Check out the museum's calendar for the full list.

If anyone attends one of the above events I'd love to hear what you thought of it!