Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Favorite Pixar Interviews and Podcasts, 2017 Edition

It's that time of year again! I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have my regular half-dozen or so but I always discover a few new ones during the year. At the end of the year I like to go back and highlight a few. Saying that these are my "favorites" is a bit of a misnomer; I'm not ranking them. It's just a sampling of some that stood out and caught my attention. As you'll notice, most aren't Pixar or even animation-focused. I think that's great, as it demonstrates the great number of sources for finding Pixar-related interviews and content.
  • The Pixar Post - OK, this is not a new one, LOL. If you're a Pixar fan then I'm sure you're already listening to TJ and Julie's podcasts and reading all the Pixar news on their site. There's no better site for your Pixar news fix. A number of their podcasts this year were interviews they did with Pixar artists during the Cars 3 and Coco press events. The one I linked to above was one of my Cars 3 favorites with directing animator Jude Brownbill, characters supervisor Michael Comet and production designer Jay Shuster discussing the challenges of creating and designing the characters of the film.

  • Market Foolery interviews Steve May - This one also isn't new, but I love when one of my regular, "non-Pixar" podcasts talks Pixar. Market Foolery is a daily podcast from the Motley Fool that covers business and investment news. It's rare to have an interview (interviews are usually done in their weekly Motley Fool Money podcast) but this was a special episode recorded live at SXSW, where host Chris Hill interviewed Pixar CTO Steve May. They covered Steve's early career at Pixar (he started during production of A Bug's Life), plus talked about how technology has changed over the past 2 decades, and how virtual reality is playing a role in film-making, whether for marketing, as a development tool or as a storytelling mechanism. For a bonus episode, Motley Fool Money reran an interview Chris did with Disney Animation and Pixar president Ed Catmull shortly after his book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, was published. I've raved about this book in previous posts, and I really enjoyed listening to Catmull discuss some of the reasons he wrote the book, plus other topics like his animation "origin" story and road to Pixar.

  • Stories Unbound interviews Mike Sundy - Sundy, whose credits includes Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, is now a children's book author. His books include the Pancho Bandito series and Part of My Heart. In this episode, host Shawna J.C. Tenney and Mike compare indie/self publishing versus traditional publishing. If you've ever thought about becoming a self published writer, you definitely should listen to it. You should also check out Mike's blog, where he's written about some of the lessons he learned while at Pixar, plus his inspiration for Part of My Heart and the process he used for publishing the book.

  •  The Bancroft Brothers interview the del Carmen brothers - I hope you're familiar with the Bancroft brothers. Tom and Tony are veterans of the animation industry, both having worked many years at Disney Animation. Tom did character animation on films such as The Lion King and Aladdin, and Tony was co-director of Mulan. Their podcast made my list last year when they interviewed Andrew Stanton. This year they're here with with one of the most fun and inspiring episodes I listened to, as they interviewed the del Carmen brothers live at the CTN Animation Expo. I'm sure you're familiar with long time Pixar story artist and director Ronnie del Carmen, the oldest brother. But his 2 brothers are also well-known story artists: Louie has worked at Dreamworks, Sony Pictures Animation and Disney Animation, while youngest brother Rick has worked on a number of television shows including Family Guy. Their interview goes into what it was like growing up in a small town in the Philippines and how they made the move to the United States.

  • The Animated Journey interviews Pixar story artist Louise Smythe - This is an in-depth interview that actually spans 2 episodes. Host Angela Entzminger and Louise Smythe go all the way back to Louise's childhood, her college life and how she got to Pixar. They also get into a great discussion on their favorite movies when they were growing up. I really enjoy interviews like this; I wasn't familiar with Louise until I heard it, which caused me to go look for some of her art in The Art of The Good Dinosaur and her website, but I'd love to see more!

  • Bullseye interview with Lee Unkrich - Of course there would have to be some Coco-related interviews this year, and one of the best was Jesse Thorn's interview with director Lee Unkrich. It starts with the quote from Jesse, “Congratulations on making another children’s movie about death” which leads into a discussion about love and death, the importance of family in Coco and how he got interested in Dia de los Muertos. I’ll admit I knew very little about Dia de los Muertos, but after listening to this interview and seeing the film, it has really opened up my eyes to the beauty and importance of the traditions of this holiday, and it’s made me want to incorporate some of them with my own family. On a side note, I’d like to give a shout out to the Pixar sound effects artists. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the beauty of all the visuals but it was a lot of fun listening to the clips Jesse played during the interview - you could really hear the details that go into the sound design. Some of the early Pixar DVDs had a sound effects track, with no dialogue or music, and I loved watching the film with only those sounds.

  • Squared Co review of Coco - I just discovered Squared Co a few months ago. The podcast is hosted by Mark Morris and Jerrod Maruyama, one of my favorite artists - if you not familiar with his website you should definitely check it out. In this episode, they review Coco along with Dan the Pixar Fan and Gavin Otteson. Many of you are familiar with Dan's daily posts of his amazing collection of Pixar memorabilia. And Gavin is also an artist and has his own animation podcast. I haven't had time yet to listen to it but I have it queued up. Maybe it'll be on my list next year!

  • Nickelodeon Animation interviews Pete Docter - This was also a new podcast for me, and I really enjoyed it. Hector Navarro interviewed Docter and they talked about Pete's early days at Pixar - getting hired and his first projects with the studio, which were television commercials.  They discussed the importance of constraints, how it impacted the development of their early films, and how the collaborative nature of Pixar can be traced back to the making of Toy Story. One of my favorite quotes from the interview is when Pete recommends not playing Pictionary against any of the Pixar story artists!

  • Crew Call interviews Michael Giacchino - This last one barely made the cut as I only listened to it a couple weeks ago, but it's a great one! I love film soundtracks. Listening to a great score, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or just about any Pixar film, takes me back into the film and lets me relive all of those emotions again. Michael Giacchino has composed many of those soundtracks - you can often find me listening to one of his scores while I'm working. I'm even watching Lost primarily just to hear his score. In this interview with Anthony D'Alessandro, they spend a lot of time talking about his music writing process and how he came up with the score and main themes for Coco. Michael also talked about his excitement of getting to work with director Lee Unkrich. After listening to this interview, it really intensified my desire for a complete soundtrack release for Coco!
That's the list for this year! I'd love to know if you've found any great podcasts over the past year. Happy listening and have a great new year!