Have you watched Brave? This is the first time Pixar has come up with a heroine lead. Princess Merida’s love-hate relationship with her mother, her vivacious red curls, the gusty chortle, that delicious Scottish accent (which reminded me of Ewan McGregor throughout the film and of course, that always makes a film better), the pipe music that wafted across the beautiful Highlands and the colourful supporting characters – all make up a thoroughly enjoyable two-hour (or thereabout).
I don’t know about other children’s book writers, but I’ve fantasized about working at Pixar Animation Studios one day (or Studio Ghibli ~ home of ‘Spirited Away’ & ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’).
The kind of attention they pay to details is stringing-a-thread-through-a-needle close. And I love works which take care of details. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hair and brain cells lost in the process. But the completed projects are always worth it.
Two years ago, the Pixar Arts Exhibition swung by Singapore. I went, of course. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Here are some scribbles and scattered thoughts from my notebook written one day after the exhibition:
“Zoetrope: a roundabout that features characters like the toy soldiers, Jessie the cowgirl, Buzz, Woody and a penguin with a green monster from Toy Story in motion. For e.g., when it spins faster and goes into an animated mode (through mere speed of spinning and lighting), we can see the green monster jumping into a black hole and disappearing. When the trope slows, we can see that it was made with monsters all around – like flipping the pages of a self-drawn comic, depicting the actions in different snapshots. It was cool, really awesome. So the green monster jumps and disappears into a black hole. The penguin hops in an ‘S’ shape around pikes (?) or cones. Woody rides on a horse. I forgot what Buzz does: flying, most probably. Jessie swings a lasso onto herself. The toy soldiers jump fan-like and parachute onto the ground.
I also love the pastel and digital paintings of the scenes in the films: Sullivan, Mike and Boo (of Monsters, Inc.) walking away into the light out of the dark Monstropolis; the chef in Ratatouille sitting and pondering while the city dims; Nemo’s underwater world; Up’s balloon house encountering storm clouds (I love the impending doomship; the gradients of the grey clouds; the vibrance of the balloons in contrast; and the cosy colours of the house vs the dangerous, charcoal-coloured disaster clouds.) Oh, there was also a coloured sketch of Sullivan with handwritten notes made about the fur on different parts of the monster. Stiff fur on the back. Softer ones on the neck to chest. When the wind blows, they flutter to different degrees. The story plot doesn’t need the details. But to convey conviction of these characters to the audience, to let us believe in this make-believe world, the details are needed in animation. These characters need shadows, lighting and expressions.”
No man or woman can do this alone. It isn’t just the scale of the project, but also the accuracy and intimacy of the details. They aren’t just films or stories. In their made-up world, those characters are real. They exist. I like how much respect is paid from the creators to their creations.
So these are the Pixar films I’ve enjoyed wildly: Toy Story (all three); Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc. and Brave. Which are yours?
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Hey, I'm Claudine. Welcome!
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by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.