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Quint discusses the Pixar half of the Disney Animation Presentation! UP! WALL-E! TOY STORY 3! NEWT! THE BEAR & THE BOW!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Instead of dropping 3 paragraph stories for each title covered in the big Disney Animation Presentation, I think I’m going to break it up into two more stories. One will covered Pixar and their slate and the other will cover the slate of Disney Animation. This one is Pixar-centric. I’ll write up Disney’s tomorrow. Here will be news, footage, stills and filmmaker discussions about WALL-E, UP, TOY STORY 3, NEWT and the theatrical re-releases of TOY STORYs 1 and 2. John Lasseter hosted the event and walked us through all the films, introducing the creative teams behind them all. He stressed that it was important that the filmmakers introduced and pitched their own movies so we could see the passion and heart they all bring to their films. He said that that is what a filmmaker-led studio is.
I hadn’t known much about this one before the presentation. UP comes out May 29th, 2009 and will be Pixar’s first 3-D movie. Lasseter said that all Pixar and Disney Animated movies from BOLT onwards will be made to release in Disney digital 3-D. Lasseter loves 3-D. He says even all of his wedding pictures were taken in 3-D he loves it so much. UP is directed by Pete Doctor (MONSTERS, INC) and Bob Peterson and follows the most likely adventurer… Carl… a 78 year old man. He’ll be voiced by Ed Asner and is a grumpy ol’ bastard who walks on a cane that ends in four little legs, each one has a tennis ball on the end, like you’ll see at nursing homes. Pete Doctor called it a “coming of old age story.” The movie opens with Carl as a young kid in the ‘30s. They showed us this opening with storyboard reels. Carl is a chubby kid, arm in a cast and he makes friends with an adorable ball of energy named Ellie. She wants to follow her hero explorer out in the wilds on adventures. She wants to show Carl something, but makes him cross his heart and swear he won’t tell anyone. He does and she shows him her adventure book. A scrapbook with clippings from her explorer hero, a guy named Muntz. She says when she gets big she’s going to go where he went. She’s going to South America (“It’s like America, but south,” she says matter of factly). She has drawings of waterfalls and says she’s going to live there some day. It’s a place called Paradise Falls. The rest of the pages are blank and she says she’s saving them for all the adventures she’s going to have… the only problem is she doesn’t know how she’s going to get there. Carl has a balloon in the room and she says, “That’s it! You can take us in a blimp! Swear you’ll take us!” She makes him cross his heart. “Good, you promised. No backing out!” Carl is wide-eyed, clearly in love with this girl, in love with her spirit and enthusiasm. He barely speaks. We get a montage now. No dialogue, just music. Ellie and Carl get married. They’re happy together. Carl sells balloons as they build their house. The years go by. They’re still young and playful. In love. They have picnics, look at clouds and see different shapes. Eventually Carl points out one in the shape of a baby. From here on out she sees nothing but babies in the clouds and smiles. Carl awkwardly smiles as well. Then we see them sitting in the doctor’s office. It’s dark and grey. Ellie has her face in her hands, crying as the doctor shakes his head no. She sits in their front yard. She’s sad. Carl comes to cheer her up. He brings her the old Adventure book and she smiles again. They make a Paradise Falls jar and put money and coins into it. The pile starts to grow but a series of events happen over time. Car tires blow out, the coin pile decreases. They put more money in it and Carl has his leg in a cast and the money decreases. The roof blows off in a storm, etc. Now they’re elderly and the Paradise Falls jar is empty, forgotten. Carl loving looks at his elderly wife doing the daily chores. She’s happy, but you get the feeling that he’s sad for not giving her what he promised her. He looks at the crayon drawing of Paradise Falls she had in her adventure book and makes a trip to the travel place. He has two tickets to South America. He hides them in the picnic basket and takes her out on a picnic. He makes it to the top of the hill. She doesn’t, collapsing halfway up. He runs to her. Next we’re in a hospital. He’s very sad. She pushes her adventure book to him and makes him cross his heart. He does. Next we see him slouched, wearing a black suit. He’s surrounded by hundreds of balloons… if I remember right they all had her name on them. This sequence was already heartbreaking in this early form. Carl lives on a few more years before his house is threatened by impending construction. So, he ties thousands and thousands of balloons to his roof with the intention of sailing to South America and bringing Ellie, in spirit, to Paradise Falls. He apparently can steer his house with his weathervane. But he has a stowaway when he makes this journey. A chubby asian kid named Russell, a boy scout trying to get his last merit badge, one for assisting the elderly. They make it to S. America, but just before they get to where they need to go they crash and thrown from the house. The house starts to float away and just before it’s out of reach, they grab on to a garden hose and keep it from leaving them. Neither of them can climb back up to it, but they don’t want to leave it, so they each tie a line to themselves and traverse the South American jungles pulling the house behind him like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon for the last 15 miles. They showed us a test piece, with temp sets and character models and it looked really funny. Carl was short and squat, with his tennis-balled cane. Russell is whining. He’s tired. Carl is short with him and Russell falls over dramatically, but the balloon keeps him from doing much more than floating up and down. He ends up dragging forward on the ground, where he sees a bug and gets excited. He unclips himself and runs after it. Carl looks back and sees he’s the only one tethered. He calls after the boy, getting no response as he’s slowly lifted up further and further and further until he’s out of frame. A bird squaks and he grumbles. There’s a tussle we don’t see and his cane drops to the forest floor. They announced that the villain will be voiced by Christopher Plummer and that was it for their UP presentation.
I toured Pixar back in March and that embargo just lifted, so in the next couple of days I’ll write all about that visit, which includes a brief chat with Andrew Stanton and a screening of the first 30 minutes of WALL-E. So I don’t double up on material, I’m going to leave a few small things out. I’d just go over it all now if I had my notes from that trip on me, but I left those at home. So, I’ll be detailed on what I saw today and give you a more detailed look at the very first few minutes, which they didn’t show in this presentation, at the Pixar visit report later this week. Stanton couldn’t make it out to this presentation because he was recording the end credits song with Peter Gabriel. What they did have for us was about half an hour. Because of this, the Pixar visit, BNAT, WonderCon and Comic-Con, I’ve seen the first 30 minutes of WALL-E three times now and every time I get more and more attached to the little robot and his puppy dog crush on EVE. Today’s footage started with WALL-E going about his day to day, scooping up garbage and making compact cubes out of it. It started with him charging up with sun panels (making an Apple 2E start-up sound when he fully charges) before leaving his house, a hollowed out truck of some sort. It’s the scene from the trailer where he accidentally runs over his only friend, a cockroach. But, being a cockroach, he springs back up. No harm no foul. Then Wall-E goes to work making cubes outta trash. Along the way he collects trinkets that interest him… a bra, a ring box (he throws the diamond ring away, more interested in the box), fire extinguisher, bobble-head dog, rubber duck, boot… all sorts of knickknacks. He throws them in his cooler. There’s a time dissolve where we get a bird’s eye view Wall-E working. There’s a basic hollow square… large and as the sun crosses the sky a building’s shadow moves over this square, which gets filled in as Wall-E stacks more and more cubes. There are giant Empire State Building sized towers of garbage cubes giving us a good idea at just how long Wall-E’s been at this. As his day winds down, Wall-E passes a busted down fridge. He uses a laser which originates between his eyes to cut through the door and he finds a single thriving green leave. The robot is fascinated by this and gently scoops it up and takes it home. Just as he gets home he notices something strange. A red dot is on the ramp leading up to his door. He sets his box down and curiously approaches the dot. It moves suddenly and Wall-E cowers back with a yelp, but quickly it becomes a game. The red dot runs along the ground and Wall-E zips after it. Eventually we see there is also a red circle closing in on him. He catches the dot and touches it. Nothing. We can see over his shoulder as bright lights appear in the murk and quickly descend. The thrusters of a giant spaceship fire, sending Wall-E scrambling to avoid the flames. He digs quickly, burying himself in the rocky soil. When all quiets down he peeks up, trembling. He hits his head on the landing gear and watches as the fully automated ship releases a shiny white oval. Wall-E falls in love immediately as the probe droid is released. He buries himself again when the ship takes off, leaving redhot rock covering the poor ‘bot. When he pops back up he sees the probe robot is scanning the rocks. Her chest lights up a few times, then a red circle blinks with a buzzer sound. It’s not what she’s looking for. Wall-E follows her around as she searches. At one point he leans on a rock and slips, making a noise behind her and she whirls, arm turning into a laser cannon and blows the shit out of the rock. This elegant little robot has a mean tempter. She also blasts the hell out of a big tanker ship after she gets caught by a giant crane magnet. She’s frustrated and can’t find what she’s looking for. It’s about this time she actually meets Wall-E. He shivers as she sees him, gun-arm raised. She says something in beeps. He doesn’t understand. The beeps change, her green digital eyes flicker each time until she beeps “Directive.” He understands and shows her what he does, scooping in trash and making a weak little cube. He beeps, asking what her directive is. Small talk. She freezes up and blares “Classified.” She asks his name. He says it (like he does in the trailers with the electronic “WWaaaaaallllllllllleeeeeee.” She says her name in a similar electronic way. Eve is her name. Wall-E tries to say it and can only really beep out Eva, which makes her giggle. It’s incredibly sweet. It’s the greatness of Pixar on display here. These two non-human beings are communicating in very human ways without betraying what they actually are. They say so much in their body language. Wall-E’s chest starts blaring a warning. He looks around and sees an approaching dust storm. He tries to warn Eve, but it hits them both. In the dark confusion she calls out for Wall-E. After a moment he finds her hand and pulls her along, to his home, out of the storm. She’s astonished by his home, awed by the personality of it. There are shelves upon shelves of knickknacks, spare parts and all sorts of sparkling objects. The place is lit with strands of Christmas lights. The little robot is falling over trying to impress Eve with his pad. She inspects everything from a Billy Bass to a Rubik’s cube to bubble wrap (which she pops with glee) to a video cassette. She pulls the tape out and Wall-E freaks, hurrying to wind it back in. He runs it over to his VCR, plugs it in and wrings his hands and whines as he waits to see if it is destroyed. A Technicolor musical pops up and Wall-E sighs with relief. Eve is fascinated. She scans the video and Wall-E uses this an excuse to sneak away and comes back with his own hat (a hubcap) and mimics the dance for her. She tries to join in, jumping up and down, rocking the truck and sending his possessions falling off the shelves. He stops her and mimes spinning around in a ciricle. Less dangerous this way. She does it, but her arms become like helicopter blades and she spins so fast that when she drifts over to Wall-E she hits him, sending him flying off. Cut to outside the truck as a Wall-E shaped dent appears. Back inside she stops, looking for him. He’s stuck in the ceiling, his right eye hanging out and sparking. She gasps and he tries to calm her. Half blind he bumps around, looking for something. He ultimately finds a shelf with a half-dozen replacement eye-parts and plugs it in. A few mechanical test motions and a few opening and closings of the iris’ sync them up and he’s right as rain. He gets one last item to impress her with. It’s the leafy stem he found in the fridge earlier. She “Oooohhh”s and scans it. Suddenly her chest beeps green instead of red. Alarms sound and she shuts down, but not before a mechanical arm pops out of her mid-section and grabs the plant, encasing it in her body. She turns off, nothing showing she still lives except a blinking green leaf symbol on her chest. Over a few days time (montage folks), Wall-E tries to wake her up. He sets her on top of his home to get some light, thinking she might need a recharge. It rains and he holds an umbrella over her. He takes her out. She still floats, but her arms are tucked in and head down, so he ties a band of Christmas lights around her and takes her around, ending in a sunset viewing. He burns a Wall-E Hearts Eve into a lightpole and tries to hold her hand. He pries her arm loose and holds her hand… it reflexively clamps back down. He yelps and tries to get his hand free. One day he goes to work, leaving her out to get some sun. While he’s at work the earth starts to tremble again. Wall-E calls out for Eve and races back home to see the ship has returned and is fetching the robot. He races to catch it before it leaves. He has to stop and make sure his cockroach friend doesn’t follow him, then he grabs ahold of the spacecraft as it’s taking off again. He climbs up as it leaves the earth, climbing higher and higher in the sky. The cockroach watches from the ground. Once again, in body language this little thing is sad, watching his only friend leave. A cockroach. Without a face or voice. And just with a dipping of his antennae you can tell it’s sad. The spaceship crashes through a litter of satellites and Wall-E is in space. He holds on so he doesn’t float away and climbs up to a window where he can see Eve. One of the cuter moments of the footage is here when Wall-E taps the glass. He says her name and points behind him at the glorious starfield surrounding them, like a child wanting to show his mommy a wondrous sight. There are a few moments here, where Wall-E recharges in a matter of seconds as they pass close to the sun. He also dips his hand into the stardust ring of Saturn, causing the stardust to swirl around him before rejoining the ring. They finally reach their destination, a giant ship called Axiom. It docks and gravity is re-initiated, causing Wall-E to tall. From here on it was new footage I hadn’t seen before. A series of robots come to claim Eve. My favorite was a little stocky one that scans her and sees 14% foreign contamination and quickly cleans her up with this little roller thing built into his two hands (imagine him holding a rolling pin, but it was permanently attached to his two hands). Wall-E sneaks around, trying not to get caught, but not wanting to lose sight of Eve. He ends up scanned by this cleaning droid. 100% foreign contamination. The droid freaks out and starts cleaning him vigorously. Wall-E fucks with him a little bit. His treads make tracks that freak the droid out more. So Wall-E rolls back and forth, watching the droid go nuts. Then he lifts a tread and plants it on the droid’s immaculately clean face, causing it to spazz out, which gives Wall-E the chance to disappear as the police robots come by, looking for Eve. They get her, still hibernating and roll her away. Wall-E follows, leaving a track of tread-dirt, which the cleaning robot tries to clean. That was the end of the first bulk of footage, and Stanton came back on the video and intro’d another section from later in the movie. He also said that Sigourney Weaver was been brought in to voice the ship’s computer. He said as a sci-fi geek he couldn’t express how happy he was that he got Ripley to play Mother and was psyched that he could make that nod to Alien. I had seen this sequence already as well, but it’s a nice scene with Eve trying to get Wall-E back to earth. She puts him in an escape pod and he seems eager to go until she makes it clear she’s staying. So he leaves the pod and she sighs deeply. They’re interrupted by a robot. They hide as it puts the leafy plant in the escape pod and hits a couple of buttons before leaving. Wall-E goes to investigate and the pod doors shut him in. The self destruct button is blinking as he’s shot into space. Eve sees this and puts herself into a tube system and shoots out after him. Wall-E frantically presses buttons as Weaver’s voice counts down his destruction. He grabs a fire extinguisher and heads to the hatch as the last few seconds tick off. Eve is flying super fast at the pod and sees it blow up. She watches the explosion and sadly whispers “Wall-E?” A dot moves in space. It’s Wall-e, blasting the fire extinguisher, using it as propulsion to race back to Eve. He passes her and releases the trigger. The next bit is a comedy of timing as they keep passing each other and Wall-E has to shoot out short bursts of extinguisher to get to her. I predict WALL-E will rake in the dough and could find itself on the top of many fan’s best of Pixar lists. If the first third is anything to go by, it’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen come out of computer animation in terms of character work and sheer beauty. I’m very excited about this one.
Set to be released in Summer of 2011, directed by Gary Rydstrom, who is famous for working sound design for Cameron, Lucas and Spielberg as well as directing the great Pixar short LIFTED. Rydstrom came out wheeling a complicated 9 part Newt mating ritual chart, like you’d find in a science lab or biology class. Rydstrom says the film is about the last two blue footed newts on this earth, a male and a female, who are thrown together by science and can’t stand each other. Newt, our lead, has been in captivity since he was a tadpole. He’s lonely. His only friend is a lifeless sock puppet. He can see the mating ritual chart from his cage and practices day in and day out, getting ready for scientists to capture him a girlfriend. “And who can’t relate to that?” asks Rydstrom. Unfortunately, the 9th and final step is obscured by a Mr. Coffee, so he doesn’t know how the ritual ends. “It’s the way of life. You wanna know step 9 and there’s a Mr. Coffee in front of it.” Brook is the name of the last female Blue-Footed Newt. She is in the wild and has no idea she’s the last female of her species. She escapes all sorts of dangers in her day to day life, including being evasive of these crazy biologists who are always chasing her. Rydstrom describes her evasive capabilities as making her an “amphibious Errol Flynn.” One day they catch her and bring her back to the lab and present her to Newt. They have “the world’s worst first date” before through circumstance they both end up in the wild. Newt is worthless out here, but Brook gets him through the trials. They meet a character named Eddie, a giant Hellbender Salamander, who is a ladies man and passes along his incredibly shallow ideas of love to Newt. Of course, they predictably don’t work. “Newt is a movie about how finding a mate never goes as you expect even, make that especially, if you only have one choice.” Looked cute enough, but I didn’t really see enough to really feel strongly one way or the other. I loved what Rydstrom did with LIFTED, so I’m game to see him take on this project.
This will be Pixar’s first fairy tale. It’s an original story from writer/director Brenda Chapman (PRINCE OF EGYPT). Chapman says it’s a fairy tale in the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm set in Scotland. She took her love of those two things and combined them with her love of her young daughter and came up with this story. The film is set for a Christmas 2011 release, so there wasn’t much done. I saw some pre-production art of a witch (short and squat, one eye squeezed shut… very Disney inspired, warts and all), her hut… which was hobbit-hole like, not evil. Saw some art for the fiery haired princess character and a cursed creature, a 15 foot bear. There is a royal Scottish family in the center of it. King Fergus, Queen Elinor, Princess Merida and the royal triplets (three little brothers). Merida is the heroine of the film. She’s a warrior, a dedicated archer. Hence the “bow” of the title. They have cast a few people. As the witch (or “wise-woman” as she prefers to be called) is Julie Walters (HARRY POTTER), King Fergus will be played by Billy Connelly, Queen Elinor will be played by Emma Thompson and Princess Merida will be Reese Witherspoon.
TOY STORY 1, 2 and 3
Near the end of the presentation they had a surprise performance by Randy Newman, doing a song from THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (more on that tomorrow). Lasseter came out after that song and gave Newman a hug. He said, “Randy, we’ve done a lot of things together… but I believe we’re working on one more thing…” “We are,” Newman says. Lasseter says, “I remember. Do you remember?” Newman nods and then starts playing out You’ve Got a Friend In Me on the piano, to many cheers. They didn’t say much that we didn’t already know. Directed by Lee Unkrich, who co-directed TOY STORY 2 with Lasseter. A costumed Woody & Buzz came out and Newman actually sang the lyrics… I think this was a surprise as nobody on-stage seemed to expect it and just kinda stood there, swaying along until he finished. They told us that they cooked up the idea for TOY STORY 3 at a writer’s retreat with all the original TOY STORY people. Everybody to the person that was there for the first two were there hammering out the story for the third film, with the big exception of the late Joe Ranft. Plot is what we’ve heard… Lee said that at the end of Toy Story 2 Buzz and Woody make peace with the fact that Andy will grow up one day. But, he said, it’s a far different thing to make peace with the idea of something than actually dealing with it when the day comes. Andy grows up and is leaving for college. That’s all they would say in terms of plot. They confirmed Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris and John Ratzenberger all returning. He did say Barbie comes back… and, for his first time ever big screen appearance, we’ll see Ken. Michael Arndt (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) is scripting and Randy Newman will return for the score. Also known, but still cool to get confirmation and solid dates for… TOY STORYs 1 and 2 will get the Disney Digital 3-D treatment. TOY STORY will be released October 2nd, 2009 and TOY STORY 2 is February 12th, 2010, with TOY STORY 3 getting a June 18th, 2010 release. Stay tuned for my Disney Animation wrap-up tomorrow. That’ll cover the TINKERBELL movies, BOLT, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and REPUNZEL. -Quint

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