Animation with emotion: Irish animators on what makes Pixar the best

Toy Story 4 opens tomorrow, so Esther McCarthy asked top Irish animators to pick their favourite Pixar moments

Animation with emotion: Irish animators on what makes Pixar the best

Toy Story 4 opens tomorrow, so Esther McCarthy asked top Irish animators to pick their favourite Pixar moments

‘The animation techniques are second to none’

John Rice

The CEO and co-founder of JAM Media, which specialises in animation and live-action for children, and founder of Animation Dingle, was a big fan of Pixar’s early short films and has enjoyed their features since the first Toy Story in 1996.

“My favourite is probably The Incredibles. It has everything. The relatability of a family. The Bond-style story, the 1950s design — and Syndrome the baddy is class. The animation techniques and production are second to none.

“I remember seeing it in the Chinese theatre in LA with a bunch of industry friends. We were all elated and blown away by it. We thought: ‘We have to up our game!’ It did a lot of groundbreaking stuff.

They develop their own technology internally in Pixar and there was almost a stylised photorealism in the skin textures — you believed it was a real world.

Attendees at Animation Dingle gained insights from Pixar guests over the years, most recently from Bob Peterson, who co-wrote Up and Finding Nemo. Rice believes Pixar’s success is down to putting story at the centre of everything they do. “It’s incredible how they plan out story and how the characters perform as part of the story.”

‘I get tearful even thinking about Up. It was poignant’

Bronagh O’Hanlon

O’Hanlon of Brown Bag Films, who recently finished directing a new series for Disney about a wizard in training called Sadie Sparks, was — like many of us — moved to tears by the opening of Up.

“For me that was the most amazing Pixar moment, the first ten minutes of Up. It was a montage of Carl and his life. It was done without dialogue and it was so moving. I get tearful even talking about it.

There are not many films that can have you so invested in a character so early on. It’s their ability to make the subject matter so real and so poignant.

Visually, the film she was the most impressed with was Finding Nemo. “The thinking at the time in animation was that you don’t do water. It’s actually quite difficult, but they set the entire film underwater. They find ways to break the rules. To have all this secondary action, you’re looking at it as an animator going: ‘How did they do that?’”

Why are the Toy Story movies standouts for Pixar? “I think it’s the way they embrace the idea. Every child growing up wanted to believe their toys have this whole other world when they’re not there. And the themes about moving on to a new phase in your life — and the characters are amazing.”

Playing with our emotions, but with a sense of humour

Aoife Doyle

The co-founder of Pink Kong Studios, whose animated TV series Urban Tails will air on RTÉ this autumn, loves many of Pixar’s films, though she has a particular soft spot for Finding Nemo and Ratatouille.

She also has great affection for a joke in Monsters’ Inc (above) which pays homage to the work of Chuck Jones. “Sully thinks Boo is about to be compacted in the garbage because she’s dressed up as a monster and he sees a similar outfit and thinks it’s her, but the audience is in on the joke. It’s an homage to an old Chuck Jones short film Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot, where the dog thinks the woman is turning the kitten into cookies.”

And she’s a fan of the animated sequence in The Incredibles where Frozone searches for his superhero outfit as chaos reigns around him. “

t’s a real highlight. He can’t find his superhero suit. He goes to open the compartment and he cant find it anywhere because his wife has hidden it.

“They know how to pull at your heartstrings — but they always end up bringing back a bit of humour.”

‘I was sobbing, with calm children all around me’

Lindsey Adams

Adams, of animation studio Daily Madness, was moved to tears by the epic scene in Toy Story 3 where the toys are trapped in an incinerator and hold hands, appearing to accept their fate.

“I genuinely did think they were going to kill off all the cast in the incinerator. I was sobbing, with a lot of very calm children around me, I was wiping away the tears. I think it’s one of the best trilogies ever.”

If she had to choose one complete movie it would be Inside Out (above) , for its moving central message and groundbreaking animation. “It’s so heartfelt, having these clear, singular emotions. From an animation point of view I loved the lighting of Joy’s character — I thought everything about it was fantastic.

“The final scene in Monsters, Inc, where the camera pans on Sully, is just perfect. Pixar continuously pushes art in the industry which feeds into the industry in a really positive way. It has opened up so many doors that animation is a tool for storytelling that’s not just for children.”

How Pixar became a game changer in the movie world

In 1996, Pixar Animation Studios released their first feature, Toy Story. Set in a world where toys sprang to life when humans were not present. Over the following decades it revolutionised animation and modern filmmaking, bringing brilliantly rounded characters and strong storytelling to the young and the young at heart.

The studio, now owned by Disney, returns to the characters that first made them a production powerhouse — Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Slinky and Bo Peep — for the fourth time. They’re joined by new characters including Forky, a child’s handmade toy who does not want to be a toy, and Gabby Gabby, a doll with a desire to be loved.

In many regards, bringing new life to the series marks the company’s most-shrewd step yet. Toy Story 3, whose tense incinerator scene most surely rank among

cinema’s best-ever, felt like a perfect bow and a fitting finale to the adventures of Woody and his pals.

News of a fourth film was regarded as a surprise but the movie is poised to pack in audiences in what has been a lacklustre summer.

“Like most people, I assumed Toy Story 3 was the end,” says director Josh Cooley. “Turns out it was only the end of Woody’s story with Andy. Just like in life, every ending is a new beginning.

Woody now being in a new room, with new toys and a new kid, was something we have never seen before. The questions of what that would be like became the beginning of an entertaining story worth exploring.

“Transition is a big thematic piece of this movie,” added producer Jonas Rivera. “Bonnie is growing up and transitioning into kindergarten, and Woody is transitioning into a new role.

“There are people working on this film who say Toy Story was the first movie they saw when they were kids. But no matter how old we are, there’s the sense that we’ve all grown up with Woody and Buzz. It’s more than just a movie.”

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