Ed Catmull, Pixar President visits Calarts:

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Things just keep getting more exciting here at Calarts. We had the privilege of having Ed Catmull from Pixar talk to us on Thursday about "Crisis in Production" and how to deal with it. He talked about Pixar's history and how they faced problems with some of their feature films. Toy Story 2 was supposed to be a direct to video release. Pixar appointed two animators to direct the film. The story wasn't coming along too well but since it was a direct to video, the assumption was that it didn't have to be very good anyway. About a year before the expected release date, John Lasseter saw the existing story reel and decided that it wasn't working at all. The studio decided to scrap the entire script and start over again even though Disney, their distribution partner told them it was impossible. Ed Catmull explained that Pixar didn't want to lower their standard of quality not even for a direct to video release. The studio had only eight months to finish the film. Several of their employees were hospitalized and one of them permanently injured a hand and had to retire because of it. They were working day and night but it was worth it because Toy Story 2 ended up being a huge success. Pixar makes it all look so easy but they didn't become successful without going through hard times.
Catmull went on to talk about problems they had in making some of their other films and a little more about their filmmaking process. He stressed the importance of a good story and these words echoed in my mind as I began wondering about my second year film. Good LORD! I’m having a rough time with story! Bleh! If you look back in my 1st year journal I'm sure I complained quite a bit about my story. I believe that story is BY FAR the most crucial and most difficult part of filmmaking. If you don't have an engaging story, the film is a bust no matter how well it's animated. Story is definitely one of my weak points and I'm trying to focus in on that this year.

Anyways, Before Catmull went up on stage for the lecture, we saw a list of clips that he was going to show on the projection screen during testing. "Boundin," the latest Pixar animated short, was on there so I was anticipating it for about an hour. He finally got around to showing it and I thought it was AWESOME! I won't spoil it for anyone but I will say that it had some of the funniest animation that I've seen. I especially love the owl even though it's on screen for about 4 seconds. It was a really good story that definitely got me to care about the characters. All the good stories make you feel SOMETHING.


Catmull talked a bit about the 3d vs. 2d debate. To keep it short, he basically said that the studio's are blaming the downfall of 2d on the notion that it is outdated. The fact is that the latest 2d films have had horrible stories and that's why they have failed. Audiences will always come to see a good story.

Here is a list of other significant comments that Catmull stated. They're paraphrased:

- It's extremely easy to learn 3d if you're a good 2d animator. Don't stress yourself out trying to learn 3d programs before you learn how to animate! Pixar hired a bunch of the animators who lost their jobs at Disney, Florida. Catmull says that they're doing very well in their training program.
- It's important, as a student, to make sure you finish 1 film every year. Repeating the process every year pushes you and stretches you.......and I forgot to write down the rest but you get what he means. I learned so much last year from that first film. It's frustrating as hell but I'm glad I get to tackle some of the same problems again this year.
- The key of making a good film is creating your world and the character of that world.
- There are certain things that are more rapidly taught in 2d animation like poses, silhouette, timing, expressions. All of these can translate over to 3d. Pixar highly supports Calarts and the traditional training we get here. Our program actually added some CG elements this year and supposedly Pixar wasn't too thrilled about it.
- become great artists
- He also mentioned that most of the people at Pixar came from Calarts. Just hearing him say that made me realize what a great opportunity I have to be where I am. Yay.

Ed Catmull went further into animated shorts and why Pixar continues to make them. He said that they are a training pot for potential directors and other potential artists who can gain some experience. Damn. There was something else he said but I can't read my writing! Ultimately, Pixar creates shorts for the pure love of it, even though they don't get any $$ out of them. That statement stuck with me. Pixar is a great studio because they're passionate about what they do. How can you be good at anything if you don't care about it? I think a lot of the studios that aren't doing well today have lost passion for the art form and are getting too greedy. Hopefully that'll change.
A question came up about the possibility of Pixar exploring 2d animation sometime in the future. Unfortunately, Ed Catmull explained that Pixar didn't have the infrastructure to support 2d animation and he wishes that it would someday come back in the LA area before it's too late. The rumors are friggin FALSE! Damn!

Oh, and one last detail......BRAD BIRD IS COMING TO CALARTS ON OCTOBER 18 TO SHOW US THE INCREDIBLES! After the movie, he's going to have a Q and A chat with us. We're so damn lucky. My buddy Matt Nolte said that we will be speechless after the movie. It's THAT good. He was hired by Pixar over the summer.

Posted in Featured Artist on March 19 at 07:42 AM

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