Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lasseter on Cars, Monsters and lightning sound effects...

I was lucky enough to get tickets to IFTA's Cars 2 screening last night which included a Q&A with John Lasseter. In case anyone's just returned from Mars, Mr Lasseter is, of course, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and the man behind the Toy Story franchise, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Cars etc etc etc.

Lasseter is a passionate, enthusiastic speaker and the IFTA interviewer was totally unable to control him, leading to more of a lecture than a Q&A. I think about five questions got asked in 45 minutes!

We learned:

  • That Lasseter loves cars. I mean, really, really loves cars. His dad used to have a Chevrolet garage and he worked there as a teenager.

  • He talked a lot about using inanimate objects such as toys and cars as characters and stressed the importance of finding the object's "face", which isn't always obvious. The cars in the Cars movies, for example, have the windshields as their "eyes", not the lights. He mentioned the sugar bowl which keeps adding more and more sugar to the tea in Sword in the Stone as a particular inspiration in terms of animation.

  • His first computer animation was a short called The Brave Little Toaster. This was also the film that got him fired from Disney, as his then-superiors were not impressed with this computer stuff. Definition of irony!

  • He's also a huge fan of Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki and is in awe that Miyazaki will make a whole animated film and only then do the voices, rather than building the animation around the voices like Pixar do.

  • Pixar scripts change hugely along the way. They do a story reel with temporary voices, music and images and make the (many) alterations based on this.

  • A good movie, whether it's an animation or live action, has a compelling story with interesting characters who draw you in.

  • Pixar will not do a sequel unless they have a really good idea for a story that is quite different to the first film.

  • There will be a follow-up to Monsters Inc! It will be called Monsters University and will be a prequel showing Sully and Mike when they first met at university.

  • Actors on Pixar movies don't have to go to Pixar to record. They flew to London to record Michael Caine, for example (he plays spy car Finn McMissile in Cars 2).

  • They cast actors who basically "are" the characters and ask them to use their real voices, rather than hiring voice artists who can put on any voice. What this says about Ned Beatty, who played the evil Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear in Toy Story 3, or Jason Lee who was Syndrome in The Incredibles, I'm not sure :)

  • They record everything in the booth, even the actors' chatty conversations. Owen Wilson "lightning sound effect" in Cars came from John Lasseter shooting the breeze with him during a break.
We were shown a trailer for Pixar's new movie Brave, which is set in medieval Scotland and features their first female lead character. Looks interesting!

Cars 2 producer Denise Ream barely got a word in edgeways, although she did say that Pixar is a really fun place to work and that it definitely beats Industrial Light and Magic, where she was based before.

Meanwhile, I'm still pluggin' away on my "moving to LA" plan. I've got in touch with a U.S.-based visa lawyer and awaiting a phone consultaton with her on my options. I'd still love to talk to anyone who's moved to the States, and to L.A. in particular. So if you've done this, let's talk!

I've also made the decision to throw financial caution to the wind and attend the Austin Film Festival this year. Life's too short not to have fun and talk movies endlessly for five or six days. Very excited that Hart Hanson, creator of one of my favourite TV shows Bones, will be at the Awards Luncheon. Hope Brennan and Booth decide to come with him!

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