LEE UNKRICH (FINDING NEMO, TOY STORY 3) 5

LEE UNKRICH (FINDING NEMO, TOY STORY 3) 26

Male Speaker:             Can you please introduce yourself for recording purposes. Advise us as to your name and title. Thanks.

 

Lee:                             Yes, hi, I am Lee Unkrich from Pixar.  Good morning.

 

Male Speaker:             So what was the first thing that went through your head when you heard they were going to create Finding Nemo in 3D?

 

Lee:                             I guess the first thing was what took so long?  When we were making finding Nemo, we of course, had no thoughts about making it in 3D because that wasn’t anything we were doing back then.  But the whole time we were making it, I remember us constantly look at images and moments from the film, and thinking wow, this would look really cool in 3D.  So really, of all the films that we’ve made up to this point, this is the one that seems to have screamed out the most to be in 3D.  And it was thrilling for me to sit down and finally watch it in 3D because for me, in one regard, of course, it’s the same movie that we saw nine years ago that’s been out in the world, but now I think a completely different experience.

 

Female Speaker:          You said it really made sense that they were going to do this one in 3D [inaudible] kind of invites to make it in 3D, right?

 

Lee:                             I think so.  I mean when we were making the film, we did a lot of research, and there was a lot of snorkeling and scuba diving that we did both here and in Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, and for me, watching the film in 3D brought back a lot of those memories of what it was like to actually be in the ocean, and experience that world in three dimensions.  And just in that regard, I thought it was a really fun experience watching it in 3D.

 

Female Speaker:          Did that make it more challenging because you know, [inaudible] so much [inaudible] like those colors?

 

Lee:                             Well, it’s challenging just in that it’s a big – it really is a huge project to do a 3D version of one of our films, as opposed to just a 2D to 3D conversion that you typically see.  Those are a lot of work as well, but that’s a lot of gimmickry and trickery to create the false illusion of depth.  In our case, it’s kind of like going back in a time machine and getting to make the movie a second time, getting to film it a second time, but this time have a new-fangled 3D camera on the set.

 

Male Speaker:             How hands-on were you for that throughout the whole process?

 

Lee:                             Of the 3D?  I wasn’t at all.  Andrew – Andrew Stanton – and I, we were busy with our own projects, and we have a really amazing 3D team at the studio led by Bob Whitehill. And they’re masters of what they do.  And not only are they great at doing everything they can to make the most exciting, vibrant dimensional 3D version of our films, but they do it with an eye towards not damaging the story in any way.  The last thing we would want is for people to suddenly be distracted by a lot of 3D gimmickry and stop paying attention to the story.  It’s our goal now in the new films that we make in 3D, from the get-go, to always have that be an added benefit for the audiences, but we never want it to take away from the immersive storytelling experience.

 

Female Speaker:          I also noticed that it seemed like [inaudible] the past few years, and it’s improving with each one.  When I went to see Avatar a few years ago, you had to take your glasses off a few times because it didn’t [inaudible].  I did notice yesterday that there’s a great improvement in the quality, and that you [inaudible], and there’s a good chance that the kids are going to keep their glasses on.

 

Lee:                             Well, I think everybody is learning a lot.  I mean we’re all – it’s still kind of in its infancy, this new wave of creating 3D movies, and we’re learning a lot about what gives people headaches or eye strain, and there are things that they can do under the hood to mitigate that.  And I mean the last thing we want to do is give anybody a headache watching one of our films.

 

Female Speaker:          Keeping small children that are probably going to want to see this movie as well, keeping them [inaudible], but there’s always, at least from what I hear, do we go see the movie in 3D or not?

 

Lee:                             Right.  Yeah, it’s almost a tricky thing with little kids, period, going to any movie.  It’s a roll of the dice whether they’re going to sit through the whole thing or not.  I mean listen, my own son, when he was little, I would take him to 3D movies sometimes, and he would – he was happy watching it in 3D, but with his glasses off.  I mean you just never know what a kid’s gonna do.  But you know, they now have the smaller glasses for kids, that they didn’t used to have, and that’s helped.

 

At the end of the day we’re just trying to tell a good story, and we’re trying to make a movie that works, whether it’s in 3D or 2D.  I personally – I never like when I see a 3D film in 2D, and I feel like there’s obviously a lot of stuff on screen that was put there to kind of wow the 3D audience. I think that’s one of the things we work really hard to do at Pixar, both with these re-imaginings in 3D, and in the new films, is to never let the 3D be distracting and not make people seeing the 2D version feel like second class citizens.

 

Male Speaker:             That’s an interesting point, too, because there are people – some people that can’t see 3D.

 

Lee:                             I work with some people who can’t see in 3D.  Yeah, it’s interesting.

 

Male Speaker:             This 3D technology, now it’s available in home as well.  Do you watch it at home [inaudible] ?

 

Lee:                             I don’t.  I don’t have a 3D TV at home. I mean I’m of a mind of, when I’m going to sit down and watch TV, I don’t want to have to put on a pair of glasses.  But that’s true of the theater as well.  I’m looking forward to the day, someday, hopefully they’ll figure out a way to not have to wear the glasses, or have the experience be more seamless so that you don’t have something between you and the screen.  And maybe we’ll get there.  Maybe everyone will have to put in contacts before they see a movie or something, I don’t know.  But yeah, 3D at home can be cool.  When we were making Toy Story 3, a lot of the 3D reviews that I did were on a big plasma screen, and it’s cool.  It was really cool.  It felt like I was looking into a little diorama box.  It’s a lot of fun, but no, I haven’t taken the plunge personally.

 

Female Speaker:          What was for Finding Nemo, the most challenging part of converting it into 3D?

 

Lee:                             You’ll have to talk to the 3D guys about this, but I know that one of the things that was difficult for us when we made the movie originally, was trying to dial in the visual ingredients that would cement the illusion that the fish were really in water, and not just swimming around through air.  We did a lot of studying of water, of the way light transmits through water, the way particulate works, you know, those little things floating in the ocean.

 

We tried to dial in a perfect recipe of how to mix those elements so that you believe you’re in the ocean.  And I know when they went to 3D, suddenly all those things that had just existed on a 2D plane were everywhere.  It really felt like you were in amongst the particles, and there was a lot of depth going on.  I think it could have caused a problem for them, but it actually ended up really helping to cement the illusion that you were in that space with the fish.

 

Female Speaker:          Is that also the reason why [inaudible] to totally convert it from [inaudible] 3D, could that be the reason why there weren’t any special surprises or extras or [inaudible]?

 

Lee:                             Well, you know, we really – we don’t want to change the movies. We want the movies to remain for better or for worse, what they were when we first made them. When we released the original Toy Story in 3D, there were a lot of things in that movie that we cringed at because technology has changed so much since we made that film.  But we made a decision that just from a historical perspective, that was who Pixar was at that moment in time, and we wanted the film to remain that film, and that’s been the attitude that we’ve had with all of the re-releases.

 

Female Speaker:          So you didn’t really change anything [inaudible]?

 

Lee:                             If there were changes, they were very much under the hood, and they were things having to do with little subtle changes that would enhance the depth here and there throughout, but it’s very much the same movie from a story perspective.

 

Male Speaker:             How nervous were you on releasing this, the original?

 

Lee:                             Oh, when it first came out nine years ago? As we were finishing making it, we were very nervous about it because it was a very different film than we’d ever made.  It was much more emotional.

 

It seems silly now because it did so well, to say that we didn’t think it was going to do well, but we really didn’t know at the time.  We felt like we had made a good film.  We were happy with it, we just had no idea if it was going to be anything that audiences would embrace.  And it was also our first summer movie.  We had never released a movie in the summer before.  Every Pixar film had been a Christmas release, so it was new territory for us.

 

Male Speaker:             And how did you celebrate the success because I mean it did so well.  Were there any special celebrations?

 

Lee:                             Well, I’m sure there were.  I mean it was a decade ago, but yeah, I’m sure there was a lot of partying and relief that everything worked out.

 

Male Speaker:             Is there anything you’d change about the movie now if you could go back?

 

Lee:                             I don’t think so on Nemo.  You know, there’s some things that we’re better at now, like human animation. The humans in Finding Nemo are way better than they were in the first Toy Story.  But we’ve since made several movies that have a lot of human characters in them and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.  So that is something that would look different if we were to make the film today.  But I just think it’s a gorgeous looking film.  The lighting is beautiful, and I think it stands up against anything that is made now, ten years later, from a visual perspective.

 

Male Speaker:             Would you like to see a sequel?

 

Lee:                             I’m not against sequels to any of our films, if we come up with a story that’s worth telling. When we made the first Toy Story, a lot of people asked when we would make a sequel. At the time we said we didn’t have any interest in making a sequel. But that was until we came up with an idea that we really loved. Good ideas are hard to come by, so when they come, you have to take them seriously.

 

Male Speaker:             What is your fondest memory from working on this?  I mean you worked on it for many years.

 

Lee:                             I actually came onto it kind of late – relatively late in the game because I had been co-directing Monsters, Inc. with Pete Docter.  So I was only on Nemo for the last maybe year and a half of production, which is really the time we were actually making the film and animating it.

 

Male Speaker:             The research trips, were you involved in those?

 

Lee:                             Not the early ones.  We did go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, subsequently, which was awesome. In the early days of Pixar, we made all of our films together.  It was like one cohesive group, and we’ve had to kind of split off over the years and make our own films, which has been great, but there are times where we miss the camaraderie of working together.  And Nemo was the last time that I worked hand-in-hand with Andrew Stanton on a movie day in and day out, and I loved that.  It was a great experience.  So my fond memories of the film were the actually making of the film and the camaraderie and the fun that we had making it.

 

Male Speaker:             How much did the story change through the development process?  Were there any characters, cuts, or scenes or stories that you remember?

 

Lee:                             I don’t think there were characters cut.  There was a whole sequence at one point after Nemo gets flushed down the dentist’s sink, and he heads into the water treatment plant.  In the movie, you see him pop out the other end into the ocean.  We originally had a whole protracted sequence of Nemo fighting his way through the water treatment plant that we storyboarded and we had done all the camera work on.  We hadn’t started animating it yet, and we finally decided that it was slowing things down.  It was a big fun action sequence, but it was taking us away from the emotional story, which is really the dad story.

 

Male Speaker:             That’s really interesting because watching the movie last night, I’d forget the camera pans in on that sign.

 

Lee:                             Like it’s a big deal.

 

Male Speaker:             Yeah, and it starts like a don, don, don.  And just sort of pops out.

 

Lee:                             Yeah, there was a whole sequence there, but again, it felt like shoe leather. We ultimately made the decision to lose the scene because in the moments before, you see Nemo’s dad after crossing this whole ocean, finally get there, only to think his son is dead.  And that didn’t seem like the time to have a big, crazy action scene.  We  decided to stick with the emotion that people were feeling at that point.

 

Male Speaker:             What sort of challenges did you face in that scene?

 

Lee:                             It was just a lot of going through fans and rotors and dangerous stuff. It was nothing that you missed when we cut it out.  You know, the whole opening of the film, where you see what happens to Nemo’s family – when Andrew first wrote the movie, that prologue wasn’t part of the film.  You entered into the story with a father and his one son, and you slowly figured out over the course of the story what had happened.

 

It was repressed, and the dad didn’t want to think about it. You only learned all that through little visual bits and pieces throughout the film.  That was the intention.  And what we found was people didn’t like the Albert Brooks character, the father, because he was neurotic and overbearing, but you didn’t have any context for it. When you open the film  and you see this awful thing that happened to the family, you’re willing to forgive him any neurosis.  But without that, without knowing that, it’s hard – he just seems like an annoying guy who is being over-protective of his son.  This is all normal stuff that happens in the course of developing any movie that we do. You have ideas and sometimes you think they’re good for a long time, and then one day realize you’re totally wrong.

 

Male Speaker:             Did you have any similar experiences with Toy Story 3 that you ended up cutting?

 

Lee:                             Yeah, there’s stuff in every movie. Ideally, you cut them out before you get too far along with them.  We’ve never gotten to the point where we’ve cut whole scenes out that have been animated because that would be a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Male Speaker:             Mike Wazowski.from Monsters Inc., comes along in the credits, was that always in there?

 

Lee:                             Mike Wazowski swimming around, yeah, that was in the original.  That was there nine years ago.

 

Male Speaker:             [Inaudible]

 

Lee:                             Normally, we like to hide a little something from a future movie. It’s just like a silly thing we threw in.

 

Male Speaker:             I didn’t know if it was added for Monsters Inc., the new one.

 

Lee:                             Oh, no, no, no, no.  No, it was always there.

 

Male Speaker:             It just comes out a little bit more now that it’s in 3D.

 

Male Speaker:             Is it always fun to add those sort of hidden references?

 

Lee:                             Yeah, and hiding things from the next film, yeah, it’s fun.  There are lots of hidden things in every film that we do, and people notice most of them, and some of them people never notice because they’re so obscure.

 

Male Speaker:             Is there anything in Nemo?

 

Lee:                             We spend years making these films, and we have a lot of time on our hands, so.

 

Male Speaker:             Is there anything in Nemo that people will –

 

Lee:                             Let me roll my brain back ten years.  I don’t remember all – but  Buzz Lightyear’s in there at one point.  He’s a toy in the dentist’s office waiting room.  There’s a little boy reading an Incredibles comic book on the couch, and that was before the Incredibles came out.

 

Male Speaker:             Are there some hidden ones that people haven’t [inaudible]?

 

Lee:                             I don’t know.  I don’t remember, to be honest with you.

 

Male Speaker:             Not in Nemo, but in others that you guys talk about.

 

Lee:                             Sometimes here and there.  They’re like tiny things in the movies that we did for some reason, like put somebody’s name in or something, and there’s no reason anybody would ever know what it is.

 

Male Speaker:             [Inaudible] sort of like separate in new talent because the director of Partysaurus Rex was an animator [inaudible].  What’s it like for you to sort of see this people come up through the ranks and [inaudible].

 

Lee:                             Well, it’s fun, especially for people like Mark Walsh, who has been at the studio a really long time.  He’s had aspirations to direct for a long time, and he has directed a lot of little side projects that we’ve done over the years, so it’s great to see him grab the reins and do something bigger.  As we grow as a studio we try to have more films in development and bring up new talent.  I mean there was a time where John Lassiter was the director at Pixar, and that was it. And it’s been fun as we’ve grown, to allow people to have more opportunities.

 

Female Speaker:          You started [inaudible] Pixar?  How did it all start for you?

 

Lee:                             I was hired to be an editor – a film editor on the first Toy Story, and it was just supposed to be a four to six-week freelance job.  And they kept having me stay and stay and stay.  And now, 18 years later, I’m still there.

 

Male Speaker:             How much has Pixar changed to work in?  Is it still the same environment?

 

Lee:                             It’s very much the same in a lot of ways, and it’s different in that it’s gotten bigger.  It’s not huge.  It’s not a huge company, but I think the creative spirit and the guiding principles and the philosophies are exactly the same as they were at the beginning.  A lot of people wondered what would happen when we were bought by Disney and how that would change things.  And it really didn’t change anything.  My only regret is, that’s nothing to be done about, is just that in the early days, I loved making movies with John and Andrew and Pete, and Joe Ranft, and it was fun.

 

It was fun to come to work every day with that group of people and make a movie.  And that’s just not the way it is anymore because all the same people are not there anymore, and everyone’s  directing their own movies.  So we see each other kind of fleetingly.  I don’t think we’ll ever have the experience again of all working on one movie together.

 

Female Speaker:          It sounds a little bit like you’re – how do you say it – nostalgic?

 

Lee:                             Yeah, absolutely.  I mean it’s bittersweet.  We are at our best when we’re together.  And we always knew that when we started going off and directing our separate films that we would struggle more.  It would be harder and maybe just a little less fun.  But we’ve found a way to make it all work because we’ve had to. We still get together regularly and show each other our work.  It’s just very focused time together rather than being with each other all day every day.

 

Female Speaker:          Yesterday, they had mentioned that there are some [inaudible] 3D, [inaudible]?

 

Lee:                             In terms of the Pixar films?  We haven’t made any announcements about any plans for any future films, but I think it’s safe to say we all love 3D and we love watching our films in 3D, so I hope to see everything some day.

 

Female Speaker:          Last couple of questions.

 

Male Speaker:             Will all future films be made in 3D?

 

Lee:                             Yes, at the studio all the new films have a 3D version created.

 

 

Male Speaker:             With Finding Nemo, what was your proudest achievement upon seeing it –

 

Lee:                             That it was so embraced the world over. I know that sounds pat, but it’s really true.  When you asked earlier about whether we thought it would do well, we really honestly – it was a big question mark.  It ended up being bigger than anything we ever created and experienced, and it was very exciting and rewarding because again, we didn’t have any doubts about the movie.  We were happy with it, for better, for worse, whatever anyone said about it, we were happy with what we’d made.  And it was great to then see it embraced.

 

Male Speaker:             Why do you think it has been so successful?

 

Lee:                             You know, I think because everybody’s fascinated with the ocean.  It’s this big part of our planet, but it’s the place that people don’t really get to visit.  Very few people ever go underwater.  Everyone’s fascinated with it.  It’s beautiful, it’s colorful, and it’s scary.  It’s kind of everything.  And so it was fun to go into that world using computer graphics, which nobody had ever done before.  And coupled with a very relatable, simple story of a father-son relationship that both adults and kids could relate to in their own way.  I think that all added up to a lasting film that a lot of people responded to.

 

Female Speaker:          We’re out of time, sorry.

 

Lee:                             Thanks, good talking to you.


TroyAnderson

Troy Anderson is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of AndersonVision. He uses a crack team of unknown heroes to bring you the latest and greatest in Entertainment News.

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