Posted on Sunday, February 15th, 2009 by Peter Sciretta
If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a Pixar fanatic. To me there is something so extremely special about the Emeryville-based animation studio’s special brand of storytelling. I remember being in Hall H at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con when Andrew Stanton unveiled the beginning of WALL-E. I was beyond amazed. I never thought this type of sci-fi film could ever be made, nevermind animated. And WALL-E ended up as being one of my favorite films of 2008.
Cut to: A year later, Hall H, Comic Con 2008. Pete Docter unveils a couple sequences from Pixar’s next film, Up. I was in disbelief. I felt myself disinterested in the story/concept, something that has never happened with any of the Pixar films thus far. Don’t get me wrong, the animation looked beautiful, funny yet empathetic characters, and amazing visuals. But for some reason I just wasn’t wasn’t impressed. But at this point we must have faith in the company named Pixar, right?
More clips have been released, mostly a variation on the sequence where the house floats into the air and Carl discovers Russell. At this point in the marketing cycle, it’s almost like the rest of the film doesnt even exist. And if it does, we certainly don’t see any evidence of it. And then this past weekend at the New York Comic Con, Pixar unveiled the first half of the movie. While most of the reviews were positive, I began to hear about storypoints, that, in concept seemed… strange. And the more and more I thought about it, the more and more I wanted to see the footage for myself. So at the last minute, I decided to book a $50 flight down to Hollywood so that I could do just that. I was invited to a special screening on the Disney lot.
This was not a vacation to visit with friends. I would only be in Los Angeles for 9 hours. I was on a mission to see the footage and come up with my own assessment. We arrive at Disney Studios and attempt to enter through what we believe might be the wrong gate. The security guard at the entrance seems to know nothing about the special screening, but gets on the phone to find out. Surely we’re just at the wrong gate. He gets off the phone and tells us that he has good news and bad news, and asks us which we wanted to hear first.
The good news is that we’re in the right place. The bad news is that the screening was canceled. If you could have seen a slow motion video capture of my face, I’m sure it would have been hilarious. In a matter of seconds, my emotions jumped from disbelief to concern to shock to disappointment to anger. Remember, I did spend $100 on roundtrip plane flights to come out there, and wasted who knows how many hours of my time in travel to attend the event. And right before I was about to scream, the guard admits that he was just kidding. The joke is a lot funnier in retrospect.
We find the correct gate, and get lost on the Disney lot. I know I don’t live in Los Angeles, but I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of walking through studio lot. It’s where movies get made, and to me there is something incredibly magical about the whole thing. We find the building where the screening is being held, and walk by the original multiplane animation cameras that was used on Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and a trophase the holds the original helmet from Tron (which looks a lot cheaper than you might expect).
Cell phone confiscated, we watch the first 46 minutes and 17 seconds of the film. It’s amazing what context can do, and how the scenes I previewed earlier at Comic Con have a whole new meaning. Overall I was extremely impressed with what I saw, especially the first 20 or so minutes. There is an incredible montage that lasts probably 7-10 minutes and features absolutely no dialogue. If I had seen the opening of this film, and nothing else, I would probably say that Up has the potential to be Pixar’s best film to date.
But the film goes on, and it very different than you might expect. And that’s my only hesitation about the film. The last 10 minutes introduces a bunch of characters that at first feel like they belong in a totally different movie (you can see some of them on the poster – the bird and the dog). It’s almost like Carl’s house floats from a Pixar world into another dimension with a more Disney sensibility. And I don’t mean that as an insult. I loved Bolt, and the last 10-15 minutes are very much that same kind of sensibility and humor. I’m just saying the transition is oft putting. It would be hard to discuss this any further without going into spoilers.
I decided to record a video blog with Frosty from Collider, where we both discuss our thoughts on the footage we’ve seen so far. We start off spoiler free, and eventually give you a warning before we discuss some of the elements that might be considered spoilers. This was our first time trying to record a video chat like this, so there are some technical issues (sound, lighting and audio) and we probably also went on longer than we should have (we got sidetracked along the way). That said, we know how to do things next time around. Enjoy the video blog review below!
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