lee unkrich

Peter: It’s interesting though because I feel like usually there’s a climb up like from animator. You started as an editor.

Unkrich: Editor, which is real super unusual.

Peter: Yeah, that’s very unusual.  And you actually edit your own movies as well.

Unkrich: Yeah.

Peter: How does that work?  Because I feel like the editor sometimes can provide a different point of view on the cut, but you’re so very close to this story.

Unkrich: Right, yeah, perspective, yeah. Well, we still have that.  I mean, we still have an editor on this show, Steve Bloom was the editor.  So I do value having that distance.  But at the end of the day, I mean, I’m an editor first and foremost.  It’s how I think, it’s how I approach my the problems that I’m trying to solve.  And so I can’t imagine making a film where I’m not sitting alone in the cutting room just kind of steeping myself into what we’re trying to do ’cause that’s where a lot of my ideas come.  So I’ve tried to partner myself with editors at the studio that are kind of on the rise.  And so they can take it as an opportunity to be cutting a film, but to also learn a lot along the way.

coco clip

Peter: And Darla, you started at Pixar very early on, you have a title of Digital Angel on the original Toy Story.  What is the story behind that?  Because I don’t think I’ve ever heard it.

Anderson: I had really wanted to work at Pixar, so I knocked on the door.  I had heard the rumblings of what was to become Toy Story, back in the day, ancient history.  The idea that Pixar in the computer animation world, the idea that Pixar was going to attempt more than I think at the time the record was maybe five contiguous minutes of computer animation.  Like nobody thought there was enough compute power on the planet to get the whole thing done.  But I wanted to be part of it.  And I loved Pixar’s film, so I packed up my bags from San Diego and moved up to San Francisco.  Knocked on the door and finally it took me about a year and a half, almost two years to get in.  Finally got in and all I wanted to do was work on Toy Story.  I wanted to be part of that pioneering effort.  But they said, could you please start a shorts group?  So I did that and we produced commercials.  But then because it was the first film, everybody in that group had to help finish the film.  That last summer of ’95 I guess it was.  Everybody in our group had to finish it.

Peter: It was a rush to the finish.

Anderson: Yeah. And so I went to the producers, Bonnie Arnold and Ralph Guggenheim, and I said, please can I have a credit?  My whole team got the movie down.  Please can I have a credit on this seminal piece of film history?  And they said, you can have a credit, but you’ll have to make something up.  So…

Peter: So you came up with Digital Angel.

Anderson: I had to create my own credit.  So I said, but so my nickname in San Diego from my friends was Angel of Light.  So I said, how about and I worked at Angel Studios before I came to, so two different ideas.  So we’re Angel, so I came up with that.

Pizza Planet Coco clip

Peter: With every Pixar film there’s Easter Eggs.  I obviously saw the Pizza Planet truck.

Unkrich: That was pretty easy.

Anderson: Yeah.

Peter: And Giacchino, also obvious.

Unkrich: Although nobody’s noticed yet is that it’s actually Pizza Planet in Spanish on the side of the truck.

Peter: Oh, I haven’t noticed that.  

Unkrich: You’ll have to frame through it to see that, but it’s as if there’s a franchise of Pizza Planet in Mexico.

Anderson: You’d be the only one that knows that right now.

The Incredibles 2 Trailer

Peter: If we were looking for something from the next film, which is Incredibles 2, how/where would you theoretically fit that into a movie like Coco?

Unkrich: I guess you’ll have to find it.

Peter:  No hints?

Unkrich: It’s in there.

Peter: At least tell us which scene?

Unkrich: Mm…  No, I’m not gonna give you any hints.  I will say it’s brief.  It’s a brief shot.

Anderson: It’s not easy.

Unkrich: So you’ll have to kind of know where to look to spot it.  It’s not obvious. But it’s there.  Once you see it, you’ll always know it’s there and you’ll always see it.

coco giacchino

Peter: This is a musical.  It’s obviously set in Mexico.  But you hired Michael Giacchino as a composer.  And it’s awesome.  He makes me cry every single time.  Twice last night when I saw it.  But can you address the choice going Giacchino over a Mexican composer?

Unkrich: Well, we actually did look at a lot of Mexican composers for a long time.  ‘Cause in the same way that we were, we had made this commitment to having an all Latino cast, we did look every step of the way for opportunities to have Latino artists be a part of the film.  Scoring a film of this size is a very particular skill.  Scoring a film of this size in a very limited amount of time, it’s the animated films tend to have a large volume of music that needs to be written very quickly.  And at the end of the day, we had so many moving parts on this movie and there were so many things to worry about I just really knew that we would be in good hands with Michael and that he’d be able to do what he needed to do and support the film comedically and in terms of emotion.  I just knew that he would be able to do it.  He also really loved what we were doing and expressed an interest in being a part of it.  And was open to the idea of us kind of shoring him up with help, which we did in the form of having Germaine Franco work with him.  She’s a Mexican-American composer that we had done a lot of work with on the film prior to Michael coming on.  And she ended up really helping him with a lot of his orchestration and arranging of the music.  So it ended up being one, big, happy family.  We got what Michael is able to bring in a beautiful way, but we were also able to ensure that it was culturally as authentic as an original score could be.

Anderson: And Germaine and Adrian ended up writing, they ended up writing a few songs together.

Molina: Original songs.  Germaine’s an incredible again producer, composer, orchestrator, songwriter.  And so a lot of the process of the original songs writing with her it was leaning into talking about different styles of Mexican music and what would be appropriate for this moment in the film.  Son jarocho, Huapango.  And having her as a resource and to write the music for the lyrics of a lot of these songs really helped to create this cohesive sound between the score, between the original music and between the traditional tunes that you hear throughout the world.

Unkrich: I had also really just wanted to work with Michael.  ‘Cause I was the only one of the old school directors at the studio who hadn’t worked with him.  And so I felt like I was missing out somehow so I wanted to work with him.

Peter: Well it turned out pretty great.

Unkrich: Yeah, he did a great job.

Anderson: And he has the cameo.

Peter: Yeah, the cameo, that’s great.  And the breaking the pencil. Thank you very much, guys. 

***

Coco is in theaters now.

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