The celebrated TS3 director tells us what he likes about Blu-ray and confronting change at Pixar.
With Toy Story 3 becoming the first billion-dollar animated grosser, and lots of Oscar buzz and going Blu this week from Walt Disney Home Ent., we caught up again with director Lee Unkrich to talk TS3 and Pixar.
Bill Desowitz: So, what are your impressions of Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray?
Lee Unkrich: It really looks good in my home and I'm very happy with it. In fact, I know the mix for the movie so well that when I was watching it at home, I realized that my system needed to be tweaked a bit because it wasn't sounding quite right. But once I had it tweaked, it sounds every bit as good as when we were at Skywalker mixing it.
BD: If anything, it's brighter and richer looking than the 3-D theatrical experience.
LU: Of course, there are three hits you take: it's dimmer, the colors aren't quite as saturated and, to my eye, it gets a little strobier. Yeah, I think the Blu-ray is the perfect way to see the film, perfectly, pristinely, the way we made it.
BD: Are you working on a 3-D version for Blu-ray?
LU: We don't have anything to announce about that now, and, honestly, I don't even know. I think a lot of the industry is taking a wait and see approach to that. I don't know of any [plans] in the works.
BD: Anything stand out in particular for you on Blu-ray?
LU: Something as simple as Lotso. I made the movie and I'm still amazed at how great he looks. I don't know how my team did what they did, but often times when he's onscreen, I stop paying attention to the movie and I find my eye just wandering, looking at the texture of the fluff and the fur on him.
BD: Are you able to enjoy it?
LU: I've seen it a lot, of course, and will continue to, and I'm not sick of it yet. I especially like watching it with audiences. One of the things that people may be surprise to hear, especially after how huge the success was on this movie, is that I continue to run into adults who haven't seen the movie yet. I still meet people who haven't seen any Pixar movie, for a lot of different reasons. I tell them they're really missing out. So we're hoping a lot more people see it now on [Blu-ray and DVD]. Of course, there's been a lot of talk in the press about people crying in the movie and why. I have my own thoughts about it [it's a pining for childhood, the loss of innocence], but it's great because all we set out to do was to make a movie that was worthy of sitting alongside the first two.
BD: It's become a national treasure and it provided a great sense of closure.
LU: Yeah, it's interesting how a lot of people are affected in different ways, at different points in their lives, and I'm happy it's seen as being as universally appealing as it is. It's a hard thing to do.
BD: Once again there are lots of fun bonus features. Now that you have your own crew and you're comfortable going under the hood, what were some of the highlights here?
LU: The one piece I love quite a bit is the Western opening. I honestly have hundreds of really talented people helping me make this movie both artistically and technically, and they never really get any recognition. But I wanted to put faces to that. They had done a nice little piece about the WALL•Eopening where they broke down a single shot and I always thought that piece was cool, so we just extended that idea out did and I'm really happy with how it came out: we've been getting some good feedback about it. And beyond that, the Studio Stories are always fun. We've all had these stories that have always just been told anecdotally to people we know or our friends, and I love that they've continued to do it in that form, storyboarded on the [discs].
You can see examples of what we're talking about and see a lot more of the artwork. And we have these roundtables with the story guys, so it's a real opportunity for students and kids who are aspiring filmmakers to learn about how movies are made. But there's always another part of me that just wants the movie to speak for itself. And we all like hot dogs, but do we really want to know how they're made? But in the end, we do what we do and put it all out there and hope that it's educational for people.
BD: The movie's about change and Pixar's going through changes. What's it like?
LU: There have always been changes and it's going to be a continuing, evolving story. Change is always scary, which is what the movie's about. You often feel trepidation about the idea of any change, but, with every goodbye is a new opportunity for new experiences in life. You know, if everything remained the same, life would not be so interesting to live.
BD: And it's painful when directors have to be replaced, which just happened [with Brenda Chapman being replaced by Mark Andrews on Brave].
LU: Yes, and it's happened several times in our history, sometimes publicly and sometimes not, but it's always the last resort. In the end, the movies are going to outlive all of us and so we need to do whatever we can to make [them] great. Our egos can't be a part of that. We have to do what's right for the movie, and sometimes, yes, we've been in situations where we've had to make some very difficult choices, and we've all worried about it happening to ourselves. I would be lying if I didn't think there were certain times on this movie when I worried about being taken off it, so you do what you need to do.
BD: What are you doing next?
LU: When I'm done with all this and get through Awards season, I'm going to start developing a new movie for Pixar and Darla [Anderson] is going to be producing again. But I'm not making any announcements about something.
BD: What can you say about it at this point?
LU: I'm actually casting a really wide net and have some different ideas and I haven't locked down what it's going to be yet.
BD: What kinds of situations or themes?
LU: Well, you'd love to hear and I wish I could tell you, to be honest, but, you know how it is: these movies take so long to make so we need to be sure we're choosing one that we're going to be able to be passionate about for a long time. We don't want to get half-way through production and run out of gas with something we're no longer interested in anymore. So I'm going to be working very hard to find the right thing to do next. I have a lot of different ideas and genres to work in and we'll figure that out.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.