Unkrich Talks Toy Story Trilogy
BD: And your view of these beloved characters has changed as a result of your life experiences. You're middle aged now.
LU: Your vision of adult conflicts is different when you're 42 from when you were 23. So we've got a lot of people commenting about how our films have gotten mature lately, with this film and with Up and with WALL•E. But to us it's not a conscious choice to do that: it's just a reflection of us being at a different place in our lives and we think about different things, I suppose, than when we were young.
BD: Looking back, what was the biggest epiphany for you on Toy Story?
LU: Well, my biggest epiphany on Toy Story was when I realized that what the guys were doing was more like live action than animation. I think they didn't even know that themselves -- everything was kind of being invented and figured out. And because I came in from the outside and from a live-action background, I remember starting to watch a lot of animation because I thought I needed to learn this different grammar because I had never worked in animation before. But I quickly realized that we didn't need that. It was not what we were doing: we were doing something new and interesting. Obviously we were creating animation, but it was within a wrapper of live action, almost, because of how we were making films. So that was a big epiphany. I would interject at a lot of meetings different ways of doing things, different ways of visualizing. And John began to trust me and more and more handed over the reins to me to handle all of the staging and camerawork in the movies. And that and other things led to me having this opportunity to direct Toy Story 3.
BD: Anything, in particular, that you remember calling attention to?
LU: I do have a very specific memory at one of our early layout meetings. In the storyboards, there was this moment of Woody climbing up the bed and then seeing Buzz for the first time. And in the storyboards it was always Woody climbing up on the bed and looking and seeing something and then we cut to what he was seeing, which was Buzz's legs and the camera moved up and revealed Buzz's face. And I didn't know if it was my place or not in this early meeting to make another suggestion -- I was still very new in the group -- but I suggested that we have Woody peek up over the bed and then have the camera actually glide back through Buzz's legs and then rise up to reveal his face. Everyone was very excited about it and that's obviously how the moment plays in the movie. I always remember that moment as being the beginning of the guys looking at me and starting to trust my visual instincts.
BD: And what was the biggest epiphany on Toy Story 2?
LU: Well, on Toy Story 2, it was more a realization that when we were all together, we could do amazing work, because we had to redo that whole film in only nine months. We basically shut down the studio and it was all hands on deck to get the movie made.