First Look at Pixar's La Luna
EC: It's purely accidental -- my inspiration was Miyazaki's miner from Castle in the Sky. The arguing is all with the father's moustache and the grandfather's beard. I thought I'd be saving time by not having mouths, but it didn't work out that way. The hair was very challenging. The animators needed the controls to give expression and the kind of vibration that suggests speech. There was a lot of back and forth between grooming and the animators.
BD: And the look of the boy? He reminds me of Boo.
EC: We wanted him to be completely open and round and all eyes like a light bulb. In fact, we had to pull back on the size of the eyes so he would look more like the father and the grandfather.
BD: It's all very painterly with watercolors and pastels. Talk about the look and the animation.
EC: I was after a graphic feel in reflections and the challenge was to find graphic shapes in the waves. We worked very closely with effects to find the right kind of waves to give us a feeling of depth and still very graphic. They're real reflections into the water of the moon, which is a watercolor that we painted. We tried to use as much real media right on the screen. All our backgrounds are real pastels that were done by Bill Cone, the La Luna production designer. The Milky Way is pastel; the sky is pastel. I wanted to keep it tactile and textured. It started with my watercolor image boards. The boat, for example, has watercolor planks that are mapped onto the model.
EC: We end up on the moon and the lighting changes radically, of course. Bill did wonderful pastels for the color script. We found a few tricky spots with change of perspective [in 3-D] where we have to feel how different the moon is from earth. The lighting team helped us achieve texture on the moon. For example, a lot of the glows around the moon are moving textures made by panning different watercolor papers with little particles of color. Glows are not uniform but textured gradients. There's nothing groundbreaking other than our wish to really use stuff that isn't computer-generated but that we brought into the computer from real materials. There's this wonderful quote from Lynda Barry [the cartoonist/novelist]: "In the digital age, we shouldn't forget to use our digits."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.