ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.9 - DECEMBER 1999
Toy Story 2 Is Not Your Typical Hollywood Sequel
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When Lee Unkrich grew up in Ohio he developed a love for movies. At USC (University of Southern California) he discovered he was really good at editing. He also directed a graduate film. After film school he worked in television. The Avid Media Composer was just coming out and it was clear to him that non-linear video "was going to rock the industry and completely take over. I knew the day wasn't far away that we wouldn't be editing on film anymore." Among his credits is Silk Stockings, a series he edited for the USA Network.
Lee Unkrich teams with Brannon to co-direct Toy Story 2. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.
"One day I got a phone call from Bob Gordon, who was editing Toy Story up in the Bay area. He asked me if I was interested in working on an animated movie. I was very skeptical. I thought, 'What could they possibly be doing?' I was very skeptical of anything being made outside of Los Angeles. Then he mentioned the name Pixar and my eyes just lit up because I had been a fan of John Lasseter for years. He didn't have to say much more before I was on a plane."
When it comes to advice for people interested in becoming animators Ash Brannon says, "Draw, watch old films, great new ones, and learn as much as you can about the process. Learn to draw, even if you are doing computer animation. The skills you learn by animating by hand are indispensable. Even though you don't have to draw on the computer, you still have to come up with great poses, silhouettes and expressions. It helps so much. If you work with clay instead of drawing, it's not going to hold you back as all the principals are the same -- timing, squash and stretch and so on. You need to learn the classic principles."
Lee Unkrich states, "We are living in a world that is changing rapidly. If somebody wants to eventually become a director in computer animation, I would say that you need to have a more fully rounded film education than just a traditional animation background. That is obviously a vital skill to have, but any animator who wants to direct would be well served to study editing, cinematography, and live-action directing."
I also had the opportunity to talk briefly with Karen Robert Jackson and Helene Plotkin, the film's producers. They worked on the film for over three years, so I asked about their role with the production. Plotkin explains, "We wind up doing a lot of things live-action producers do like dealing with executives, publicity, talent, lawyers, contracts, budgets, schedules and things like that. We hire the crew. We oversee all the managers, coordinators, and the creative leads. We make sure each of the departments runs smoothly and efficiently so we can make the best film possible.
"In animation we are concerned with the cast, sets, props and lighting, but they are built within the computer. You have to make sure everything is built on time, you have to have the talent in place, and you need to know in advance what the characters will look and feel like."
Jackson explains, "A large part of our job [now] is to make sure people are as excited about this film as we are. We have worked so long and hard on this and we believe it is a wonderful film. We want to make sure people see it.
"We have created a film that is true to the original in terms of bringing great characters to the screen, having great relationships between characters, and a great message. It's wonderful entertainment for kid and adults...it's a great story...it's a big production...it's a great film!"
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