I attended the Monster’s University Freshman Orientation (press event) in April. Travel expenses and accommodations were covered by Disney/Pixar (as well as plenty of behind-the-scenes sneak peek information about the upcoming movie) but no monetary compensation was received. All opinions are my own.
If I had not heard it from the director’s mouth shortly after seeing Pixar’s new short film, The Blue Umbrella, I never would have believed that it was fully animated. The Blue Umbrella is Pixar’s newest short, releasing on June 21, 2013 in front of Monsters University. The Blue Umbrella uses new techniques in photorealistic lighting, shading and compositing to create a whole new level of computer animation…something you will have to see to believe.
It was fascinating to listen to Director Saschka Unseld talk about the process of creating the 6-minute computer animated film. Because of the shorter length of the film, the artists and animators had more flexibility to try out new techniques without jeopardizing a larger production. This became a challenge, though, when the animators had to set aside the way they normally worked and look at things from a unique angle.
For instance, Unseld said, “It was amazing how much people are used to doing things in a more stylized, cartoony way. The first version of the mailbox, which you see in the beginning – we gave photo references to the modeler to build it.
A mailbox is relatively straight forward, you would think, but then we looked at it, and somehow it didn’t look real. Something was wrong. It was really hard to tell. We had to really look into the details; the size of the screws were slightly too big. And since a mailbox is made out of this kind of folded metal, the sharpness of a bend has certain physical restrictions.
And that was just wrong. It was like all these details that are based on a manufacturing process of these things, or how thick something is, or all these things were slightly off, and all that gave the overall picture of something that didn’t look real.”
Their hard work, trial, and error certainly paid off in the end – the animation was so realistic that I truly believed I was looking at animation “on top of” a real scene that had been filmed traditionally. I can’t wait to see it again so that I can look at it with a more critical eye.
Synopsis: It is just another evening commute until the rain starts to fall, and the city comes alive to the sound of dripping rain pipes, whistling awnings and gurgling gutters. And in the midst, two umbrellas—one blue, one not—fall eternally in love.
Unseld said he conceptualized the story after finding an abandoned umbrella one day in San Francisco. “The core of the story was… I was living here (San Francisco) already for four years or something like this. And it really rarely rained. And then finally it was raining. And I went for a walk through the city, and I saw an umbrella someone had thrown away on the side of the street. And I took a picture of it. On the Tumblr blog I have, the first post of that is that photo I had taken.”
Unseld went on to explain how the story developed from that first photo of an abandoned umbrella: “That picture stuck with me and, and I was thinking about stories I wanted to tell. It’s this weird thing. You see this umbrella and it’s just an object, but it looks so sad, and it looks kind of so down and drenched; it’s a super sad sight. And I wanted to tell a story with that.”
He originally pictured a story in which the umbrella wants to get back to the owner – he said it felt like a break up story where someone has broken up with you and you still want to be with that person. he abandoned that when he couldn’t find a happy ending.
Next, he thought of a story in which the owner wants to move to somewhere where it never rains and the umbrella doesn’t want to go, but he couldn’t find a happy ending to that story, either.
That thought made him wonder why he liked rain so much, and he realized that it had a lot to do with where he grew up and how much it rained there. “I really like cities in the rain a lot,” said Unseld. “I think they become beautiful. Thinking of that, what it means emotionally to me, the idea became that it should be a love declaration to the rain. It’s about someone who loves the rain so much. It’s a love declaration to the rain, and I was, like, well… then it should be a love story. It is a love story between two umbrellas.”
Be sure to check out The Blue Umbrella when you see Monsters University in theaters (starting June 21!!) – I know you will fall in love with this simple love story set to music.
From Pixar Animation Studios, director Saschka Unseld and producer Marc Greenberg, “The Blue Umbrella” opens in theaters on June 21, 2013, in front of “Monsters University.” Check out a clip from film below:
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