The Pixar Lesson

I recently watched the documentary The Pixar Story and I wanted to take a quick post to reflect on the films, the company, and the inspiring story behind it all.

Starting out as a rag-tag team of animators, scientists, and just plain creative minds, the Pixar team (though not originally known as such) were trailblazing an area of animation that most of their peers, and superiors, wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Having grown up in the world of technology, my generation often forgets that most computer advancements are still relatively new. Even now, the field of computer animation is continuously growing and discovering new ways of doing things. When Pixar first came into creation, CGI films were practically unheard of; now, you can’t meet a kid (or adult) who hasn’t seen (AND ENJOYED) one of Pixar’s CGI masterpieces.

While there are plenty of big names currently and previously associated with the company, some of the most influential contributors to Pixar’s initial success include Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and the incomparable John Lasseter.

After releasing their first feature film in 1995,  the studio continues to create some of the world’s favorite family films. So what was that initial film that sparked such success? Toy Story. Massively entertaining for both parents and children, Pixar managed to find the perfect recipe after a number of rewrites and reworkings. Now, Toy Story is a classic that few haven’t seen.

Defying the odds, sticking with a company that originally seemed to be nothing more than a money pit– the creative talents behind Pixar have alway been so dedicated to their jobs. When asked to produce the Toy Story 2 movie in conjunction with their then partner Disney, Pixar found themselves in a bit of a crisis as they faced deadlines they weren’t sure they could make. What’s more, they soon, though not soon enough, realized that the original storyline they were working with was…well…bad. And so Pixar started over, from scratch, despite the insistence of Disney executives that the story was “good enough.” Good enough, however, wasn’t good enough for the dedicated artisans at this amazing studio.

The Pixar Story documentary not only told the interesting history of the company, but reminded me of the role each of those films has played in my own childhood. I can still remember watching all those films– Toy Story, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo— for the first time. While I didn’t truly appreciate their genius when I was younger, they never failed to amuse me. Even now, with each rewatch, as I pick up on the subtle adult humor and painstakingly intricate detail put into the animation, I can’t help but smile and laugh.

In the end, the real lesson that can be taken away from The Pixar Story is intrinsically tied to their parent company Disney’s own mantra:

“All our dreams can come true,
if we have the courage to pursue them.”

-Walt Disney

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Stumbled Upon: History of Science Fiction

I love all sorts of literature, but sci-fi/fantasy holds a special place in my heart– and apparently I’m not the only one. Artist Ward Shelley has put together a lovely and elaborate Mapped History of Science Fiction. Including films and books alike, the complexity of the map displays the devotion of a true fan. While I’ve included the picture below, an enlarged photo is necessary to get the full effect. Just something I stumbled upon and thought I would share– Enjoy!

“Cars n’ Deals”: Pixar works the web

I absolutely love viral movie campaigns, and Pixar has yet to disappoint (see Toy Story 3 social media campaign. No, seriously– click the link and check it out. It’s great!).

The first Cars movie, much like all Pixar movies, received rave reviews and prominently displayed Pixar’s unique ability to simultaneously entertain both children and parents. It’s 5 years later, and expectant audiences are eagerly awaiting the sequels upcoming release.

Trailers have been showing for a while now, promoting the film in the regular way. Pixar, however, is anything but regular. After the success of the Toy Story 3 viral campaign, the company has turned once more to director Chris Cantwell. Together with Pixar, Cantwell has put together faux car advertisement to promote the new Cars film. The video is complete with corny sales pitches, editing gaffes, and cheap-looking production quality. This ‘ad’ makes all those other annoyingly tacky bargain car commercials look award-worthy– and I say that as a great compliment. The video is hilarious and well worth a watch, for Pixar fans or those just looking for a laugh.

Pixar and Cars fan, however, are in for a special treat. Hidden within the video is link to a site where you can watch exclusive footage from the film (hint: 57 second mark). Also, if I’m not mistaken, some of the actual cars seen in video might look a bit familiar to anyone who has seen the trailer…just saying.

Sprinkled throughout the video are also hints to the new movie’s plots. Make sure to watch it more than once to make sure you catch everything. Plus, apparently the phone number they give at the end of the commercial is a working line. I might have to pick up a phone and check this out for myself!

Cars 2 opens June 24, 2011.

P.S. My favorite parts: “Lion of a deal” as he wears a tiger costume and the jingle at the end (“but don’t go too far or you’ll miss it”).

The Oscars Online

In a previous post featuring a rather unsuccessful poll, I asked readers about their Oscar viewing habits in terms of social media. What networks would you stay connected to throughout the show?

Embodying the very spirit of the social media and award show connection was James Franco, who tweeted away from backstage. Despite a less than stellar performance, he at least did well in documenting behind the scenes footage that was enjoyed by thousands of Twitter users. Other celebrities, such as Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Hudson, and Franco’s fellow co-host Anne Hathaway took to Twitter as well, but more important were the viewers who hit up social network sites and what they were talking about.

Mashable has put together a nice little report of the who, what, and how much from Oscar night. While I’ve featured a couple key/interesting stats in this post, I highly suggestion heading over to the article itself to find out more.

 

Twitter

  • Certain moments throughout the broadcast featured dramatic increases in tweets. For instance, when Oprah Winfrey presented the award for Best Documentary (to Inside Job) a record number of 11,780 tweets were sent out! Here are some more spikes:

  • In terms of Trending Topics, Tweetbeat’s measurements reported that Inception as the most tweeted about film, followed by The King’s Speech second. Other trending films included Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and The Fighter.
  • The twitterverse was similarly interested in the nominees, with James Franco leading the topic trends. Since Franco’s nomination in January, a reported 58, 197 tweets have mentioned the actor. During the award show itself, Franco received 21,117 mentions. His co-host Anne Hathaway was the second-most tweeted about celebrity, followed by Natalie Portman.

 

Facebook

  • During the 24 hour period following the awards show, nearly one million people in the U.S. alone mentioned the word “Oscar” in a status update on Facebook.
  • Of all the Oscar topics, The Kings Speech received the most attention with 152,324 mentions throughout the United States.

To find out more about the world of the web on Oscar night, check out the full article on Mashable.com.

So, how did you stay connected? Did you help make up some of the numbers of these statistics? I know I did.

 

 

Oscars: tweet, tumble, post or blog?

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night and, while it’s no Super Bowl, the show is sure to reach a large audience. For the past few weeks (okay, let’s be serious, knowing my interests it’s more like months) my social networking sites have been ablaze with Oscar commentary and speculation. From Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to the Blogosphere– everyone has an opinion and loyal followers like myself just can’t get enough of it.

Tomorrow night will find my in front of the television with my computer at hand, ready to shush any unnecessary comments from the peanut gallery that is my apartment (I’m ruthless when it comes to these things). I’ll be completely hooked in the Oscars both onscreen and behind the scenes thanks to modern day technology. This got me thinking– how will other people be enjoying the Oscars? What sites will they be using to keep connected, whether they’re watching in real time or not. And so I have introduced my very first blog poll!! This might be an epic failure, but I’m genuinlely curious to find out about the obsessive viewing habits of other social media nerds. So let me know that I’m not the only one!

“A language we all speak…”

Classes have started up again. For the most part, we’ve only met once or twice, but my schedule seems enjoyable. A fun last semester that will also hopefully prove beneficial to any job possibilities.

In line with my school’s policies, as seniors we have to take a final “Core Curriculum” class. The subjects of these classes are varied, and we choose whichever one might appeal to us most. I chose a Psychology (my minor) based class with a former professor with whom I actually did some research and independent study work. The topic is “Families and Society,” and at our introduction class yesterday, we spent much of the time discussing what a ‘family’ is exactly. We began by introducing ourselves and our majors. My professors then had us each relate the topic of Family to our respective fields. As a Core class, she was determined to highlight the importance of our various views and experiences in understanding the subject. To make a long story short(er), ideas and terms were thrown around for an hour or so. Discussion ensued. Afterward much conversing, my teacher decided to make things a little fun and show us film scenes that portrayed families. Her explanation for this was because “Media is a language we all speak.”

This statement was made as just a passing remark, but I immediately wrote it down in my notebook. It’s by no means revolutionary or deeply profound, but I found it interesting. As a Communications major with a focus in Public Relations, I consider the media to be a large part of my field. It is, in fact, my interest in all forms of the media that lead me into this discipline. So, to consider that media, a major study of mine, was a universally understood language was sort to remarkable. During my walk back from the class, I thought more about this small statement that most people didn’t even take notice of. It really is a uniting ‘language’ of sorts. We all use it, acknowledge it, learn from it, accept or disagree with it. It is a part of our everyday lives, no matter where we live or who we are. Only the most remote indigenous tribes can be arguably free from media influence, but even then the difference between our society and theirs is much greater than just a lack of newspapers or television.

Media is universal. While it comes in all forms and language, we all understand it. It’s there and we know why it’s there. Whether we trust it or distrust it, whether we enjoy it or hate it– media truly is a “language we all speak.”

‘Supersize Me’ director makes ‘Greatest Film’

In 2004, the world was no longer able to deny the fact that they knew was true: McDonald’s, even the healthy choices, are absolutely horrible for you. Of course we all knew this, but it was Morgan Spurlock’s fascinating, slightly nauseating documentary Super Size Me that really drove the point home. The effects of the movie, in which Spurlock vows to eat only McDonald’s for all 3 meals for a 30 day period, were momentous both in terms of the consumers and the company. The low-budget, “experimental” film went on to win the Sundance Film Festival’s top documentary director award as well as get nominated for an Oscar. More than that, this film has been treated like a precious warning for  future generations. Most impressive was McDonald’s response to the film. After news of the documentary was released, McDonald’s went into PR Crisis mode. The day before the documentary was scheduled to open, McDonald’s added the “Go Active” adult happy meals to their menu. Soon enough, even their advertisements were focusing on “healthier choices,” a trend that is still seen today. But perhaps most interesting is McDonald’s decision to remove the forever tainted option of “super-sizing” a meal from their repertoire. These were the first steps toward a gradual,long-anticipated revolution in the fast food world.

It’s nearly 7 years later and Spurlock is about to release his second documentary, also at the Sundance Festival which is currently going on. For his latest film, known as The Greatest Film Even Sold, Spurlock decided to investigate the world of product placement and brand integration. Spurlock quite literally financed this entire film, a $1.5 million venture, by contracted with 15 companies. Due to these contractual obligations, Spurlock decided to change the official name of the film to POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (anyone else really craving pomegranate juice all of a sudden?).

With a film financed entirely by brand name companies, it would be easy to assume that either Spurlock or these companies would seem like a bit of a…well, sell out. In response to a statement from EW asking Spurlock if he felt he was “risking essentially selling out [his] own movie,” Spurlock laughs in response: “I’m not selling out–I’m buying in!”

And the companies? The whole premise of the movie came from Spurlock’s distaste for the blatant, in-your-face product placements/integrations that plague television and film– wouldn’t the companies be the enemy? In the same interview, Spurlock responds: “The companies who were willing to come on board this movie wind up looking great because they had the balls to take part.” Proving, that the ability to laugh at oneself is an important key in both business (especially PR) and life.

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, which is already receiving warm reviews, can be expected to layer on the humor while also revealing a unique look at an interesting subject. I wonder what kind of effect this film will have on the marketing world?

Find out more:

PRWeek: Sold on the greatest movie ever sold

EW interview

Wire Tap Magazine: Weighing the Impact of Supersize Me