Post Group: Newbie
Back in March I was invited to spend a day at Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California, to get an early look at their new movie Brave and talk to some of the people who made it possible. A few weeks ago I brought you my first report, including a detailed look oakley glasses at just how complicated it was to build Merida's fiery red hair, and an interview with the film's director, Mark Andrews. Now here's the second half, just in time for the film's release this week. Enjoy!)
Pixar has been accused of being a boy's club in recent years, and not without reason-- every director of every feature film and short film they've made has been male, and all of their heroes have been male as well. They were getting ready to change both molds with Brave, which not only features their first female main character in Merida, but was directed by Brenda Chapman, an animation veteran who had conceived of the story of the independent, flame-haired Scottish princess who fights to determine her own fate. But in 2010, with just two years to go until Brave's release, Mark Andrews stepped in as Brave's director, in the kind of switch that isn't that uncommon at Pixar-- Brad Bird wasn't the original director of Ratatouille, for example, and John Lasseter stepped in to handle Toy Story 2 midway through its development.
The massive Pixar team is used to making changes to their films until they get things perfect, but that discount oakley sunglasses doesn't mean they don't need someone behind the scenes to make sure every transition runs smoothly. Enter Katherine Sarafian, a Pixar veteran who started off in production, spent some time bringing a sense of storytelling to the marketing department, and then moved back over to production in time to become the producer of Brave, working closely with both Chapman and Andrews to bring Merida's story to life. During the big press day Disney held at the Pixar campus back in March, Sarafian held court in a roundtable interview with the kind of authority you'd expect from a producer-- never giving away too much about the plot, always answering carefully and intelligently, and speaking so fast you never doubted she knew exactly what she was talking about. When I sat down with her one on one later that afternoon, the publicist in the room commented that the two of us started talking faster and faster as the interview went on, to the point that I'm convinced I got twice as much information out of Sarafian as anyone else.
What you'll read below is a combination of that roundtable conversation and my one-on-one, in which Sarafian talks about the transition between Chapman and Andrews as directors, the importance of Merida as the studio's first female heroine and Brave as their first original movie in three years, and how working with Steve Jobs-- "learning cheap oakley sunglasses marketing from the best marketer," as she puts it-- has helped her now that she's working in production again. Take a look at the interview below, and see the result of six years of hard work when Brave opens in theaters this weekend.
This film has been in development longer than most Pixar movies. What made it such a challenge?
It's a series of things. This story immediately hooked Lasseter and the brain trust, they loved it from the beginning. But the development process is full of ups and downs. Every film has a development process, and they all have to be developed before they can go into production. The development process means you put the movie up into movie form the best you can every 3-5 months, you sit with the brain trust, tear it apart, poke holes in it, build it back up. We did that many times, just as every Pixar film does. We had a great team along the way helping us out-- John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter-- and the brain trust, and they went through all the paces a typical film goes through, just over a bit more prolonged period. Like Mark always says, story is hard, it's alchemy. There's so many nuances to it. I learned a lot having a front row seat to the story process. It's easy to tell a simple story, it's not easy to tell one really, really exceptionally well. That's why we take the time. We take as long as we need to make it great.
What were the story points you hit during production that weren't working?
Every time you have a brain trust meeting you put it up and say, "OK, these things, I see the mother-daughter dynamic is working really well. And I see the father-daughter dynamic working really well. But then the lords, it's confusing whether they're marrying her, or are they really her suitors." We develop the story to a point where we Cheap Oakley Sunglasses realize, 'Wait, the lords shouldn't be suitors, they're too old. The lords have sons, and they're the suitors." That's an example of the kind of thing of something that, from the earliest seed of the story, we know there are these others clans, but we don't know who they are going to be. Or that Merida will shoot to win herself in the games, that develops over time. We know there are going to be games. We have all these pieces, but how they work together, that's the kind of stuff that doesn't work right off the bat in any of our films. Every Pixar film goes through that in a different way.
<>And what about the visual challenges of creating this world?
There's elements of magic in the story, and there's a dark forest with hints of danger. We modeled the dark forest after the one we saw on our research trip to Scotland, but once we went on these research trips we saw this was not going to be an easy task, because of the textures of the moss, the lichen. There's something growing on everything. And the weather's constantly changing. There were no easy surfaces in Scotland. We had to figure out how to do al of this, the story required it. Merida, our central character, she's a fiery, spirited lass, and her hair is very much part of her character and who she is. She needed this wild red hair, we felt it was very much part of her character. We look at the challenge, what the story needs, then it's "we're going to make the tools to make this story happen." As John says, the art is challenging technology, and technology is then inspiring the art. We did our first horse, did our first bear. It's a lot of firsts, and we're very proud of it.