Toon Zone Presents: A Virtual Roundtable with Pete Docter & Bob Peterson on "Up"
In the pre-release run-up for Disney/Pixar’s Up, Wall Street analyst Richard Greenfield expected a poor reception for the movie, stating, “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character” and also added a complaint about the lack of a female lead. About three months later, Greenfield became perhaps one of the only Wall Street analysts willing to go on the record as stating he was “dead wrong” in his assessment, considering Up‘s critical acclaim and $265.9 million box office take at that time, both of which proved Pixar chief John Lasseter’s assertion that “Quality is the best business plan.”
This is a concept that Pete Docter and Bob Peterson understand well, both being veterans of Pixar. Docter joined the studio the day after his college graduation: the 10th employee and the third animator. After working on the story for both Toy Story movies, he moved into the director’s chair himself for Monsters Inc., as well as for the English language version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and now for Up. Peterson has worked for Pixar since 1994, earning an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Finding Nemo and as a mainstay of the Pixar story department, as well as the voice of Pixar characters like Geri from “Geri’s Game”, Roz from Monsters Inc., and now as the co-director of Up and the voice of audience favorite Dug the dog.
Toon Zone News was able to participate in a virtual roundtable discussion with Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, who happily discussed the making of Up: its inspirations, its challenges, its visual design, its casting, and more. The following interview is edited together from the session we participated in and a second one held later the same day.
Q: On the Up Blu-ray, you talk about being inspired by a drawing of a grumpy old man holding balloons. At what point did you realize you had a movie, and not just a premise?
BOB PETERSON: I think the first pitch to John Lasseter when we made him cry (with no visuals!). That’s when we thought we had the emotional underpinnings of the story. Story-wise we had finally cracked Carl’s motivation for escaping life – that he had lived an amazing relationship with his wife that ended in something not quite completed. It’s a good feeling when you find that nugget of truth in your story. Humor and characters will come in and out of a story, but that nugget will remain.
Q: This isn’t the first time Pixar chose an old man as the main character in a plot; I remember the wonderful short “Geri’s Game.” Could you talk about the challenge of conceiving of a character like Carl, a lonely old man, in this film?
PETE DOCTER: “Geri’s Game” was great — I got to animate a shot on it and was surprised by the challenge of animating an older guy. One of the biggest problems was to break habits we have as animators; we generally try to loosen up movement with things like overlapping action and nice fluid movements. Watching real old men, we noticed there is a stiffness that comes with age — your bones fuse and you tend to be less flexible. So we came up with some rules for ourselves: Carl can’t turn his head beyond 15-20 degrees without turning his upper torso, for example. He can’t raise his arms too high. Then we also wanted to have him grow more flexible at the end, so he transforms into an action hero and rejoins life.
Q: As far as the animation style of Up goes, instead of going for “as close to realism as possible” kind of visuals, Up has an almost caricatured style, especially with the facial features highlighting big points, rather than looking like a human head. What influenced the style of Up, and why did you decide to go this route?
PETE DOCTER: The story called for Carl to float his house into the air buoyed by balloons. For that to be believable, we felt it would be necessary to caricature the world — and therefore the characters as well. I think if we made it look photo-real, you wouldn’t believe it as readily. We work in animation, so we can do things that can’t be done in any other medium. So the idea of simplifying and caricature is always exciting to me.
Q: Was it intentional to have Carl look like he’s made of cubes? If so, why make him so blockish looking? Are all of the characters based on geometric shapes?
BOB PETERSON: Absolutely. Rick Nierva, who is the production designer, is a big fan of creating characters whose shapes give clues to their personalities. A cube is not something that rolls or moves fast. It is very stable – perfect for Carl. A circle can roll and move fast – great for Russell. The more realistic we go with our characters, the less appealing they become because humans have the great ability to discern what is real in a human face and what is not. Basing characters on shapes caricatures them, moves them away from reality, and in a way let’s the audience’s left brain relax so that they can be more involved with the emotional journey of the characters.
Q: How do the visuals of Up compare with other Pixar films?
BOB PETERSON: This movie hits a nice balance of caricature in the shape of the characters, and realism in the lighting and atmosphere. I especially like that many of the textures in the film are “hand made,” created with single brush strokes of paint and then used as textures. Computer graphics can now almost do anything – fur in Monsters Inc., oceans in Finding Nemo, realistic trash heaps in WALL•E, but the nice thing is that now we can all relax and just do movies where the look is appropriate for the emotional journey in the story.
Q: What was your favorite sequence in the film, and why?
BOB PETERSON: Great question. The love story was the spine of the movie. When we develop these films we look for themes that guide us in how we tell the story. As the process of writing progressed, we realized that our main theme was “How does a person define adventure?” Is adventure out there in great deeds, or can it also be between people in the small moments that make up a life. Carl and Ellie’s love story helped us tell that theme – that small moments lead to a life’s adventure.
PETE DOCTER: I personally like the part we call “Married Life” — the wordless section showing Carl and Ellie’s life together. That was probably the scene I’m most proud of in the film. It came into play early as we developed the story of this guy floating away in his house, and we asked ourselves, “Why is he doing that?” We figured there was some sort of loss or unfulfilled dream that he was trying to make right, and so we came up with the back-story of Carl and his wife. We initially constructed it as a compressed series of small short scenes, with dialogue and sound effects. Little snippets of life.
When Ronnie del Carmen started to storyboard it, we felt like it would be nice to reduce it, simplify it, and take the dialogue out. My parents shot a lot of super 8 movies of our family growing up. Watching them now, there’s something really emotional about not having any sound. That allows, I think, the audience to participate more actively and kind of imagine, “What are they talking about there?” Or “what happened right before this moment? ” And that feeling was all part of what went into the scene…these really beautiful, little, real-life moments showing the highs and lows of life. Carl’s true adventure was their relationship together.
I think the scene plays to the strengths of film and animation in general, letting the visuals tell the story. And it seems to hit home for people. The bookend to this sequence is also one of my favorites — where Carl looks through Ellie’s adventure book (toward the end of the film).
Q: Were you concerned at all with delivering such an emotional gut-punch so early in the first act?
BOB PETERSON: We weren’t concerned as much as we were vigilant. We knew that we were traversing deep emotional terrain early in the film and we wanted to keep that thread of emotion alive as the film progressed. The reason we went so deep was because we wanted the audience to buy that Carl would lift his house and go on such an audacious adventure. We wanted to keep Ellie alive in the second and third acts, as if she were along for the journey, and so we created a few “talismans” to do so – objects with symbolic meanings – such as the adventure book, the house itself, the colorful sash on Russell (and his Ellie-like sense of adventure), and the colorful bird. At the end of the second act, when Carl reads the adventure book, Ellie is there to give him the wisdom to keep going. It was our hope that in keeping Ellie’s spirit alive throughout the film, her passing earlier would be more poignant.
Q: Which character from Up do you find that you most relate to?
PETE DOCTER: I relate most to Carl. I find myself griping about how they changed this or that, or how music these days is a bunch of noise, and “why did they take that item off the menu?!?” I’m going to make an excellent old man. Weirdly, Kevin the bird is another character I really like. Not that I feel a kinship, but she was a fun character to play around with, because she’s so unpredictable.
Q: Who came up with the idea to cast Ed Asner as Carl?
BOB PETERSON: Once Pete and I had arrived at the idea of doing an old man movie, the thought of Ed Asner came fairly early on. Good casting at Pixar is an exercise of balance. Woody in Toy Story could have been perceived as unappealing when he was jealous of Buzz if we had the wrong voice for him, but Tom Hanks brings such a natural appeal that he balanced any of Woody’s negatives. The same with Ed Asner. Ed’s soulfulness balanced his curmudgeon side. When Ed saw the small statue of his character when he came in to read for us he said, “It looks nothing like me!” We knew from that, that Ed was the perfect voice for Carl.
Q: I’ve read a lot about the character of Carl being inspired by actor Spencer Tracy, but not so much about the source of Charles Muntz. Who or what was the inspiration for him?
PETE DOCTER: For Carl, we looked at Spencer Tracy, Walter Matthau, James Whitmore… as well as our own grandparents. For Muntz, we modeled him on strong, 30’s era adventurous types — Errol Flynn and Walt Disney were two inspirations, as well as real life adventurers like Roald Amundsen and Percy Fawcett.
BOB PETERSON: Charles Muntz in story terms is “Carl Fredricksen at the end of the line.” In other words, if Carl had made it to Paradise Falls without accepting others into his life, then he would have gone crazy, wallowing in his unfinished quest. Carl is represented by a square shape. So as far as shape language, Muntz is a “collapsed square.” He ended up having more diamond shapes as if a square has collapsed upon itself. From real reference, we looked at the grand adventurers of the last century including Lindbergh. We looked at Howard Hughes, being a sort of inventor/adventurer. We also looked at photos of Errol Flynn and even the dapper photos of Walt Disney in the 1930s with his pencil thin mustache.
Q: Did you consider using animals other than dogs as companions for Muntz?
BOB PETERSON: Not really. We felt that dogs could play a wide variety of roles in the film just as dogs do in our lives – from lovable companion to enforcers. Ultimately a dog’s unquestioning love fit well with what Carl needed in the film – to accept new relationships in his life. And simply…DOGS ARE THE BEST!!!
Q: Where did the character of Dug come from? What inspired that character?
BOB PETERSON: Pete and I have always had dogs and they serve as the great inspiration for this character. The reason for Dug being in the film is that we wanted to give Carl a new family after his wife passes on. We essentially gave him a family dog, a grandson…and a 13-foot flightless bird. You know, a family! It is up to Carl to accept this new family during the film, thus doing what his wife would have wanted – to move on and forge new relationships. It was a gauntlet laid down in front of him to accept new people into his life.
Q: How was the idea for collars enabling dogs to talk arrived at? How much of it was comedy and how much of it was inspired by fact?
BOB PETERSON: Before Russell was invented, we just had Dug and Kevin along for the journey with Carl and it turned out to a pretty quiet journey. So we invented the collars. We love comedy and we knew that the collars would provide plenty of laughs, peering into our beloved canine friends’ brains. But more importantly, Dug is a mentor for Carl in that new relationships are always offered to us, and it is up to us to act on them.
Q: Bob, can you explain more about Dug being a mentor for Carl?
BOB PETERSON: Russell is a bit easier to pinpoint as a mentor. His line “it’s the boring things that I remember most” is meant to work at Carl and move him toward an appreciation of the small adventures in life. Dug’s undying and immediate canine love “I have just met you and I love you,” and “I was under your porch because I love you” is an indirect lesson for Carl that love is always around him, if he will only accept it.
Q: Did you model Dug’s character after any real dogs you know?
BOB PETERSON: Of course! I’ve owned a lot of dogs in my life – Marcela, Rusty, Petey Pup, Precious, Rosy and Ava. Each were in love with life’s simple pleasures, but being people in dog suits, as they seem to be, they each had a defined personality. Rosy, my present dog is very interested in squirrels! Also, I love to fool my dogs into thinking that I see something interesting for them. They’ll be sitting around panting, and I’ll join in, and then pretend I see something, suddenly, stopping the panting. They stop. Then I go back to panting. They go back. I love dogs!
Q: Do you have fun voicing him? His characterizations are very engaging and likable. Do you ever see a feature film around Dug?
BOB PETERSON: Thanks!! It was a thrill for me to voice him, mainly because I have been a dog owner/lover for my entire life. This dog collar idea let us animate Dug with true dog behaviors. I crafted Dug’s voice around how I talk to my dogs. “Hiii you dawgs,” I’ll say with that Dug-like voice. I also love how my dogs are interested in the simple things in life – balls, treats, SQUIRRELS!! Dogs to me have a soul – they’re very emotional and I’m happy to pay homage to dogs with this character.
Q: How did Tom McCarthy get involved in the writing of Up?
PETE DOCTER: We had referenced Tom’s film The Station Agent as we worked out the structure of Up. It’s very similar — a guy who isn’t really living, he’s just walking through life, trying to stay removed and alone. Then he reluctantly gets drawn into this surrogate family. It’s a great film, really well written and directed. We got Tom to come here to Pixar to screen it and talk about it, so we’d meet him. Bob and I were working together at the time, but then Bob was drafted on to Ratatouille for a while and I was left all alone. I needed someone to spark off creatively, and so I asked Tom if he could recommend any writers he knew that might want to work on the film. He fell for it and said, “How about me?” He was on for three months, and it was in his draft that we added the character of Russell, which of course we kept once Bob came back on.
Q: In an earlier interview, Pete Docter said he modeled Russell after Pixar’s Peter Sohn and one of his son’s friends. Has the “real” Russell seen the movie, and if so, what does he think of it?
PETE DOCTER: Russell’s namesake, my son’s friend, was happy with the film but told me we should add dinosaurs and a spy subplot to the story. (This is why I didn’t show it to him until we were finished.) Jordan Nagai seemed to like it as well, though said he didn’t really recognize his own voice.
Q: Was the choice of presenting the film in 3D a conscious decision from the beginning? How does it affect the production process?
PETE DOCTER: We started the process for Up in 2D, with the focus just on the story and the characters. It was about three years in that John Lasseter came to us and said, “Hey, there are some really cool new developments that have happened with 3D,” and of course Pixar had a long history of interest in 3D, John being one of the prime cheerleaders. He shot pictures of his own wedding in 3D, as well as “Knick Knack,” which is in 3D as well. So we did a ton of research, watching other 3D films, and made a list of things we liked and things we didn’t. I wanted to use 3D in a more subtle way. We used 3D as another tool to communicate the emotion of the scene, like you would use color, lighting, or cinematography. In the end, we didn’t let it affect the way we approached the story at all. I didn’t want to compromise the 2D version, which is the way it will be seen most often, considering DVD and Blu-ray.
Q: How did Michael Giacchino come to the project? How was working with him?
PETE DOCTER: Michael had worked with Brad Bird on The Incredibles and Ratatouille and of course did a great job on those. He’s a true collaborator. We started out talking through the film conceptually, discussing the things we were looking for — like paying homage to the films of the 40’s and 50’s, the Disney films and Frank Capra and films like that. We wanted to evoke that kind of a feel. Then we went through sequences shot by shot sometimes and talked about the construction of the scenes and what I was hoping to achieve musically. Not necessarily like arrangements or anything like that, but more like, “Okay, it should start really low here, sneak in, and then build to this point…. and then jump out at us!” We’d talk more emotionally like that and then I’d leave it to Michael to write the music. He would play us these demos and we’d listen via teleconference, and anytime we’d have thoughts or suggestions, he would make changes, sometimes right on the spot. He was very open to whatever the film needed.
He’s a filmmaker. He really thinks about the storytelling and how music communicates to people. He’s got range that a lot of film composers either don’t have or don’t utilize. His Ratatouille score doesn’t sound like the Up score, which doesn’t sound like The Incredibles or Star Trek. Amazing.
Q: In conversations with Ronnie del Carmen and Peter Sohn, they both talked about the advantages of collaboration: animators adding stuff you wouldn’t have thought of. Are there any scenes in particular where somebody gave you an idea that was better than you originally intended?
PETE DOCTER: ALL of the scenes got better throughout the production process. But there were certain parts that really came to life once we started in animation — like where Russell climbs up Carl in an attempt to scramble up to the house. All the business of him stepping on Carl’s nose and stomach was stuff we added in animation. Kevin, the bird, was another one that was fun to animate. Tony Rosenast was the story artist, and he came up with really funny stuff for that scene where they meet Kevin, but pantomime characters like Kevin just come to life once you get them moving.
Q: What are the challenges of writing for animated movies that one might not face with live action, and how do you overcome those challenges?
PETE DOCTER: We approach our writing exactly as one would approach a live-action screenplay; the focus is on character and keeping the audience engaged. Our whole process is remarkably similar to live-action; we have cinematographers, lighters, costume designers, etc. We use different tools to get there, but the creative process is the same.
Q: Is there anything about the movie that you’re still not satisfied with? If you could go back and change one thing about the movie after the fact, what would it be?
PETE DOCTER: We’ve trained ourselves to look for ways to improve our films at every turn. As John Lasseter says, we never actually finish our films, we just release them. So yes, every time I watch Up, I see things I would change… cut out two frames here for better timing, add another gag there… but overall I am happy with it. I’d better be after five years of work!
Q: If there was a ride or attraction for Up at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, what would you both like to see?
BOB PETERSON: Pete Docter is so tall, that I think we could build a ride around him! Just string a gondola or ski lift up over his head, and you’ve got a great ride. So far no plans for an Up ride, but with its adventurous flying and travel, Up seems like it would be a natural. As the voice of Dug, I’d love to have Dug appear in the theme parks somehow!
Q: Of all the exotic locales in the world, why did you choose South America as the place of Carl and Russell’s big adventure?
BOB PETERSON: We wanted our locale to reflect and resonate with Carl’s emotional state in the film. The tepuis, or table top mountains, of South America are old, isolated, rugged, and dangerous but with a soulful beauty – a pretty good description of Carl. Going there gave us a good sense of what it would be like for Carl and his friends to be up there. In the film, we used a great many plants and rock shapes that we saw from the tepui.
Q: Was there a draft of the script before you took the research trip to Venezuela, or was it more of a treatment/outline, which was shaped by the locations?
BOB PETERSON: We had a few drafts under our belt before we headed south. We workshop all of our stories until right before the film comes out, so we had some key elements of the story that were still in flux – mainly Charles Muntz. We hadn’t figured out why he would go to South America and stay there for so long – the idea of Kevin the bird therefore was still being developed. We wondered about making Kevin more magical – the bird who lays golden eggs, or contained the secret to eternal life. In the end, we went with a more “conventional” primitive bird whose bones cause Muntz’s geographic society to doubt his credibility.
Q: Watching the “Adventure Is Out There” special feature, I was surprised to find out that six people were left behind until a helicopter could return after weather conditions cleared up. Were you guys scared out of your wits having to stay huddled inside the “Lou” during the storm, or did you all embrace the weather conditions and think “how are we going to incorporate this into our film?”
PETE DOCTER: Bob and I were lucky enough to be in the first two helicopter trips, so we were already down when the storm closed in. I was in the second copter shuttle, and when we flew out we saw huge storm clouds closing in. The pilot said, “That’s going to be the last trip up here for today.” Uh oh… Once down, someone got us food, but we felt too guilty to eat, knowing our pals were still up there. I had stood in the “Lou” during an earlier downpour and it was pretty cramped quarters. I can’t imagine anyone would have slept at all had they been stuck there — neither the group on the mountain nor the group back on the ground! All part of the adventure I guess.
Q: I love the amount of research that’s been put into the look of the mountain tops; were any similar tests conducted into using helium balloons to lift an entire house?
PETE DOCTER: The first thing our technical team did when they started working on the balloons was to figure out how many balloons it would take to lift a house in real life. Here’s his math: Carl’s house is 1,600 sq ft. He found some figures saying that the average 1,600 sq ft house weighs about 345,000 lbs, of which 160,000 lbs is from the foundation, and about 30,000 lbs is from the garage. Since Carl lifts off and leaves the foundation behind, that leaves about 155,000 lbs, which is 77.5 US tons or 70,306 kg, which the canopy needs to lift. Accelerating toward the ground at 9.8 m/s2, that’s 688,998 N of force from gravity that the canopy has to overcome. With the density of helium at .1786 kg/m3 and representing a balloon as a sphere with a radius of 2.78 ft (like weather balloons), each balloon can generate 4.5 N of buoyant force. To generate at least 688,998 N of force to overcome gravity, you’d need 153,053 helium-filled, 5.56 ft diameter balloons. If you’re trying this with big party balloons, at about one foot diameter, then you’d need a whole lot more: about 26.5 million balloons. None of this takes into account the weight of the balloons themselves or the strings to tie them to the house.
Q: Other than the trip to South America, what inspired the story of Up?
BOB PETERSON: Various things, including the lives of our own grandparents. For example, I had a grandfather who always wanted to go west from Ohio, but never got the chance. I had the foresight to videotape my grandparents’ home after they had passed 20 years ago. There are the side by side chairs – one soft and one hard which absolutely paralleled who they were as people. Many of our life experiences with our wives and children were put into play in the script, and of course living with our dogs gave us great insight into dog behavior!
PETE DOCTER: Doing research is one of the best parts of working on these films. One day we brought in an ostrich. It was cool to see an ostrich running around on the front lawn here. And of course the film was a great excuse to bring in our dogs. We also went to a few retirement homes. We formed a band and played Tin Pan Alley-type tunes and went in to play for them. As we played, we were secretly taking mental notes and doing sketches behind our ukuleles. It was great — we got good research, and they said we were the best act to play there in months!
Q: What was your experience like taking the film to Cannes?
PETE DOCTER: We were very honored to be the first animated film to open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. It was overwhelming, like something out of a fever dream. Here we are, a bunch of geeks who draw cartoons, being mobbed by reporters and fans, at one of the most prestigious international film festivals in the world. I kept thinking, “You’ve got the wrong guys!” Walking around there, I kept picturing Hitchcock, Coppola, Truffaut; these big time directors… and US?!?! But we think of what we do as filmmaking — not anything more or less. We don’t think we should get any special “free pass,” or be seated at the little kids’ table, just because we use animation to tell our stories, and being selected to open the Cannes Film Festival showed us that the film community feels the same way. It was very gratifying.
BOB PETERSON: It was like Alice going through the looking glass! Or another metaphor, it was like Pixar is a space administration and they sent us as astronauts to another planet. We kept pinching ourselves that it was real. After all, Cannes welcomes amazing live action films with unique content. To be the first animated film to open the festival was an honor! The standing ovation after the film ended will be a memory I will always cherish.
Q: When you release the final film is it like watching your kids go off into the world? You’ve shaped it, guided it along, and then you have to let them go and see how they do.
BOB PETERSON: Yes. It is interesting watching the movie for the first time at our wrap parties with our crew. We don’t ever get to see our movies like a regular audience member because we lived through the creation of the film and see the memories brought forward by each shot and movement we see. When I look at my 14-year-old (who I don’t want to grow up and go to college!), I see her as a 3-year-old at the pumpkin patch, the 5th grader at the spelling bee. Those memories are there. When our movies leave us, we hope we’ve given them enough love and sense to do great things in the world!!
Q: What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve learned or taken from making this movie?
PETE DOCTER: Hmm, tough question. Overall I’d have to say that the best thing was the experience of making it — the research, the work, and most of all the amazing people we got to work with.
Q: Both of you are animators, does it help to have that background to be a good director on a film like this?
BOB PETERSON: Pete is the gifted animator between the two of us. I hail more from the world of storyboarding and cartooning with a bit of animation experience (I worked on Sid in Toy Story). The great thing that Pete possesses, partly from being an animator is that he is a good student of movement and entertaining physical actions. Being a cartoonist, I spent a lot of time with staging, drawing appeal and dialogue. It’s great that we bring different strengths to the table. That said, Pete is a great writer and story man and our skills blur. So to really answer your question, it does help.
Q: You’ve both worked as writer, director and even provided some of the voices for a few of the characters in your films. What do you enjoy doing most and why?
BOB PETERSON: I have been lucky to have worked in most of the animation spectrum – from purely technical over to purely creative. A new industry like computer animation (now 30 years old or so) allows for that sort of variance in jobs. I love the people I work with, I love writing a funny line and hearing it get a huge laugh in the theater, and I also love leaving my desk and performing in front of a microphone and creating characters. They’re all my favorite.
Q: How do your children feel about your job? They must think it´s great to have a father animator.
PETE DOCTER: My kids don’t seem to think it’s unusual or unique. They probably think EVERYBODY works at a company where they ride scooters and eat candy. They’re going to have a rude awakening when they graduate…
BOB PETERSON: I have three kids who each feel differently about my job. My 14-year-old has now grown up with 10 Pixar films. She loves what I do but doesn’t want to brag to her friends – she wants to keep it “cool.” At the same time she is taken by the glamour of Cannes and the Oscars, and wants to go with me to these events! My 7-year-old is a good story sounding board for what is funny to kids. He loves to analyze the humor in our films. My 4-year-old is confused when she hears my voice coming out of dogs and monster slugs.
Q: Do you remember the first time you drew something and thought, “Wow, this is something I want to do for a living.” Do you remember what you drew?
PETE DOCTER: You know how there are always those kids in your elementary school class that are really good at drawing? They sit there and “wow” everyone by drawing horses and tanks and battles and stuff? That was NOT me. I was lousy at drawing. But as soon as I figured out I could make something look like it was moving — and thinking — I was hooked. My parents are musicians, as are my sisters, so I was dragged to a lot of concerts growing up. I would always steal everyone’s programs and draw all over them, thinking up jokes like, “What would happen if all the strings on his violin broke?” or “What if someone fell in the tuba?” Comic gold, I’m telling you!
BOB PETERSON: I remember my teacher in 4th grade commenting on the hands that I drew on a surfer surfing a wave. That was the first time I was conscious of my drawings. But more than my own drawings, I was truly inspired by the cartoons of Charles Schulz as a kid, and I wanted to emulate him – my cartoon strips in college strived to have the Schulzian mix of surrealism and Charlie Brown angst. A bit of that combo shows up in Up.
Q: Can you give some advice to young people who would like to work in animation?
PETE DOCTER: I get a lot of people telling me, “I’m thinking of making an animated film.” Well don’t think about it… DO IT! Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to create films right in your home. I had a teacher tell me, “You’ve got 10 thousand bad drawings in you before you get to the good ones. So get drawing.” The same goes for films (though as you’re making them they’re all works of genius).
BOB PETERSON: Several things. First of all, just start animating! Don’t wait for someone to say it’s ok. When I was younger I drew a comic strip that appeared everyday in my college newspaper – I got to draw a lot and get a ton of feedback from readers. This was invaluable to me as a storyteller today. Always carry a notebook to do sketches. Watch and analyze animation. Go to conferences and get to know people – it is who you know sometimes that does get you the job. The best advice is to make sure to get good life experiences – we draw from our experiences every day in story and animation!
Q: What do you think is the most important adventure in life?
BOB PETERSON: The great thing about this film and any film we work on is that it contains truths taken from our lives. Pixar lets the directors create an “autobiography.” In other words, things that are important to us make it into the film. I do believe that the greatest adventures happen between me and my wife and kids, and in small moments. A morning around the kitchen table eating breakfast is an adventure in my house.
Toon Zone News would like to thank Pete Docter and Bob Peterson for participating in the roundtable interview with all of us, and to the folks at Disney PR and Click Communications that enabled us to participate. Up is available now on DVD and Blu-ray disc; read Toon Zone News’ review of the movie here.