Pixar Review 28: La Luna

la lunaIf you can believe it we are in the home stretch of my Pixar reviews.  Only 5 left till Good Dinosaur and Sanjay’s Super Team. I’ve been reviewing the Pixar films since April and it has been a real treat and challenging because it’s hard to write about movies you really love and have it not just be hyperbole.  At least it is for me.

Well, today we have a very special animated short to talk about.  One of my favorites- La Luna.  It is directed and written by Enrico Casarosa and was based on the Italian fairytales his Grandpa would tell him. He also used Italian cartoonist Osvaldo Cavandoli who was famous for his line sketch style animation as inspiration.

la luna6La Luna is about a little boy or Bambino who sails with his Grandpa and Father to a spot where they climb a latter to the moon and set about their work of scraping the stars from off the moon.  (Doesn’t that description just sound lovely?).

la luna3In the audio commentary Enrico says he picked a Grandpa and Father for the boy because he grew up in a house with his maternal grandfather and his Dad and I guess the two didn’t get along very well.  You can see that dynamic in the short with the 2 men snipping at each other in a sweet kind of way.

But really the greatness of this short is in the animation.  The stars and the light is so beautiful. In many ways it feels like a bedtime story, like Goodnight Moon or something like that.  It’s lovely to think about someone sweeping stars off of the moon.

la luna7Michael Giacchino gets back to his Italian roots with a lovely score that reminds me of the great Ennio Morricone.

There are moments where it looks like watercolor and where the characters look more 2D than CG.  There are no other words to describe it but BEAUTIFUL!

EXR 1920x803, 4 channel image (A B G R)

I love the way the stars look like little light bulbs and clank together.  In many ways they reminded me of the memories in Inside Out in sound and appearance.  You can feel the sense of wonder from Bambino as he looks at each glowing star.

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This is just a stunning image.

la luna13It’s not the most complex as far as story.  It’s basically a Grandpa and Father showing a little boy how to do a job but that job is so magical and special that it doesn’t need anything more.  It’s like if someone’s job was to bathe an angel.  Yes it’s ordinary but it’s an angel!  I mean wow!

la luna2As I’ve rewatched the Pixar shorts I can put them into several groups.  There are the jokes (Presto, For the Birds, Knick Knack), technology advancing (Adventures of Wally, Tin Toy, Geri’s Game, Day & Night), and great artistry (Boundin, Partly Cloudy, Red’s Dream).  To me La Luna is the greatest of that latter group.  It is an artistic joy to watch and I love it.  Definitely in my top 5 of the Pixar shorts.

2011 was also a very good year for animated shorts.  All 4 nominees were completely lovely and the winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore is wonderful.  In fact, I wish it was a feature film.  It’s 15 minutes as a short and there’s enough there for more. So the fact La Luna didn’t win that year I am ok with.  It certainly was a much better year in shorts than feature films with Rango winning which I did not care for.

la luna12What do you think of La Luna?  If you haven’t seen it there are versions of it online but none that I could download.  I believe it is on the Brave DVD so you can see it there.  I wanted to do another short before the Brave review called The Legend of Mor’du to go with Brave so that’s why I reviewed this one here.  Next up is the much maligned Cars 2.  I just watched it and honestly guys it’s not that bad.  In fact, I enjoyed it! So you will hopefully enjoy that review as I am sure it will be a perspective you don’t get every day.

But nearly everyone I know agrees, La Luna is one of the best.

Pixar Review 8: Geri’s Game

geris gameAfter the release of Knick Knack in 1989 Pixar took a break from their animated shorts to make feature films, Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. This worked because the same crew which had grown up on the early shorts was ready to do longer films.  However, by the end of the 90s they had recruited a lot of new talent who they wanted to test out so they reinstated the animated shorts.

Their first short back is called Geri’s Game and it was designed to push their limits for creating a human being.  Nobody can deny that Geri looks a million times better than the humans in Toy Story who were used minimally so it worked but this is a whole another level.

gerris gaeIt’s a simple silent movie style story like most of the shorts but it is so charming.  It’s about an old man named Geri who is playing chess but with who?  With himself!  The thing that makes it so charming is as he moves from one side of the table to the other the film creates an illusion of 2 players and Geri gives both characters personality.  The player with the black pieces is feisty with a wicked sense of humor, and the other guy is more soft spoken and cowers in fear.

Geris_Game-billboard-02It’s a delightful little short and it is directed very well with neat perspectives where you capture the chess pieces from one angle and Geri from another.  It’s great stuff!

geris-gameGeri’s Game was released in 1997 so it won Best Animated Short in the 97 Oscars but it was shown to most of the public with the release of Bug’s Life.  This would become the 3rd Oscar with their special award for Toy Story and Tin Toy for best short in 1987.

It’s neat that Pixar has found a way to not only entertain us with their shorts but to nurture new talent and it is perhaps that reason that at least to me they haven’t made a terrible film.  You can feel the unique new voices coming out in shorts like Geri’s Game and it is a complete delight.  Also keep your eye open because Geri appears in many a future Pixar feature film including our next review Toy Story 2.

Overall Grade- A+

Pixar Review 4- Tin Toy

Hi guys!  I’m back from Georgia and it is time for another Pixar short review and we are getting our baby on with the landmark animated film Tin Toy.

tin toy3Tin Toy was created for SIGGRAPH in 1988. The genesis for the project happened when John Lasseter was watching his niece play with her toys.  She was sucking on, throwing, stomping on them.  The idea occurred to him that to the toys this sweet adorable baby would be seen as a monster.

So they got hard at work and designing an actual baby proved to be a mammoth task and they invented new facial recognition software and was the first computer graphics with bendable joints and a fluid body.

tin toy2The story of Tin Toy is a baby named Billy who has a toy named Tin Toy that is an old school Japanese one man band type toy.  Both the toy and the baby turned out very cute and the sound mixing is perfect.

tin toyWhen the toy see’s Billy sucking and throwing his toys he naturally becomes terrified and flees leading to the big laugh of the movie- All of Billy’s toys are hiding under the sofa shivering in fear from the monster that is Billy.

tin toy 8Each of the animators was given the task of designing one of the toys under the bed and it was this shot that started the idea of Toy Story.  In fact, Disney was so impressed with Tin Toy that they sealed an agreement with Pixar to create their first feature film about toys.

Tin Toy also is of note because it is their first Oscar win for Best Animated Short and the first CG animation to win an Academy Award in 1988.

The great thing about Tin Toy is how many emotions they manage to show in a 4 minute film we get joy, anger, hurt, fear, remorse, envy, desperation and more.  Tin-Toy-Sad-web

When I think of what makes a character like Woody so great he has all those emotions, sometimes very rapidly and who knows if the storytelling would have grown if such robust characters weren’t cultivated in these shorts first.

Here is John Lasseter and Bill Reeves getting their Oscar for Tin Toy.  It helps give you a sense of who they were and the community that built Pixar as we know today.

It’s worthy of the Oscar and is certainly an A+.  A great early short.  (Only 1 more short to go till Toy Story!)