One of the many pleasures to be had for anyone who goes and sees Pixar's "Brave" is the short film that directly precedes it: "La Luna." An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film, "La Luna" is the tale of a family who has a very unusual and specific profession, but one that is too good to give away here. (Hint: As the title would suggest, it has something to do with the moon.) It's a beautiful, heartfelt, wholly original story, with a distinct animation style and a gorgeous score composed by frequent Pixar collaborator Michael Giacchino ("Up," "Cars 2," "Ratatouille").
The film was directed by Enrico Casarosa, an Italian storyboard artist who studied art and fashion in New York City, before joining Pixar. Prior to writing and directing "La Luna," the very charming Casarosa worked as an artist on "Cars," "Ratatouille," and "Up."
Moviefone spoke with Casarosa about his debut short film, folding aspects of traditional animation into a CGI film and what it's like working at Pixar.
How do you go from being a Pixar artist to a Pixar writer/director?
Yes… How does that happen... Well, step by step, you ask if you can pitch something and they say, "Sure, why don't you?" And then you start trying to come up with some ideas. At Pixar we're able to work with some of the development team... They help you get ready for a pitch to John Lasseter. You pitch three ideas (which is the case for features, too). They seemed to pretty quickly love "La Luna."
And how close is "La Luna" to what you initially pitched on that day?
It gets sculpted and it gets so much better. I feel that, in some ways, the core of the story was still there. That stuff was very easy. Somehow it's a story that came together pretty easily. But what you do is you keep on tightening bolts. That's the wonderful process -- you get wonderful feedback from John Lasseter, from Pete Docter, from Brad Bird. You show your story reels around and everybody gives you their two cents. And as a director you have to learn how to take the feedback, what to address, what not to address... So there's a lot of sculpting and little ideas that add to the movie. I love the process.
How did you come up with the look for the movie?
The idea was, "Wouldn't it be great to bring some of the feel of traditional media to the computer world?" So that ended up being really interesting. I liked to bring the imperfections of manmade artwork. The computer doesn't love these things sometimes. The computer tends to be cold so I was trying to get away from that and find its own look. I thought it could support a folk fable-type look.
What of the traditional stuff made it into the final movie?
A lot of the backdrops are big pastels; they're actual real pastels. I sometimes joke with the production designer that I think you could get his fingerprints by looking very closely at the background -- that's all him moving pastels around on a board. The milky way, the big backdrop of the sea -- those are big pastels. And we also did a lot of watercolors and put them on every object. Normally that's called shading -- on the geometry of an object that gets modeled, we map a texture on top of it. So those textures were made on real watercolor paper and then scanned and put on top. We looked for every opportunity to use textures. Even the glow from the moon is a pastel glow .
Was there a lot of discussion about how the stars on the moon were going to look and sound?
Yes. Very much so. I always imagined them as frosted little bottles with a candle in it. But we slowly honed in on this idea that some were brighter and less bright. We also got a feeling that they've gone through the universe a couple of times and that they're all scratched up and smoky. I loved that. It was so much fun. And even the brightness and texture were done by pastels and watercolors.
What was it like working with composer Michael Giacchino?
We told him to reach for his Italian roots and he embraced it. I couldn't wish for anything more than for a tiny bit of a Fellini feel and he totally nailed it. He embraced some of the inspiration and I loved what he did. I wanted something that was folky and simple. These characters are peasants, I didn't want anything to be too orchestral. It wouldn't support the simple life of these people. I love that they have this amazing, fantastic job but they're poor. And so the music supported that nicely, because he did very simple, folky guitar and let that be a little bit bigger once we're with the boy, looking through his eyes. I love it. I feel like, "This could be a Fellini movie." It was great.
He seems to be a real part of the Pixar team.
Yes, he is. He's a real stable part of it. He's a storyteller. He's very, very careful about how he supports the story, which doesn't happen all the time with composers.
Speaking of support, how did you get paired up with "Brave?" And how did you feel about it going out on its own, prior to opening before "Brave"?
The timing on it meant that it had a little extra time. And it was Pete Docter's idea, who said, "Why don't we let this have its own little life on the festival circuit?" I was all for it because it meant we didn't have to shelve it, since we were done so early. So that felt like a wonderful opportunity and it's been so much fun to let it have its own little bit of a release. I look forward for everybody to see it. I always keep in mind kids as the audience, when I made this story, and I feel like that audience will get it. I'm very excited to be in front of "Brave." I think it's a good, interesting fit.
What are you working on right now at Pixar?
I'm head of story on ["The Good Dinsoaur"] that's coming in 2013. It's directed by Bob Peterson and Pete Sohn. So I'm helping with that, helming the story team.
And how is that different from doing straight storyboard stuff?
Well, it's kind of back to what I was doing. I'm still storyboarding, but the difference is I'm also managing a team. It's a little bit more meetings and managing but you are closer to the directors so you feel closer to the decisions. And you're closer to the editor, and they edit your storyboards together into a reel. Every three or four months you look at this very rough version of the movie to then take another stab and make it better and make it better. So we're in the middle of it. It's a lot of hard work. It's a marathon instead of a sprint. I don't think there have been any of these that come together easy. John Lasseter always says, 'At some point, all of our movies suck.'
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118. Annie Potts as Bo Peep ("Toy Story")
117. John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli ("Cars 2")
116. Vanessa Redgrave as Mama Topolino/The Queen ("Cars 2")
115. Tony Shalhoub as Luigi ("Cars 2")
114. Cheech Marin as Ramone ("Cars")
113. Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch ("Toy Story 3")
112. Will Arnett as Horst ("Ratatouille")
111. Roddy McDowall as Mr. Soil ("A Bug's Life")
110. Wallace Shawn as Rex ("Toy Story")
109. George Carlin as Fillmore ("Cars")
108. Bruce Campbell as Rod "Torque" Redline ("Cars 2")
107. Penn Jillette as TV Announcer ("Toy Story")
106. Frank Oz as Jeff Fungus ("Monsters Inc.")
105. Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants ("Toy Story 3")
104. Craig Ferguson as Lord Macintosh ("Brave")
103. Fred Willard as Shelby Forthright (live-action) ("WALL-E")
102. Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head ("Toy Story")
101. Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the Axiom's computer ("WALL-E")
100. R. Lee Ermey as Sarge ("Toy Story")
99. Paul Newman as Doc Hudson ("Cars")
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98. John Lasseter as John Lassetire ("Cars 2")
97. Pete Docter as Kevin ("Up")
96. Lou Romano as Snot Rod ("Cars")
95. Lou Romano as Bernie Kropp ("The Incredibles")
94. Andrew Stanton as Crush ("Finding Nemo")
93. Andrew Stanton as Evil Emperor Zurg ("Toy Story 2")
92. Brad Bird as Ambrister Minion ("Ratatouille")
91. Brad Bird as Edna Mode ("The Incredibles")
90. Joe Ranft as Red ("Cars")
89. Joe Ranft as Jacques ("Finding Nemo")
88. Joe Ranft as Lenny ("Toy Story")
The sardonic postal worker from "Cheers" has found a home in every single Pixar movie, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays him from doing so. His bad guy straight out of Jack Kirby-era "Fantastic Four" is the hilarious punchline of "Incredibles."
87. John Ratzenberger as Tom ("Up")
86. John Ratzenberger as Mustafa ("Ratatouille")
85. John Ratzenberger as the school of Moonfish ("Finding Nemo")
84. John Ratzenberger as Mack ("Cars 1 & 2")
83. John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy as John and Mary ("WALL-E")
82. John Ratzenberger as P.T. Flea ("A Bug's Life")
81. John Ratzenberger as Hamm ("Toy Story 1,2, & 3")
80. John Ratzenberger as The Abominable Snowman ("Monsters Inc.")
79. John Ratzenberger as The Underminer ("The Incredibles")
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78. Teddy Newton as Chatter Telephone ("Toy Story 3")
77. Bud Luckey as Chuckles ("Toy Story 3")
76. Willem Dafoe as Gill ("Finding Nemo")
75. Denis Leary as Francis ("A Bug's Life")
74. Jeff Garlin as Captain B. McCrea ("WALL-E")
73. Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego ("Ratatouille")
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