Wednesday 16 May 2012

Interview: Enrico Casarosa, Pixarian and La Luna Director

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak to the very talented, very kind and very friendly Enrico Casarosa via phonecall, from Pixar. Enrico recently directed the Emeryville based studio's latest short film, La Luna, which will be paired with Brave this summer, and is now working on Bob Peterson's film, The Good Dinosaur. Despite his very busy schedule, Enrico was kind enough to accommodate me for 20 minutes of interview yesterday.

I'd also just like to take this opportunity to send out a huge thank you to Pixar's publicity king, Chris Wiggum, the kind gentleman who helped to arrange this all for me. I've admired Pixar from afar (as I'm sure you all know) for several years, so to get the opportunity to interview someone from the studio was phenomenal and was definitely one of the highlights of my year so far! It meant the world and I'm extremely grateful to Chris, Enrico and anyone and everyone else involved.

Points covered in the interview include: the story process for La Luna, it's accompanying book, the Pixar Shorts Collection: Volume 2, The Good Dinosaur and the studio in general. Read the full interview after the jump break:

A113Animation: Due to me living in England and near no big cinemas, I still haven’t seen La Luna yet; but it looks utterly phenomenal. The clips I’ve seen are stunning; the artwork I’ve seen on the Internet and in Amid Amidi’s Pixar: 25 Years of Animation looks brilliant and the short just looks so artistic. How proud are you of how it turned out?
Enrico Casarosa: Oh we’re very proud, we were looking for a different look, we worked really hard and we’ve made it our goal to give it a different feel. We’re very proud of the team we had, you get to work very closely with a small team at Pixar, so you get to know each other quite well and there’s a lot of pride in them; there’s a great sense of community. We’ve all been very excited. And, you know, the strange thing is, we finished this more than a year ago, almost a year and a half ago, it’s been kind of a slow burn in releasing it, and letting people see it, but everyone right now is kind of saying how excited they are that finally everybody will get to see it. I mean, we did festivals last year, but not widely so, now the real big audience is about to see it, we’re very excited about that.

Enrico Casarosa on the red carpet, with his wife, at the 84th Academy Awards.

A113: Yeah, it’s great because it’s been torture not being able to see it. Releasing it in the festivals last year meant also you were up for Oscar consideration in February. It must’ve been great to have been nominated for an Academy Award. Can you tell us a little about how pleased you were to be nominated and how fun going to these festivals was as well?
EC: Oh they were great, I mean, it was like a crazy little adventure I had, to travel and get to share. One of the things I liked best about going to festivals was being able to share a making-of. You know, I put together like a 40, 50, minute presentation kind of really showing what our thinking behind it all was; all the work and the artwork behind it. And it’s always really exciting, and I love to see behind the scenes, and I think people will appreciate that kind of insight into how we make a picture; it makes a lot of people kind of appreciate the short itself, you know if they can see what the thinking was behind it. That was really exciting, and the Oscars were kind of a strange wild ride, very exciting, and it’s definitely a world that I’ve never really been part of and I thought that was really amazing. It will be a memory that I can keep for the rest of my life.

A113: Yeah, and as well, you were saying about the making-of; it’s always brilliant when you get a Pixar DVD or Blu Ray to watch the behind-the-scenes features on the disc; because it’s always so interesting. And with La Luna, there’s an accompanying book as well, which I think was out a couple of days ago. I did pre-order it from Amazon, but it hasn’t arrived yet. And the great thing about that as well, is it has some original artwork done by you, I think, for the book, it will obviously be great to get to see that. And it seems, certainly, that La Luna’s getting more mainstream media coverage and attention than previous Pixar short films, which is great, because it shows Pixar don’t just make feature films. But what can you tell us about the ideas behind making the book?
EC: The book was really the wish to make a kid’s book version of the short, so it’s not an art book, not an art-of book, you know. It’s really a watercolour kids book version, it’s not like it was really made to make the illustrations. But at first I considered using like watercolour story beats which is kind of how I figured out the story, at the beginning. But then we went for full on new illustrations that were, almost, not really informed by the making of the short. So it was really fun, and a lot of the effort I put into bringing some of that look of watercolours to the screen, was very exciting, and we had the idea to have this be its own piece of art, and let that be what tells the story. And you’re telling a story, you’re writing a story, we didn’t have any dialogue other than gibberish in the short, so we had to change the look, and your experiences, because it’s about reading the story and looking at the illustrations. But it was really fun, you know, really enjoyable. And there’s part of what I said, I wish we could put more art-of with a book, than the short film really had a chance to. But, we have recorded a commentary track that explains all the things that have gone on behind, but that’s the closest we’ve come to having a little bit of a making-of; at least there’s a commentary track.

A113: Mm, it’ll be on the DVD for Brave hopefully?
EC: It actually, it’s supposed to be on the DVD of the shorts, you know, there’s a new shorts [DVD], and that’ll be available soon.

A113: When’s that due out, the second shorts collection?
Chris Wiggum: We haven’t announced that date yet, so, there’ll be an announcement about that coming up in the next, the next few months I would guess.

A113: Oh alright, I’ll look forward to that then. And as well, how far back did your ideas for La Luna go? Because the way I understand it is, when you’re pitching a short film at Pixar, you have to pitch 2 or 3 ideas at a time, and you go with your strongest one. Were there any other good ideas of note? Basically, how long is the production of a short film compared to the production a feature film?
EC: Sure, the shorts take up roughly 9 months of production. I was a little while longer, because I was building up and storyboarding it myself, and a little longer than that, because I was working it out; but, so, 9 months of production. Yeah, we do pitch 3 ideas normally. I kind of worked on these ideas for a few months before pitching them; I didn’t have any of these for a very long time, I hadn’t thought about before, specifically a short before. I make stories a lot of the time, but I hadn’t kind of applied my brain to come up with a shorter story, for a short. But, an interesting story, I mean it’s great to come up with a few ideas. Ultimately I think there was two I really liked, and my third one, I didn’t really, I didn’t care. I went with the most personal; of the experience, I think that’s the most fun part about it, and what enabled La Luna to be so different and express that whole side of it.

A113: Okay, yeah, and now you’re working on Bob Peterson’s directorial debut, The Good Dinosaur, you’re working on the script? I’ve got to say it looks, it sounds, absolutely brilliant, it’s got a brilliant premise, it’s got a great team of people behind it: yourself, Bob Peterson and Peter Sohn - co-directing. What can you tell us, I understand most of it’ll be tip-top secret at this point, but what can you tell us about your role on the film and how production’s going?
EC: Yeah, well, I’m actually not working on the script, you know, Bob Peterson is writing it. I’m working as the head of story, and that’s specifically about leading a team of story artists. And certainly being there with Bob and Pete Sohn, to figure things out, there’s certainly a lot of editing and writing and storyboarding. But I guess, specifically, I’m working on leading the storyboarding part of it all, and it’s really a lot of fun. They’re both funny, we’re laughing and we’re working. And they come at it from a slightly different angle; I enjoy cooperation, and I think I’m complementary of their skills. It’s been really great to collaborate with them. It’s been a great kind of experience that way.

A113: Yeah, we hear a lot about that from Pixar; it’s a very collaborate work environment. More like, a lot of people have said, more like a college campus than a traditional place of work. Which is obviously great, and the fun you have shows through when you’re watching the films and I’m sure The Good Dinosaur will be brilliant too. But what can you tell us about working at Pixar in general? What’s the whole ethos like? What’s it actually like to be there, rather than as a fan looking in, obviously, like I am?
EC: Yeah, well, it’s really: from day one here, you feel very supported, there’s a wonderful, wonderful production team. So, that was the first thing I noticed at Pixar, how well, the production goes; the different managers, and producers, they’re here really to support, and I cannot thank them enough for that. And then, you know, it really feels this is a place where, the important things at the heart of this place are: the commitment, to work and rework and rework our stories until they are really great. I believe that’s very important to Pixar, the commitment. Because we work on so many durations of these stories trying to make them as great as we possibly can. It’s such a big commitment, and you feel honoured to be in the place where you’re trying to figure it out. We’re kind of the heart of story-making and storytelling, and it’s not an easy job, and there’s so many things that go into making a film like this, and telling the most emotional, entertaining and important story. That’s really what the public asks for, and Pixar’s a very unique place, where they’re willing to not only get in to that, but where they have the resources and time to make that, you know, viable.

A113: Yeah, and, after production on The Good Dinosaur winds up for you, what have you got planned next? Working on another short maybe? Working on another feature film? Maybe working towards directing your own feature film?
EC: Yeah, you know, I don’t think anyone has made two shorts at Pixar [both laugh], will my next idea be a short? It depends a little bit on what might come up, but, certainly, it’s fun to think about a long form idea. It could be a possible pitch. But, yeah, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

A113: Okay, well, that’s for the future, I’ll try not to keep you too much longer, as I know you’ll have a busy schedule, but just briefly, given the theme of the blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you: what’s your favourite animated film?
EC: Favourite animated film... wow, that’s a tough one, there are so many. I’d have to maybe put Totoro as my favourite; My Neighbour Totoro, the Miyazaki film.

A113: Yeah, I’ve still never got round to watching that actually. Everyone’s told me how great it is, I need to get round to renting it sometime.
EC: Yeah, it’s really worth it, it’s well worth your time. It’s very hard, but the Miyazakis are up there for me. If I had to choose one on the Western side, I would maybe say Pinocchio.

A113: I was just watching that last night actually.
EC: Oh, that’s funny.

A113: It’s a great film, and I think what a lot of people think is: Pixar is today, what Disney was with the 40s through to the 60s.
EC: Yeah, it was definitely a golden time.

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