Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where Walt and Pixar Intersect

Welcome back, Pixar! It's been two long years since the last theatrical release from Lasseter and company. Monsters University premiered in June 2013 and The Good Dinosaur, originally slated for 2014, was pushed back to later this year to sharpen its story.

Inside Out graced the silver screen last Friday, June 19th and has - again - raised the bar on Pixar quality. Pete Docter, who last spun gold with UP, shows us his gift for connecting us with the human spirit. Inside Out gracefully displays the balance we all have with our inner emotions. Simply put, we can't truly enjoy happiness and joy without understanding and appreciating the counterbalance of sadness.

Like all Pixar features before it, the film is peppered with hidden Pixar references. Fan favorites such as the Pizza Planet truck, the Luxo Jr. ball and A113 – the CalArts classroom where the future Pixar animators cut their proverbial teeth – all make an appearance. John Ratzenberger provides his voice to a secondary character, making him the only actor to appear in all fifteen films. There’s a brief tribute to Finding Nemo in the form of a board game box labeled Find Me! with a cartoon clown fish below it. Underneath that board game is another called Dinosaur World, a likely nod to the next Pixar film.

The aviary flock from the early short “For The Birds” can briefly be seen on a power line as Riley, the protagonist from Inside Out, and her family trek cross country from Minnesota to San Francisco (the same flock of birds can be seen in Cars, during that film’s cross country montage sequence).

Fans of the Disney theme parks are in for a treat as well, when the background music from the Haunted Mansion is briefly heard during a dream sequence Riley has.

However, perhaps the most unique and original Disney tribute can briefly be found in the film. Since the physical realm of Inside Out is set in San Francisco, Pixar animators, from their nearby headquarters in Emeryville, didn’t have to travel far for field research. San Francisco’s unique architecture, often set again dramatic hills, is well represented, including Lombard Street’s unique hairpin turn configuration. Disney fans know that the Walt Disney Family Museum is located in the City by the Bay, in the historic Presidio district. From a southern viewpoint, Guests can sight the museum in the foreground and the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in the background. And that’s the setup.

(image courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum)

Docter and his crew created a briefly seen exterior set of an ice rink building, where Riley goes to try out for a local hockey team. This building is flanked by others that feature the distinctive terra cotta roof design used on the structures along Montgomery Street in The Presidio.

(image courtesy of the Pixar Animation Studios)

The placement isn’t accidental; the filmmakers used the location of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which honors the man that elevated theatrical animation to an art form and inspired countless boys and girls to aspire to be animators, as a deliberate tip of the hat to Walt Disney.

Well done, Pixar!

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