Louis Gonzales – Brave (DVD)

December 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

From graffiti artist to story artist – Louis Gonzales, who started as a graffiti artist in the San Fernando Valley, has worked at Pixar Animation Studios since 2000. He takes on the role of story artist in the studio’s newest animated film “Brave.”

Working as a layout and story artist for Pixar Animation Studios over the last 12 years, Louis Gonzales has lent his artistic talent to a number of films including “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille,” and “The Incredibles.” As a story artist on “Brave,” Gonzales helped visualize the story of a princess who must break a curse cast on her family and kingdom.

Is it gratifying for you as a story artist to see the finished product when it looks a lot different than what you initially drew?

Yeah, it’s always good to see the film when it’s done, especially here at Pixar. We put a lot of work in at Pixar and everyone is really proud of it. Working as a story artist is considered pre-production, which is part of the planning stage. I haven’t been let down working here. I’m always proud of the movies we make.

How much research did you have to do on the country of Scotland before you started visualizing the setting for the film?

I’ve always felt it was very important to know your setting unless you’re talking about outer space or some kind of fairy land. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people with the film to go to Scotland. We were there for 10 days and soaked in as much of the culture and atmosphere as we could. We wanted to understand the country and the customs.

I read in your biography that you grew up doing graffiti art. Is that still something that interests you?

I still love it although I haven’t practiced it for a long time. It is part of the reason I’m here. Graffiti was an outlet to draw with like-minded friends. It was a big part of my upbringing. All of my friends would get together and do graffiti art. We encouraged each other to get better. It was like my own little art community since I didn’t go to art school.

Do you allow any of your graffiti to sneak into any of your drawings with Pixar?

(Laughs) I’d like to think my graffiti background is in all my art to a certain extent whether it is a direct representation or not. You don’t lose that. It’s something that will always be a part of me. But after all these years, I have evolved and grown.

Brave

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
Directed by: Mark Andrews (debut), Brenda Chapman (“The Prince of  Egypt”), Steve Purcell (debut)
Written by: Mark Andrews (“John Carter”), Brenda Chapman (“Cars”), Steve Purcell (debut), and Irene Mecchi (“The Lion King”)

As refreshing and empowering as it is to see an animated film where the main female princess protagonist isn’t waiting around for Prince Charming to whisk her off her feet and ride into the sunset, “Brave,” Pixar’s newest addition to their immensely impressive catalog (with the exception of the “Cars” franchise), isn’t what you’d expect from a studio whose focus has always been great storytelling. In fact, “Brave” borrows so much from past Disney contributions, it’s really difficult to refer to it as an original screenplay.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the technical animated aspects of “Brave,” you still can’t get any better than Pixar animators. The detailed scenery in Scotland where the story takes place is breathtaking as is the creation of the lovely, red-headed Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a young, rebellious princess who refuses to marry a suitor (Princess Jasmine, anyone?) based on tradition and her mother’s wishes. Merida sees herself as a strong-minded warrior who can stand up for herself.

Instead, Merida, whose hair color was obviously chosen because of her fiery spirit, runs off only to complicate things when she meets a witch who casts a spell on her family. It’s at this point of the story where “Brave” veers off ineffectively. The twist is so silly and has no real bearing on the overall mother/daughter relationship narrative at the forefront. Merida is a vibrant character and MacDonald’s voice work brings her to life and offers little girls an opportunity to see themselves in the role of the hero. The last time Pixar got close to this was the mother and daughter characters in 2004’s superhero feature “The Incredibles.” Disney did the last really successful job with the female hero in 2010’s “Tangled.”

While “Brave” has its scene-stealers (Merida’s trio of trouble-making little brothers will cause the most laughter), the script is lacking in imagination and conflict. Give Pixar credit for trying something they hadn’t before in their 17-year history, but “Brave” feels more like a miniscule speck floating around in a grand Pixar universe.

Inigo Quilez – Brave

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Although his background is in engineering and not in animation, Inigo Quilez has found a home at Pixar.

In “Brave,” the studio’s new animated film about a young Scottish princess who must undo a curse that has been placed on her kingdom, Quilez was placed on an animation team in charge of creating the grass, trees, forests and all the other greenery seen in the film’s background.

During an interview with me, Quilez talked about his work with Pixar and what it takes to make an animated film come to life.

What has your experience been like working on your very first film with an industry giant like Pixar?

I have been working on “Brave” for three years. It’s amazing to work and make movies. I am an electrical engineer, actually, but I always wanted to do something a little more artistic. It was a dream to come to Pixar. It’s a really unique place where I can use my technical skills and help make something very beautiful.

As an animator on “Brave,” you have a very specialized job. Tell us more about what you do.

I am responsible for making everything that looks like plants or vegetation. I worked with a small team of three people. Normally, for a movie like this you would have to go to a computer and create every flower, but instead we approached it in a different way and used more mathematics. We taught the computer to create all these things for us. We developed a lot of new techniques to help with that.

In terms of research, did Pixar send you out to roll around in the grass?

(Laughs) Well, I joined the team a bit late, so I didn’t get to go with them to Scotland. They brought back a lot of images and real plants. We didn’t want to create reality, but we wanted something inspired by reality.

Over the years in animation, it seems like plants and trees and other objects in nature like water have gotten a lot more realistic. But that’s not what Pixar is trying to do?

Well, you have movies like “Avatar” where things look completely real. But that doesn’t really work for us because are characters don’t look realistic. They look more like toys. So, our backgrounds have to match with the characters. We want things to look complex and organic, but not really real.