A Spark Story (2021) Movie Script

My name is Pete Docter. I'm the CCO,
the Chief Creative Officer,
of Pixar Animation Studios.
I've been at Pixar over 30 years now,
but I've done all sorts of stuff from
storyboarding to animation to directing.
Pixar's changed a lot,
but at its core, not at all.
When we started, we were in this,
like, shack of a building.
We had 112 people, I think,
making Toy Story,
and yet it was a very personal story.
We were, as storytellers,
telling our own experiences
in the world and figuring out,
"What is jealousy?
"What do we do when confronted
"by someone who's better than me?"
And all these things
that were tied up in that film.
I mean, I grew up in Minnesota,
in a boring suburban town.
I realized that all the films
that I worked on, about monsters,
about an old man who flies his house
to South America,
a little girl who moves to San Francisco,
these are all very personal stories.
They've come from my own life experience.
And so we thought,
"How can we allow some new ideas into this
"and take the chance with people
that we just have an intuition, like,
"'There's something about that person.
'They would have
something interesting to say.'"
The SparkShorts program is relatively new.
We wanted to give different storytellers
a shot in a very short
amount of time that tells us,
"Who are they? What stories do they tell?"
The history of shorts at Pixar
is a pretty interesting one
because Pixar kind of sprung from shorts
and specifically,
a short called Andre and Wally B,
which is really
the first animated CG piece.
Shorts became something
that was in the DNA of the company.
We would make them
to try new technological ideas
as computer graphics was evolving,
all this even before Toy Story was made.
COLLINS: Part of the initial thinking
behind the short film projects,
it was a lot about risk-taking.
There was a bit of,
"We don't have much to lose,
'cause nobody knows who we are,"
and so we can take some risks
and gamble a lot.
So we were like, "What if we did
something that was much lower budget
"than our traditional short films?"
We let the filmmaker tell
whatever story they wanted to tell
and we give the person
six months to do it.
We started the SparkShorts program
really because we didn't know
what kind of talents we were skipping over
by not giving people
a chance to tell their story.
We want an unfiltered view
of what these storytellers are bringing,
and we don't want to get in the way.
COLLINS: The only way we'll evolve
the types of stories at the feature level
is if we're engaging that next generation.
We can't wait 20 years
to engage that generation.
We have to be engaging them now.
My name is Aphton Corbin.
I'm a story artist here
at Pixar Animation Studios.
I just always was really drawn
to writing and sharing stories.
As a kid, I would do little drawing books
and staple them together
and make out a whole little scenario
and give them to people
as a birthday gift.
And when I was younger,
I would direct playtime with my sister.
I'd be like, "The character
wouldn't say it that way.
"We need to do it again this way."
Ever since I got hired here at Pixar,
I knew I wanted to be a director.
I guess it's a big statement,
"I wanna be a director."
I didn't know how long it was gonna take,
but I knew I wanted
to eventually direct something.
Aphton made such an impression on
the studio from the minute she got here.
She just got this reputation very quickly
as somebody who had something
to say that everybody wanted to hear,
no matter what room she was in.
I got to work with Aphton on Soul.
She came up with the way we visualize
the counselors in the Soul universe.
She's just a very talented story artist
with these quirky ideas that you're like,
"Where did that come from?
That's just brilliantly bizarre."
My name's Louis Gonzales and
I've been at Pixar almost 20 years now.
From the moment
I've gotten into animation,
I've always felt like
I've been challenged constantly.
I was always excited to take
on all kinds of work at Pixar
because it was an experience
rather than just a job.
Over time, I've been very lucky
to be a part of some very special films
that a lot of people love,
and I had my small little part in it.
But now, almost 20 years later,
I was like, "What else do I need?
"Where's my career going?"
Like, "What am I doing?
"Maybe making stuff as a director
isn't what's gonna happen for me."
MORRIS: Louis has been around
for a long, long time.
He's a statured story artist
and fantastic creative mind.
DOCTER: Louis worked on films
with Brad Bird, like The Incredibles.
He's brought
a really unique point of view.
And he's brought these
really amazing characters to life.
COLLINS: I think
he's a great idea generator.
So, you're always curious of,
"What is this guy gonna do
when he's given the opportunity?
"What story is he gonna tell?"
CORBIN: A good year or so into working
on my first film, Toy Story 4,
my focus was only about, "How do
I do this job of storyboarding well?"
One day, I got an email saying, like,
"We just wanted you to know that
"your name got brought up
for directing a SparkShort."
GONZALES: A little while back,
Lindsey and Jim reached out to me.
I thought they were gonna tell me
I'm fired, really.
But they were like,
"So, what do you wanna do next?"
And I was like,
"I have the option to even say that?"
Like, it was not even...
It didn't dawn on me that
I had a choice in my future.
Then they floated it out to me, like,
"What do you think about a SparkShort?"
MORRIS: One of the great things
about the SparkShorts is
it puts you in a place
of enormous vulnerability.
You kind of have nowhere to hide,
like, "You're the show,"
and the pressure of that is significant,
weighing on you,
and trying to figure out,
"How do you show up in that?
"And how do you let your guard down enough
to let others contribute?"
COLLINS: When we start
to walk directors through
what the rules are to do a SparkShort,
we tell them,
"It needs to be a narrative story...
"It can be CG, it can be 2D,
"and it needs to be for all audiences."
We try to get it done in about six months.
But beyond that,
there really aren't any rules.
WOMAN: So, we've selected our 2020
SparkShort directors and they are...
Louis Gonzales...
GONZALES: When they announced us
in the company meeting,
I didn't expect that kind of
outpouring of love.
It just felt, "Oh, my God,
the people here at this company
"are rooting for us to succeed."
"They want to see us tell stories."
That, to me, was amazing, truly.
And it also added, like, pressure.
When people support you like that,
it's like,
"I don't wanna let anyone down."
Because when I was initially asked,
"What do you think about a SparkShort?"
I said, "You know,
probably not, I'll think about it."
But eventually I realized that
I was just genuinely
afraid that I would suck
and smash face-first into the wall,
teeth everywhere.
I was afraid of failure.
And once I realized that
I was afraid to fail in this regard,
in a creative regard, in the thing that
I pride myself on as a story artist,
I was like, "I need to run head-first
at this wall 'cause I'll break through."
CORBIN: It was kind of crazy
when they announced us on that day.
I was still really insecure
about being chosen.
I knew the fear of it happening too soon,
also I was a little uncertain
of how I was gonna lead a team.
And I was like,
"What are people gonna think?
"Are they gonna be like, 'Aphton?
She hasn't even been here that long.
"'What is she even gonna make?'"
And then Louis is, like,
such an amazing story artist,
and he's worked on a bunch of movies
that I grew up watching,
it's like, "We're going at the same time?
That's cool. No pressure there."
DOCTER: Lots of times people are curious,
"How do we make films?"
The answer is, "There's no one way."
Every film is different.
They all, of course, start from an idea,
but from there, it might be that
you try to write it up as a script
or an outline.
It might be that the artist sits
and draws the idea, as a storyboard,
even just single images
that are enough to convey the concept.
CORBIN: After being surprised
and freaking out,
I was coming up with ideas for my short.
For a minute, I was like,
"Maybe I should do something scary,
a horror-related thing."
And there's very few
animated horror shorts.
So, I was like,
"Now, this will be fun and edgy."
But I was like,
"It's hard enough to make a film.
"I don't think I need to challenge myself
"with an entirely different genre
that I haven't dabbled in quite yet."
I always knew it was gonna be
a story about becoming an adult
and how awkward it is.
For me, I guess, as a 20-something,
the feeling of, "I'm not doing it right
at all" is so prevalent sometimes.
I had made a comic about it forever ago.
Sometimes, when you're 26,
you feel like an adult,
and sometimes you feel like
two kids stacked in a trench coat.
But that's just a one-line comic,
how do I make that
into a full fleshed-out story?
I thought about that feeling of,
"Okay, today everyone sees me
as a little kid with thick shoulder pads
"and I'm not living up
to my adult potential."
Or the moment at work
where I snap at someone
and I was like, "I could've said that
so much more eloquently,"
and instead I just went back
to that teenage part of myself.
Those little sparks
kept popping up in my head.
"I think there's a story here."
GONZALES: I love having parameters.
When you have a short window of time,
you have minimal amount of people,
there's a real strategy
to how you approach every Spark.
The safest thing I could've done
is went for a big concept.
Like, the parents drink the potion
and they become stuffed animals,
and in the end, they'd learn how
to be better parents to their kids.
"Wow, animating teddy bears.
Love it. Cute."
But I wanted to go somewhere deeper.
I knew I wanted to do a story
with a grandmother.
Like, grandmothers that I grew up with.
There was a grit and a toughness,
but a lot of love.
They'd give you the shirt off their back,
do anything for you,
but they don't look like they're
completely approachable.
So, I started circling around
this idea of generational divide.
For me, it was really important
to pull from my people.
I want my family and friends
to be representative of the world,
of how the world moves and breathes.
Which is gonna be different than,
you know, you or anybody else, right?
Our worlds are different.
I remember my grandma Pearl,
who passed, had a lot of attitude.
And my daughter wasn't old enough
to really have
a relationship with my grandma.
But my daughter,
when she was young, also had attitude.
Oh, I would've loved to have seen what,
together, they would've been like.
I love the juxtaposition of the complete
innocent with the experienced.
But characters that are vulnerable
in a real way
have to come from the artist
in a real way.
The artist has to be vulnerable.
And this is the hard thing for me to do.
There was a hundred questions that come up
to try and corral this big,
nebulous idea that seems simple,
so I needed that true north.
I needed something that gave me
a sense of, "It could be done."
And that's when I went to London
to go visit a friend of mine,
and they took me to a play,
Death of a Salesman.
This life and time of this husband,
and his relationship with his family.
It's that simple, but it's that clear.
And I thought, "Oh, my God,
if my short could even scratch the surface
"of what the actors in that play are doing
and have that kind of impact?
"Man, this is where I wanna go."
The brochure, I have it on my board
to remind me that
this is about characters.
"What can I do with a grandmother
and a granddaughter
"and the grandma's old dog
in an apartment?"
I can just wring every drop of personality
out of these three,
'cause it's basically a stage play.
CORBIN: It's interesting when people say,
"I was never good at drawing,
so I didn't draw."
I don't think I necessarily knew
that I was good or not.
It's something I had to do.
It was like my own way of therapy almost.
If I'm frustrated,
I'm like, "I gotta go draw,"
or "I'm happy,
I'm gonna sit down and draw."
But I remember, growing up,
there wasn't a lot of content
with Black little girls.
The two Disney princesses that
me and my sister would dress up as were
Pocahontas and Jasmine
'cause it was like, "They're brown-ish."
So, when I was really young,
I would automatically draw
blonde hair, blue eyes,
you know, if you don't specify character,
I guess that's what we're doing.
And I was always challenged
by a family member that's like,
"How come you only draw white characters?"
And the frustration of trying
to explain to your family,
"I don't even know why you're asking me.
"You know the answer to this."
"I'm drawing what I see
"and people don't want anything
other than white people,
"'cause if they did, they'd be on TV."
It was hard, incredibly hard
to break past that
and it took a while, a lot of unlearning.
It just took a leap of faith.
I was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna draw
more characters of different ethnicities."
And it felt right, and it felt truthful
because it's what I know.
Then it turned into,
"Unless anyone says otherwise,
"I'm drawing mainly Black characters,
"and then anything else will be a POC,
"and let's just see how long it takes
before a teacher says something."
They didn't, 'cause that would've been
an extremely interesting conversation
to have had.
And then it just became a norm.
When I got to Pixar,
they had seen my work.
So, in my mind, I'm like,
"You know what you're getting."
DOCTER: Working on Soul
was kind of a revelation to me
because as a white kid in America,
I saw thousands of characters
that represented my experience.
Joe Gardner in Soul is our first
African-American lead.
So, trying to see the world
through his perspective,
it took a lot of learning on my part,
and Aphton was a huge contributor
to the storytelling of that.
CORBIN: Just going here and continuing
to challenge that level of diversity
of voices and characters is important.
Asking questions...
"Why is this character white?
Is there any specific reason?"
'Cause sometimes it's not,
a lot of times it's honestly just
somebody drew two dots and a smiley face,
and then it went downstream
and they autofilled a white character,
and just, like, challenging that
and having people be more open to, like,
"Oh, absolutely, let's find some way
to add some more diversity here."
We all have relatable
emotions and experiences.
I am excited about people
getting used to seeing common stories
through the lens of a Black character.
So, that's what I hope to do
through my film.
The initial story was of a day in the life
of this character, Gia,
on her 21st birthday.
In my head, the idea is,
instead of getting older
and more mature,
more kids are coming into
this trench coat.
So, it should be 21 of them in there.
But I was like, "That's ridiculous.
I'm gonna be lucky if I get a few."
And so I was trying to narrow down
what ages were pivotal.
And so it became the One-Year-Old
that encompassed that baby,
just, like, raw emotion.
And then Ten, who in my mind,
she kind of represents that confidence,
"Things are good,"
and just how you think
you know everything at that age.
And Sixteen is, like, smack in
your teenage years, that felt right.
And for me, being 16 is
about being super-emotional
and insecure about everything.
Felt like they balanced each other out
in a nice way.
GONZALES: I think that you can't divorce
the experience of the storyteller
from the types of stories that
they're gonna tell, it's innate.
That's something
we all do as storytellers.
We gravitate towards the things
that we grow up around,
the things that we like.
I almost feel like that doesn't go away.
Growing up,
I had a strong group of friends.
They were my crew, you know,
that was a graffiti crew.
I loved them a lot
because it was all about art.
Those crews were made up
of different nationalities,
you know, just different cultures,
and it was us against the world.
I loved how
art was this beacon for sharing.
And it didn't matter who you were,
it was all about the art.
It was just this fun life
of running around LA,
spray paintin' and runnin' from the cops,
and gettin' up on buses,
and jumpin' out of windows in case
the bus driver stopped or whatever.
It was fun 'cause it was mischievous,
but it was also art-related,
and I loved that.
The thing was, is that this was an outlet
to kind of see yourself
bigger than anyone sees you.
You're talkin' about LA
in the '80s and '90s.
It's rife with gang activity
on every other corner.
No one's looking at a brown kid
back then and going,
"My God, you know,
you're going to Harvard."
They're going,
"Oh, God. You're going to jail.
"'Cause look at you,
you're a graffiti artist."
And we're just going,
"Look, we just wanna be seen."
I tried to apply to art colleges,
but my parents, we couldn't afford it.
And I tried to get
some sort of scholarship or somethin',
but I was a terrible student.
I'll be honest.
I wasn't as focused on my studies
as I should have been
because I drew all the time.
My parents were awesome.
They were always supportive of me drawing.
But they drove buses for a living.
My parents would be like,
"Totally. Drawing is great.
"We're gonna support you.
"However, think about driving a bus?"
And I was like,
"I'm not gonna be a bus driver
"'cause that feels like
I'm settlin', Mom."
But the thing is that it always
kind of pushed me into trying
to hustle up drawing for a living.
My spectrum of what it could've been was
doing designs for T-shirts,
storefronts with graffiti,
like, it was like this,
you know, airbrushing.
It was a small thing
that you could maintain a business.
I don't know if you could
support a family with that.
I was looking for the right fit,
and I figured comic books
was gonna be my fit.
I started getting into comic books
in high school.
I loved the Brothers Hernandez.
Jaime, Berto and Mario,
and I loved their work
because it was this great mash-up
of these characters that lived
in an area like I did.
They were Latin, mostly.
It was grounded in a world like mine,
but they'd have adventures.
They would go into outer space.
It was like,
"This is fantastic, different."
Comic books made me double down and go,
"I want to tell stories."
My daughter loved costumes
when she was younger.
She had this Tigger costume.
And she loved dancing around,
being Tigger.
She would wear it for days on end.
When I started to explore ideas
of this little girl,
I initially started her as a little girl
that dressed up in a cat costume.
I just wanted her to be
a pure little 4-year-old
with the energy
and excitement and imagination
that kids of that age usually have.
Little kids, their emotions are unbounded,
so you can have, "I'm happy, I'm sad,
and I'm angry and I'm playful"
all within five or 10 minutes.
I knew I had this tough grandma
who was gonna be visited by
her granddaughter, who is super energetic.
I wanna engage, engage,
engage with my grandma.
And the grandma's like, "Yes, I love you,
but I'm trying to do something right now."
I had to kind of figure out
why she would go to
the lengths to keep
the little girl away from her.
As I was exploring the grandmother,
not baking cookies and not doing
the '80s TV show version of a grandma,
but someone that I know.
So, like, that grit that
I remember in my grandmas,
it was kind of like
trying to pull off of them,
you know, glean pieces of them.
Thinking about it, I was kind of like,
"What if she loved wrestling?"
But that comes with the trappings of,
"Oh, you're Hispanic. Is she Hispanic?
"Oh, luchadores, am I right?
She was a luchador, am I right?"
And I'm like, "No.
She loves wrestling like soap operas."
It's no different.
It's just more athletic.
It's the thing that she loves to watch.
So I was like,
"Okay, this is sitting right."
Because it's not some sort of arbitrary
decision that makes her interesting.
It's something that's rooted
in something real.
So I'm like, "Okay, that's what it is."
That's how it started.
CORBIN: I mostly board digitally,
but when I'm brainstorming ideas,
I will draw them on paper first sometimes,
more like thumbnails.
Just so I can start to try and figure out
these shots that are in my head
and they help me visualize
some of the key scenes
I wanna portray in my short.
And I'm working on the intro conversation
with Gia and her sister Nicole.
The creation of this sister character
is based off of my sister.
My sister is my best friend,
and we're only two years apart,
and so it's nice to have someone who
is not too far away from you in age,
who knows what you're going through.
The idea of going out with your sister
for your 21st birthday
felt so gettable and so adorable.
I just got really excited
about their relationship.
Then I started thinking about settings.
I initially thought of an office.
And it started with talking to friends
by the water cooler
as three characters stacked up
on top of each other.
And then what if some of her friends
take her out to this club,
and that's when she has this meltdown.
But as a person
who doesn't work in a typical office,
it kind of felt untruthful.
And then I was like, "Okay,
what if I cut the entire office part out
"and just have it happen
entirely in the club?"
Being more of a homebody introvert,
there's something so truthful
about going to a place
where you're supposed to be having
a fun time, but you're really not.
It felt right. It was like
one setting, it was concise,
and it really tightened up
the rest of the story.
GONZALES: So, the grandma, she's gonna be
in her early 50s, you know?
So, not too old where
she's like, "My hip and my stuff."
Your thoughts around hair?
It's complicated.
Well, we're...
MORRIS: The director
is the key storyteller.
And their wing-person is their producer,
they get a lot of stuff thrown at them
that they aren't expecting,
and they have to be thinking of,
"How can I do this better,
faster, cheaper?"
I needed my partner in the short to be
someone who's gonna check me,
because I don't wanna have blind spots.
But I wanted to know who Courtney was.
You've worked in
a ton of departments, right?
How do you like to work?
I think one of the biggest things for me,
to help pull up the pace,
is collaboration.
My name is Courtney Kent.
I've been at Pixar
a little over 13 years now.
How many editors do we have?
How does that work?
I've got a list of people
that are open to it,
and I think we can sit and talk
to all of them.
Along the way, I got to help
on the development
of the very first SparkShort,
Smash and Grab.
And since then, I have been saying,
if there's ever an opportunity for
a Spark producer, I would love to do it.
Louis and I got partnered together,
not knowing each other,
which was intimidating
and exciting at the same time.
It feels a little bit
like a blind marriage.
I was very nervous.
I think I felt like I had a lot to prove.
I think, having never been a producer
before, you go into it, like,
"I don't know what I'm doing."
But as soon as we started
talking about the story
being really focused on family,
and I have a young daughter,
we were able to find some fast connections
that gave us some great momentum
going forward.
COLLINS: The producer is very much
the partner for the director,
but also the kind of leader of the crew.
So, we'd ask that producers on SparkShorts
find people that they trust
and use them to get the director's vision
up on the screen.
CORBIN: I think I was told, "You have
a producer now and he is Erik."
I didn't really know him,
and my initial reaction was like,
"I can handle it myself."
I just didn't know what
that relationship even meant.
And then I started to get
what our dynamic was going to be.
My name is Erik Langley.
I've been with Pixar since 2004.
That's about 16 years now.
And it's my first time
producing a SparkShort.
From the beginning, Aphton knew what
the story was that she wanted to tell,
and there's nothing better
that a crew can have
than a director that knows
what he or she wants.
The biggest crew that we're gonna have
on a film is gonna be the animation crew.
I feel like I could see animators
asking about, like,
"What's going on in that coat?" And like,
"Do you have any vision of how,
you know...
"How often are we gonna cut in..."
We wanted to pitch to animation
so they could have some context,
see what the story was gonna be,
the characters were gonna be, the style...
-That's all you guys.
-Stuff like this. Yeah.
-You can decide. Get 'em all excited.
CORBIN: Sometimes the animators
have an option on what show to go on,
and so you want to convince them
that your idea is
really exciting, and that
they'll have a fun time on it.
GONZALES: All 70 animators were
in this one screening room,
and animators have the reputation
of being kind of hard.
Like, "Here we are now,
entertain us" kind of vibe.
This was my first big pitch
to a group that size.
It's scary, it's nerve-racking,
it's a big deal.
'Cause how your movie
lives and breathes
is gonna be that relationship
between you and the animators.
LANGLEY: Anytime you have to get up
in front of a hundred-plus people
and do a little presentation,
you're always gonna be,
I guess, a little bit anxious.
All right, hello, animation.
Thanks for having us, letting us crash
your meeting. So, I'm Erik, I'm producing.
I'm Aphton and I'm directing.
So I hit this to get going?
The working title we're going
with right now is Twenty Something.
I was like, "Okay, I hope I just remember
everything I had planned to say."
This is every time I go out, by the way,
and being overwhelmed by all these people
who've got it together.
I mean, just those moments in the office
where you feel like
you didn't say the right thing.
I had some embarrassing pictures
of me as a kid.
I was like, "They'll like that."
"I'll hate it, they'll love it."
Note the mesh-fingerless gloves.
We'll just move on.
GONZALES: I think Aphton has
a really interesting concept.
She was funny, she had her characters
and stuff like that. It was a good pitch.
But it was that time in the process
where I knew my characters
and I knew my setting,
but I didn't know my story.
"What would best represent me in a story?"
And I thought,
"About a 50-year-old grandmother
"with her granddaughter."
And I'm just going, like, "Man, no one's
gonna wanna work on this short."
Because it doesn't sound exciting.
So, I figured I need to go into this
and present myself.
-Here it is. Come on! Come on! Yeah.
-Yes, she loves wrestling.
GONZALES: I wanna make sure I emphasize
who I am and how I go about stuff.
Little girl's dropping elbows and leg.
Get someone excited to work on this.
Grandma's pullin' her down,
swinging around, upside down.
Really stuff that we shouldn't
be doing with little kids,
Grandma's probably gonna be doing.
All right. Thank you!
KENT: There was a great reception.
People seemed pretty excited.
We both had animators after come up
and talk about how fun
they thought the story was.
-GONZALES: Daniel.
-Good job.
GONZALES: Hey, right on, bro.
LANGLEY: Nice job, guys.
GONZALES: Hey, same with you guys, man.
LANGLEY: After we pitched,
it got a good response.
People were excited,
they wanted to be a part of it.
GONZALES: My whole career has been gettin'
thrown into the deep end of the ocean
and havin' to make my way back to shore.
I didn't go to art school,
and I don't have
this "get in, fit in" mentality
that you kind of develop
when you go through schools
and you grow up a certain kind of a way.
It was very much about trying to see
how I can figure stuff out.
Early on, when I was hanging out
at the back of this comic book store
with a few other friends of mine,
I met this guy, Johan,
and he has mentorship, and he's like,
"Do you ever think about animation?"
And I said, "You mean, like, watch it?"
And he's like, "No, working."
"I don't know if I can do it."
He was like,
"We'll put a portfolio together
and get you a job in animation."
I was like, "I got nothin' to lose
and I wanna draw for a living."
I hunkered down
and woke up at 7:00 in the morning.
I was on my little desk
next to my bed doing these tests
and doing these drawings
every day for about eight months.
You know, puttin' together this portfolio.
Going out into the zoo and drawing.
And going to museums.
Wherever I can figure out
how to scoot my way in
to get some free gesture drawing.
When it was all said and done, I had
a portfolio. I was like, "Whoa!"
I applied to several studios.
Some of them were like,
"Thanks, but no, thanks."
But Warner Bros. Feature,
they were like,
"Yes, we want you
to come here as a trainee."
And I was like, "Well, does it pay?"
Warner Bros. Feature Animation
was my art school.
It was where I cut my teeth,
got a lot of opportunity on Iron Giant.
Because there was always learning.
Working on Iron Giant
was one of the best experiences
I ever had in my career.
Brad Bird was this geyser of energy,
and he was a force
that was just moving this along.
And everyone was just holding on
for dear life to try and stay with him.
Brad and the crew
gave me a chance to prove myself.
It wasn't a judgment. It was like,
"Here's the work,
you keep doing good work,
"I'm gonna keep giving you work."
And I'm like, "Please, give me more."
'Cause the last thing I wanna do
is not be in animation
'cause I love it.
If it wasn't for Iron Giant,
I wouldn't have worked with Brad, right?
And I wouldn't be up at Pixar.
Pixar was really weird for me
when I first started.
Because when I came in, everyone
was so nice that I was kind of like,
"You guys are all fake. And I..."
You know, "And I'm on to you."
People here were into making great stuff,
and I loved that.
But, you know, when you walk
into an animation studio,
it's, like, action figures
are all up on their desks,
and all kinds of fun stuff.
And I was like, "Yo, that's so not me.
"I'm not that kind of guy."
It just felt like a different world.
And so it just started this long process,
for me, of trying to figure out how I fit.
On top of that, I would work, like,
14-hour days, six days a week, at least.
And when you have kids,
you have a responsibility.
Family is everything to me.
And trying to find a balance there is,
you know, it was difficult.
Either, do I choose my career,
or do I choose my kids?
That's what makes it hard.
CORBIN: When I had the idea of having
three kids stacked on top of each other
in a trench coat,
I was like, "I'm gonna have to sell this
"as an idea that's not gonna be expensive
"and hard to do,
and the best way to do this,
"and have it look appealing and gorgeous,
is going to be 2D."
The difference between 2D and 3D animation
is that 3D is computer-generated
and can show depth in three dimensions.
And 2D is flat, hand-drawn.
There were two 2D SparkShorts
that were done before, Kitbull and Burrow.
And so I think there was enough
collective knowledge to be, like,
"Why can't we do it 2D?
Let's give it a shot."
CORBIN: I really like this, Rachel.
This is so fast.
I gave you what I wanted...
...and then you were like,
"Yeah. Here you go, here you go."
RACHEL: This is my job.
CORBIN: I know.
I'm working with Rachel,
my character design artist.
I had thought about doing
the character design myself,
but I also really wanted to work
on my new job as a director.
And directing someone in art
felt like another important thing
that I needed to learn.
-I'm really liking this one.
-XIN: Ah!
I think we found something fun
with the hair choice.
I think I'm more drawn
to this face shape as well.
Figuring out my own voice
as a director became really important
in this crazy Spark process.
-Should we...
-The sticker?
-CORBIN: The director Post-its.
-Yeah. Do you wanna... Yeah. You do it.
-Do you mind if I have my moment?
-Have your moment.
-XIN: This is a really enjoyable moment.
-It is. I like this one!
This one. I'm really liking this.
I love this head.
So, I started to go back
and look at those things
that made me "me" and brought me here.
Growing up, I always loved
animation and cartoons.
Especially Disney cartoons.
When I got to high school,
I took an animation class.
And I would just sit in my room and try
to draw stuff and staple paper together.
Seeing a drawing come to life
grabbed me, and from there,
I learned about different schools
that taught it.
I really gravitated towards CalArts
because it was a school
founded by Walt Disney.
And so I was like,
"I gotta go to this school."
As soon as I graduated,
I applied to CalArts,
but I didn't get in. Instead,
I went to a community college.
And I wound up working a lot of hours
at McDonald's to earn income for myself.
And I was like, "Oh, my goodness!
Am I ever gonna make it into animation?"
But I was still working on my portfolio.
And during that year-and-a-half,
I thought a lot about who I was
as an artist.
I was really inspired by Japanese anime.
And so I tried to draw
these very delicate anime line drawings
with a mechanical pencil,
and then on the other side,
I was trying to do really beautiful,
rough Disney style.
Every once in a while,
I'd kind of just do little
scribbles or something
for myself, a silly comic,
and people would be like,
"We really like that."
I'd be like, "No,
that's not how I wanna draw.
"That's, like, not good."
But people kept reacting to it
and, like, really loving it.
And that's when I started to get more okay
with where I was at.
And I put together a portfolio
and I applied to CalArts again.
They really responded to it
and I got into CalArts.
The plan was to get out
as fast as possible
because the tuition was crazy expensive.
And so I was like, "I'm gonna
be there for, like, a year.
"Maybe two years.
"And Pixar's just gonna love my stuff,
I'm gonna get swept up,
"and then that'll be that."
But that's not what happened.
And I was, like, just sweating
that entire whole four years thinking,
"How come I'm not getting noticed?"
Like, "What am I doing wrong?"
And, "What do the studios want?"
I really needed to grow some more.
I needed time to actually learn how
to be more of myself in my artwork.
And I needed to find my own voice.
One of my teachers was like, "Get a Tumblr
and start putting art on there."
So I kind of used Tumblr as, like,
"I'm gonna upload
something on here every week,
"and who cares if it's ugly.
It's going on there."
And that's when I started drawing myself
in comics for the first time.
And my experiences growing up
in the Sacramento area
which is majority white.
Living there as a Black family,
there was a lot of weird awkwardness
that comes along with that.
These comics were really
rough and scribbly.
And I would post them
at the stroke of midnight.
And then go hide in my dorm room,
like, "Oh, my God, what did I just post?
"That was so, like, revealing."
People who'd message me back
or stop me in the hallway
and feel the need to share their story
with me was a lot larger than I expected.
And just being like,
"I felt the same way" and "I agree"
and "Here's something
that happened to me,"
and I thought that was something
that was very powerful and unexpected.
It just continued to give me courage
to share my own stories in my own way.
I just felt like, "Oh, why have I been
wasting my time trying to be
"anything else but myself?"
And that's how I actually
was noticed by Pixar.
They reached out to me.
And I was like,
"Of all things that I thought
Pixar would be interested,
"I didn't think it would be
my Black girl comics."
But I was able to tap
into a truthful story
and help people see my point of view,
and that's what Pixar
is really passionate about,
is telling stories
from an authentic place.
GONZALES: When I'm telling a story,
I wanna make something that feels honest.
The story was gonna be
the granddaughter comes over
and wants to be around the grandmother.
And the grandmother
is trying to do something
that the granddaughter interrupts.
So, how does that play out?
And I wanted the grandma having
some sense of imagination,
because we know little kids do.
So, I wanted to find that bridge of...
Yeah, they're alike.
And how we can do that visually
without them saying, like,
"Oh, boy." You know, like,
"You like wrestling?
"I like wrestling. This is great, we're
such great grandma and granddaughter."
I didn't want dialogue. No,
I wanted to just play it out and see
what I can do. 'Cause, like, I've made
so many movies that have dialogue,
it's kind of like,
"Can we just stop the talking?"
I love animation that says less.
COLLINS: One of the truisms here
is the belief
that you should be able to turn the sound
off on any of our films and follow it.
The storytelling should be that clear
and the visual should be that impactful.
we were always being told,
"Oh, kids won't sit and watch
"a dialogue-free
25-minute beginning of a movie,
"they'll lose interest."
But the reality is,
kids spend their first four or five years
of their life just observing and watching
and trying to understand what's happening.
And they have no problem understanding
the language coming their way.
So, it's kind of this handshake
you have to make
between the story and the visuals,
which is like,
"This should work without dialogue."
Now, it might work better
when you have dialogue to it.
But it should work without it.
LANGLEY: When we kicked off, we were told,
"On a SparkShort, you probably
wanna just do two characters,
"minimal dialogue, and keep it to,
you know, a set or two."
But Aphton's short
has five speaking roles.
I knew that to sell this idea,
it would need some dialogue
because you get so much personality
out of how people speak.
Whoo! Let's party!
CORBIN: So, I asked Erik, "Can you give me
a rough idea of how much dialogue
"have been in the past shorts?"
And he was like,
"Oh, you know, just, like, four pages."
And I was like, "Okay."
"I think mine's gonna be longer."
Because the idea of feeling insecure about
being an adult, it's a little complex.
MORRIS: When we make a film,
we go through a process of making
what are called story reels,
which is basically a rough,
hand-drawn version of the film
that has temporary voices
and temporary music in it.
We screen those and then try to identify
what's working and what's not.
They start out and you think,
you know, "This is gonna be great."
And then you put it up in reels
and look at it and you go, like,
"Huh. Not as great as we thought."
Reads to me like Joe knows
exactly where he's going,
and he's done this before.
So, I feel like we need to adjust it.
And then you try to tear it down
and see what's not working about it
and put it together again.
KENT: Louis came from stories,
so he was comfortable drawing
all of the storyboards himself.
And so that's kind of him sitting
and really thinking
about the story that he wants to tell.
And creating kind of key moments that
he feels like would help tell the story.
So, you have a grandmother sitting down
to watch her wrestling show,
and then the next key moment,
her granddaughter shows up.
They have some conflict.
The TV falls.
They kind of wrestle on the floor
and then they hug.
And once he has some
of those things fleshed out,
those drawings would
get sent over to editorial
and they would cut them together
and kind of time them out.
I just wanted to throw some boards up
really fast, to see if we had something.
Gave it to my editor,
so I can get a sense for the story.
And then problem-solve, in the cut.
I was, like, excited to see
what we had,
but we watched the cut
and it was terrible.
And my heart sinks.
I had lot of ideas that were kind of,
you know, jockeying for position.
So, the story wasn't clear.
But I could tell, even as bad as it was,
that there was something here.
I just needed to find it,
and that's when I kind of went away.
KENT: Louis went radio silent,
and when you don't have your director
having a defined vision,
it's very, very challenging.
I was like, "Oh, okay.
Are we gonna make this film?"
GONZALES: I set my brain
on findin' the story.
So, my brain's trying to figure it out
and it doesn't stop.
I'm waking up at 3:00 in the morning
and sittin' in the dark.
You're just mining
your soul for things that,
on a different level, will resonate.
It's the level that none of us see,
but we all feel.
That human truth.
Write that down,
explore it throughout the day,
watch it go from, like,
in the morning it's glorious
and, like, this solved everything,
to, like, noon, I'm not so sure,
I'm scratching my head,
to, like, right before you go to bed,
put your head on the pillow, and
it's like, "Oh, my God. This is terrible.
"That's not gonna work.
What am I gonna do?"
Based on the story and where I was at,
it was seismic in terms of
feeling like,
"I'm gonna make the best short ever,"
to, "I am going to look like
the biggest fool in the world."
It blew up more and more
each time I wrote it.
I was in a super downward spiral.
Writing, creating, felt very isolating,
and you feel alone.
It was the darkest period I had.
I was like, "I don't know what to do.
Just give me some more time, Courtney."
KENT: The fear of not knowing what's
going on in his mind was really hard,
and I thought,
"Do we have a story to tell?"
MORRIS: Story is at the heart
of what we do.
And since I've been at Pixar,
I've seen the unfaltering
intestinal fortitude to pursue it
until we get it right.
It's not like you sit down
and figure the story out all at once.
It takes a long, long, long, long time.
And when we realize
the thing isn't quite working
and we need to tear things down,
change it,
that's just part of the process.
Because if things are going smoothly,
you're probably not trying hard
to do something great.
COLLINS: You're just going back
and through something
and trying to perfect something
again and again and again.
On Finding Nemo, for the longest time,
nobody liked Marlin, who's the dad.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Hold on, hold on. Wait to cross.
COLLINS: They're like, "He's annoying."
You were about
to swim into open water!
No! I wasn't gonna go out!
-It's just a good thing I was here.
-But, Dad...
And so we were like,
"Okay, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite."
And the initial conceit of that movie
was that the traumatic moment
of the barracuda coming in
wasn't at the front of the movie.
It was spelled out in flashbacks
throughout the film.
CORAL: We still have to name them.
MARLIN: I haven't forgotten.
CORAL: You know what name
I've always liked? Nemo.
MARLIN: Great! One down.
Only 99 more to go.
COLLINS: The problem was
you had no sympathy for this dad,
because you're like,
"What is his deal?"
And so it was very late in the game,
before it was like, "You guys,
this flashback thing is not working.
"You have to put that story upfront."
COLLINS: Because you're not sympathetic
with the main character
and you have to be.
Daddy's got you.
When you go to tell a story,
there's a lot of reflection.
'Cause I'm really asking myself,
"Why do these characters
in this idea matter,
"why is it always present in the back
of my brain? Why do I like this?"
And you have to ask yourself
the hard questions.
"What does this mean to you?
What is it trying to say?
"What are you going through right now?"
One of the things that inherently
was a game changer for me
was a moment in the short
when the TV breaks.
The grandma used to always be
super pissed off at the little girl.
And I thought, "What a jerk.
Like, who wants to watch that character?"
I realized with that,
it can't just be a character
that wants to watch wrestling over
her grandchild. That just makes no sense.
And so we had to dig deeper and find out
what wrestling means to her.
Because we needed to know
on an emotional level
why wrestling was the thing that she
was shutting the world out for,
on this day
and why it's an annoyance
when anybody comes over.
And the question, to me, was like,
"What's a scary reaction in that moment?"
And for me, her being vulnerable
was the most scary thing
that I could put out there.
If she just starts to break down
and bawl, you know, just cry,
and just, you know,
be genuinely upset by this
interruption with her routine...
That was a really big moment for me
because it was like,
everything in my gut tells me it's right,
but I'm hesitant because
I don't want her to seem weak.
I was like, "Okay, we have to do it,"
'cause it's about being vulnerable
with the characters.
And I don't see how you can tell
a story if there isn't an aspect
of vulnerability from yourself as well.
Nona needed to have a reason
why this was special
and I had flirted with the idea
of a deceased husband.
Like, "Maybe wrestling is something
that she celebrated with her husband."
But he's passed away,
and so now we're starting
to lean into, like,
this was her taking a day
to celebrate the love of her life.
Now we're digging a little bit further
to find what this meant.
And so once I brought the husband in,
we now understand that
this is about him and her.
And now there is an emotional weight to it
that it didn't have
when it was just wrestling.
DOCTER: The advice that I have
for SparkShorts filmmakers is,
"Remember that
this is not for your benefit.
"You're not here
making a movie for yourself.
"You're making the movie for the audience.
"And so if you think it's great,
but the audience doesn't, guess who wins?"
DOCTER: Every one of our films
try to present the characters
and a situation
that immediately grabs your attention.
DOCTER: Like the beginning
of Monsters Inc.,
you know, there's a kid going to bed,
and then immediately you start to see
strange things happening in the room.
DOCTER: You're drawn in
because this is something
that everybody has experienced
as a kid or even as an adult.
DOCTER: And then we reverse it by saying,
"Wait a minute, yes, there are monsters,
but that's their job, to scare kids."
And so it's got this
intrinsic kind of tie-in
with what we know to be true with a twist.
Uh, she's legit.
In fact, it's her birthday today!
CORBIN: When you're doing
an animated film, there's an excitement
of, "How far can we push this
and still be believable?"
Get whatever you want. I'm buying.
Oh, milk then. Kidding.
CORBIN: Gia is very ambiguous
in the beginning,
and there's a long period
before you realize,
"Oh, it's just a woman
having a freak-out about her adulthood."
No! You had sweets earlier!
-Uh, Gia, are you feelin' okay?
-Yeah, yeah. Totally fine.
LANGLEY: We had two screenings
and people came back with opinions...
GIA: I gotta go potty... I mean, restroom.
I gotta go to the restroom.
LANGLEY: And almost everybody asked,
"Is she literally three kids
and a trench coat or is it a metaphor?
"I think you need
to really make that clear,"
and, "How's the audience gonna take that?"
DOMEE SHI: Is it everything you imagined,
being a director?
CORBIN: I guess.
CORBIN: Think, overall, people
are getting what I'm trying to say.
SHI: Have you gotten any notes
that have been not that?
CORBIN: It's important to be clear,
there's a time and a place for it,
but also knowing that some ambiguity
can be fun and more mysterious.
I knew it was something
I really wanted to try.
SHI: Just being
in the audience in the dark
and hearing them
laugh and gasp, it's kind of cool.
And then you get kind of addicted to that,
and you wanna keep making audiences
feel things and react and scream.
CORBIN: Domee is a director here at Pixar
and she directed the short Bao.
She's just someone
I wanted to get advice from,
because she was able to take risks
which were very interesting in her short.
SHI: I always feel like, working here,
they kind of hammer it into you,
like, "It's all about clarity."
But it's mostly about feeling.
I remember on Bao,
there was always some people that were
a little bit confused by the ending.
Bao is about a lonely old Chinese lady
who one day discovers
that one of her dumplings
has come to life as a dumpling boy.
And of course, she immediately adopts it
and goes through
the trials and tribulations
of motherhood with the dumpling.
It's semi-autobiographical based on my own
life growing up as a smothered only child.
I just felt like,
I just needed to make this.
At that time, I was living away from home
and I was feeling guilt
of being far away from my mom,
and I just needed something
to work through that dynamic.
I remember when I first pitched
the idea to Pete Docter just casually,
when I got to the part
where the Mom character
eats the baby dumpling
'cause she didn't want him to leave her,
he was so shocked by it,
but he loved it so much,
and he was like, "Keep this ending.
"It's so unique and weird and cool."
That gave me the confidence
to defend that ending,
even when I would get notes of, like,
"That's dark." "That's weird."
Or like,
"Don't you think you'd scare some kids?"
And the Oscar goes to Bao.
SHI: Thank you to the Academy.
To all of the nerdy girls out there
who hide behind their sketchbooks,
don't be afraid
to tell your stories to the world.
You don't have to explain everything.
As long as the feeling
that people have at the end of your short
is the feeling
that you want to leave them with.
That's a scary thing to do.
Sometimes you just gotta go for it.
And, you know,
seeing your reels, I feel it.
So, I wouldn't sweat it.
CORBIN: Getting that affirmation of, like,
"Yeah, go for it. Don't be afraid
to have it be a little weird."
It was very helpful.
Like, nope, that's the point.
It's just like
we're enjoying this abstract adventure.
And then, at the end, we come to clarity.
DAVID LALLY: I'm curious
about the garments.
What's the thought with sim?
I feel like, when I was talking to Ana
about like the idea
of prioritizing movement, right?
LALLY: Mmm-hmm.
GONZALES: What's Nona's priority?
It's her T-shirt.
With the little girl, her primary symbol
will probably be
whatever you do with her hair.
I was even going, like,
"The dog moves so slow."
-I don't know if I need something on it.
-KENT: You have the collar.
-If it has a dangly piece...
-Or we could probably animate it.
-I think... Okay.
-We can lose the collar.
I love animation
because of the collaboration.
And I really, truly think
that if you have your team invested
and you have a story that you wanna tell,
I just think that it can only be good.
But there's a difference
with how you wanna approach
the SparkShort versus a feature.
Bold lines are gonna help direct the eye.
Feature films,
they're all about having time and money
to smooth out imperfections.
And I want imperfections.
LACAZE: If we simplify the models a lot,
we might be able to be
more graphical and more,
-have intent on what the wrinkles are.
GONZALES: I want us
to be like a band starting out.
And they have a rawness,
you know what I mean?
GONZALES: I kept relating
our short to that.
I'm like, we are the best
garage band in the business.
So, let's do our thing and make it dirty.
Don't polish it.
Let's be broad and bold with our choices.
And then we'll see what happens.
Story is problem solving.
So, I always feel like,
whatever falls in your lap
is there for you to make something with.
But it's more than that.
There's an alchemy.
There's a sense of magic to it.
The screen has gotta move
and dance in front of your eyes
to really concoct something
that evokes an emotion
that takes you on a ride somewhere,
and when it's all said and done,
it reaffirms the beautiful things in life.
KENT: Some of the earlier
iterations of the wrestling scene
between Nona and Renee,
they took a moment to go around
and get things from the apartment
to make themselves look like wrestlers.
And they'd wrestled there on the floor.
It was all in this real world.
But Louis felt like the scene
wasn't pushing it enough.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the main event!
In the blue corner, Nona the Hammer!
GONZALES: I wanted to see what it feels
like for them to play wrestling.
Not make it literal.
We get to see it
how the little girl sees it.
And we know that Nona
has that kind of imagination too.
KENT: We were really trying to see,
how far can you push it
before you start to lose your audience
with how unusual
and crazy this imagination can get.
But some of the ideas felt like
they were just a little bit too much.
It should feel like a kid's playground.
But yet still feel grounded and real.
KENT: And so then I think we tried
to find what's in the middle.
It was still Renee
bringing in her stickers
and then Nona getting
to do her big wrestling move.
GONZALES: So, now the two worlds
that were bumping off each other
have now harmonized in this scene.
And they're both sharing a place
in time that made 'em both better,
that made 'em both stronger.
LALLY: ...from up here, just paying
attention more to the eye, so...
MORRIS: When I think about
what's different between
an animation director
and a live-action director,
I've often thought
that a great live-action director
has a script and then
they bring their actors on the set,
just kind of working like a jazz musician.
MORRIS: And sort of taking the pieces
and making it fit and improvise.
And by contrast, an animation director
is more like a classical composer
who is going
and painstakingly writing that score
and changing that note
from a 16th note to an eighth note,
and that process is very long.
DOCTER: Just takes a lot of work.
And oftentimes
what it is, is making mistakes.
You know, trying something
and going, "Well, that didn't work.
"They didn't laugh at that at all.
Why was that?
"Let's go back and figure it out."
And then you do it again
and again and again.
JOY: Let's do this.
DOCTER: By the time you see it on screen,
you're seeing probably
the 10th version of that film.
FEAR: Oh, potential friend spotted.
-JOY: Not this again.
-Maybe we should talk to them.
Riley's been at the school
for over two months,
-she doesn't have a single friend.
-What about Bing-Bong?
FEAR: Bing-Bong's imaginary...
DOCTER: A version of Inside Out
that we had for a long time
is that Joy was paired
with Fear throughout the entire journey.
FEAR: You're not coming back
to headquarters.
-Riley's better off without you.
-Wait, I...
Get her, boys.
DOCTER: And late along the way,
we realized for this story to make sense,
Joy has to be paired with Sadness.
I miss home.
DOCTER: Well, that meant
we had to go back,
retool the whole film,
throw out a ton of stuff.
Thousands of drawings, hundreds of hours
spent recording and editing.
But they were all very valuable in that
they taught us things
about the characters,
the world and the story,
and what it was supposed to be.
LANGLEY: Yeah, so this is great.
So, this is the first time
we're seeing this
with all the scratch cut in.
RIZK: Yeah. This is all scratch
temp dialogue,
LANGLEY: All right. Let's take a look.
NICOLE: Okay, hurry back.
After this, we're hitting the dance floor!
GIA: I can't wait. Whoa!
CORBIN: One of the challenging
parts about this short
was selling the idea
of these characters being certain ages.
TEN: Jeez, we're a mess.
What happened?
SIXTEEN: Hey, first off,
who died and made you boss?
CORBIN: Ten being 10,
Sixteen being 16.
But while using scratch voice talent.
TEN: Way to go, Sixteen.
How stupid could you be?
SIXTEEN: Can't believe you blew it.
And scratch
is your rough draft voice actors
who are reading lines,
so that we all get an idea
of what it sounds like and how it plays.
I have a question about Ten's audio.
Like, do you feel... It's definitely
not reading as a 10-year-old.
We didn't have any kids
to do a scratch recording,
and so selling the idea
of Ten being 10 was kind of hard.
I was thinking that too.
And I'm not sure how much of it to, like,
be nitpicky about because it is scratch.
But it would be nice
if it sounded a little bit off.
Like, if she sounded a little younger
and it's like, "Oh," "Uh..."
LANGLEY: In the screenings,
people were having trouble believing
that the Ten-year-old was a 10-year-old
because we had a 30-year-old
woman doing the temporary dialogue.
TEN: We're an adult.
We have to keep it together
'cause that's what adults do.
-SIXTEEN: All right!
CORBIN: The voice I knew was really gonna
The minute we had
Kaylin do the voice of Ten...
LANGLEY: Okay, so count us down
three, two, one. Record.
And press the button record
as you're saying, "Record."
CORBIN: She brought so much charm
and innocence to the character.
We are a beautiful, strong, mature,
21-year-old woman!
We are going to go shake
our bottom on that dance floor,
-we're gonna stay up past our bedtime...
...and we are going to kiss
our youth goodbye.
'Cause this is Gia's night!
KENT: So, I think we've finally gotten
somebody to come on for sets.
GONZALES: Oh, good. Yeah.
KENT: Trianne's gonna jump in,
-to start doing the modeling. So...
What does she have to get started with?
-Okay, well, we need a map, right?
I have the floor plan,
I know how that works.
I'm picturing like a...
Like LA villa-style homes,
you know what I mean?
The white stucco walls
so you have that texture,
so we don't have to have flat walls.
But I do like the idea of the lived-in
space kind of being curated.
Trying to find a couple
of the right details to make it feel full.
There's an energy to it that
you want to get it right.
Because to me
it's how legit the world feels,
or how that the character fits into it.
There's cultural details that we have
to put in to make it feel true.
I know it's West Coast,
and that has a rhythm
and vibe to it, you know?
And I kind of wanna
make sure I pay attention to that.
We brought in a set designer
to make Nona's apartment right,
'cause we manufactured that apartment.
That's the only set we built.
I gave her some broad details, like,
I want it to feel like
in the Spanish revival style in LA.
So, warm wood floors, arches,
stairs with wrought-iron railing.
And she got the tone.
She got the heart and soul into it.
She's like,
"Oh, my granny has this in her house.
"Like, a cutting board hanging."
And I'm like, "I love that."
She just put herself into it.
All the decor, all the frames.
So, it feels lived in
and the details are there
without detailing everything out,
'cause we couldn't afford it.
CORBIN: When the rubber meets the road,
the people who make
the film shine are the animators.
This is what you see on screen.
You don't see
my crude stick figure drawings,
you see the beautiful animation.
This film was set in a club,
so that means crowds.
Because we're a CG studio,
if you're doing CG,
there's a whole department
dedicated just to do crowds for you.
CORBIN: But for us in the Spark program
doing 2D animation,
we had to come up with creative ways
to make this club feel full and lively
without animating over 70 people.
LANGLEY: She was inspired
by old cartoons,
like the UPA films where
the environments in the backdrops
would just be a couple lines,
just to indicate that something was there.
So we decided
to have a lot of background characters,
but they're not moving.
But we strategically
put a few characters here and there
that were moving to give
the audience the impression
that there were a bunch of people
dancing and the club was populated.
CORBIN: I feel like I really threw
the kitchen sink
at the animation department.
CORBIN: There's so much
going on with these characters.
There's some scenes with six different
characters that one animator had to do.
CORBIN: And they're pretty
complicated characters.
CORBIN: I felt like it was kind of
like a trial by fire.
Uh, well, I...
So, my animation supervisor, Lucas,
would ask me
if I was willing to modify some things,
like extra earrings and bags,
things that the animators would
have to account for over and over,
that could end up being very
challenging over a large course of time.
But one of the things
I really wanted to keep
was the different hair
that the characters had.
It's a huge thing in Black culture.
There's a lot
of different, unique hairstyles.
And I feel like it's a very good
indicator of how old you are.
It's like the difference between
your mother doing
your hair for you as a child
and then you getting it done at a salon.
I was like, I know that some of these
braids and hairstyles are gonna be a lot,
but I think it's a huge
story point for these characters.
TEN: The plan, remember?
CORBIN: We did some things to modify
the hair so it wasn't as challenging.
Girl, where are you? Gia?
CORBIN: But these animators are amazing,
and I was so excited
because we were so crunched on time...
I know you are, but what am I?
CORBIN: ...but it looks so good.
SIXTEEN: You don't know what you're doing.
GONZALES: Now, being
in the industry for 20 years,
for the first time,
I'm really feeling like the older cat.
And there's a lot of youngsters
coming up underneath me that are,
you know,
got great ideas, lot of great energy,
and I'm realizing
that I don't have as much energy.
But this short is about
how the generations influence each other.
I always use the example of my dog,
you know, before she passed.
I had a dog named Pica.
Pica was a smaller Pitbull
and she was about 12.
She had hip issues.
She was old
and she was not wanting to move.
Around the same time,
we got my daughter a Yorkie for Christmas.
My daughter was happy,
but I actually think
the old dog was happier.
Because all of a sudden
she was like, "I'm gonna play."
This little puppy brought her
back to life, it gave her a spark.
And that's how I wanted the relationship
of the little girl and the dog to be.
When I present it
to the team to have this dog,
they'll be in there, like,
"You probably can't have a dog
"and you can't have a dog
with a hoodie, for sure."
KENT: Quadrupeds, things on four legs,
are notoriously
difficult to do in animation.
And the grandma had to pick up
the dog and move the dog around,
which is also a very
complicated thing to animate.
At the same time, seeing the image
that Louis drew was so sweet
and made it just
so much more personal to the story
that we wanted to figure out
how to make it happen.
GONZALES: My team brought so much.
Sculpting the shapes, simming the dog
with a real legit
terrycloth hoodie and...
touches of the dog on the couch.
In the end, we got all of it.
And the exciting thing
is I can't wait to show it.
I don't know what it's gonna yield,
but it's done and I'm proud of it,
so let's see what happens.
DOCTER: The first thing I think that
you're looking for when you go to a movie
is to just be entertained.
But that's sort of surface level,
it's like the candy coating.
Our job as filmmakers is to figure out,
"What are you giving the audience
to take home?
"What are you giving them
to continue to think about?"
So that that night when they're eating
dinner, they're like, "Huh."
And I think the only way you can do that
is by having filmmakers who have something
interesting to say in a unique way,
and hopefully in ways, ideas,
concepts that have never been said before.
CORBIN: Overall, I'm super pleased
with the entire film
and extremely proud of it.
And I was very emotional.
Erik and I both were,
just because it felt like
such a crazy road from beginning to end.
I just wanted to tell a story
that I felt like I was going through
and I know everyone else goes through.
No matter what age, race, gender,
this felt like a story
that touched a lot of people,
and then the specificity of it
being told through a Black character,
I think makes it special
and new and exciting.
LANGLEY: The story is funny, emotional,
and it's coming from a voice
that has been underrepresented
and I'm excited for people to see that,
and to see themselves in that,
because I think we all can.
CORBIN: I can't wait
for the African-American community,
specifically Black little girls,
to see it.
There's a huge want for representation,
and just to be able to watch this
and see yourself
means a whole lot to a lot of people.
And so I'm really excited
for people to feel seen
and know that this one is, like,
specifically for them.
I'm very excited
for my family to see this film as well.
Especially my sister.
And when I told her,
"There's a character in here
that I, like, loosely based after you."
Whoo! Let's party!
She's like, "Oh!"
and she's excited about that.
Okay, okay, back up, back up.
Nothin' to see here. Go on.
-Oh, Gia.
-Just leave me alone.
CORBIN: It's a film about being an adult
and accepting the messiness
that comes along with it.
NICOLE: Are you in here
crying on the toilet?
CORBIN: And I wanted to put in this idea
of Nicole being like,
"Nah, you're being super dramatic,
everything's going to be just fine."
All right. Let's do this.
That's my girl. Let's go.
CORBIN: I think kind of like the short,
I think I'm just learning
more and more to trust myself,
that I am doing things right.
Or close enough.
And that I'm gonna
keep growing and learning
and that's not a bad thing,
that's all part of the process.
And I think that just is attributed
to the fact that I did the short,
I've made it, and I survived.
GONZALES: This is my first time
actually really finishing something.
I've never finished a short film,
and I've tried for a long time.
You know, I've tried to figure out a way
to break it up and have a team,
and it wasn't until now
that I could actually do that.
It's important to finish.
'Cause you can't grow unless you finish.
KENT: We are so excited to finally
get to share Nona with the world.
And I'm very excited
for my family to get to see it.
My daughter is also a 5-year-old
little girl just like Renee.
To actually get to sit
and watch the whole thing
with her in the final state
will be also really exciting.
I hope it doesn't give her any bad ideas.
GONZALES: Making the short
has been a real beautiful experience.
Stories honor life, right?
They honor people
and when I tell my stories,
I'm honoring my family and friends.
And that's something that I love.
I love the fact that I'm doing it now.
But I also had to wait 20 years to do it.
When I could have had the chance
to really try and work
my way towards directing,
I stopped because
I wanted to be with my kids,
'cause I couldn't choose both.
I was working after work
and on the weekends.
And I have a very clear memory
of this one morning,
I remember my kids telling me,
"Why don't you come play with us?
"Play catch."
I'm like, "I'll be right there."
I'm thinking, "Yeah, I'm gonna draw
a few things and be done with it."
They came in and said good night to me.
I missed them the whole damn day,
and it hit me so hard.
They only have this time once,
so I wanna make sure
that they get as much as possible from me.
As I made the story
and as it gets more and more specific,
you start to really realize
what it means to you.
And for me, it's like, "Oh, my God.
"This is my kids
wanting me to play with them,
"while I'm trying
to move my career along."
I was letting them down
because I wasn't paying attention,
which is basically what my short's doing.
I needed that awakening.
And it's funny how the short
completely kind of turned that way.
And that's when it found its honesties,
because I could relate to it
in a very specific way,
in a truthful way.
COLLINS: There's something about
the more personal you get,
the more universal the story becomes.
And I think for my kids' generation,
their kids' generation,
those stories are less and less
your typical fantasy fairytale stories
in terms of what makes them feel
like they lean forward and it's...
And it speaks to them.
DOCTER: Audiences are always
looking to be surprised,
when they sit down, they turn on a movie.
If we can get filmmakers who come from
different and diverse backgrounds,
I think we have a better chance
of giving them that surprise
that they're looking for.
MORRIS: Given the director's newness
to these roles,
given the constraints
they've had in their budgets,
given the time
they've had to make them in,
I'm always blown away
when I see the films that get finished,
and I'm always amazed
how much they pull it off,
and how good they are.
COLLINS: I see SparkShorts evolving only
in that I see
the filmmakers themselves evolving.
And as we look into the future,
we need to continue
to get new voices out there,
to give them an opportunity,
to give them the platform,
and to challenge ourselves
to be open to hearing them
as a studio, as a world, as an audience.
This program's gonna give us
a preview of our filmmakers to come.
And it's gonna be the best opening act
to ultimately what is hopefully
the next couple decades
of Pixar filmmaking.