Pixar make Brave move with Reese Witherspoon and Billy Connolly after Toy Story 3
Edinburgh International Film Festival Blog
This article is from 2010.
Sunday 20 June
Edinburgh calls itself a festival of discovery, and it’s true, the majority of films playing here are by first- or second-time filmmakers, and you go into each screening hoping to discover the next great moviemaking talent. But, as I’ve been asking various journalists about their EIFF experience so far, the name that keeps coming up as best film is probably the biggest title, with the least need for ‘discovery’, in the whole programme – Toy Story 3. As Glasgow Film Festival director Allan Hunter put it when I saw him yesterday, 'I went in thinking, "Does the world really need Toy Story 3?", then I watched it and realised, "Yes, turns out it does!"'
It’s a response that’s shared in the US, where the film just opened to the best reviews of the year and record-breaking box office, so when I got the chance to speak with Pixar supervising animators Mike Venturini and Bobby Podesta on Sunday afternoon, I wondered aloud if, after 11 smash hits in a row, they were able to be pretty relaxed about this film's chances: ‘We knew this was a good film, and it was very possible that people would like it’, Podesta understated, ‘but how well it’s doing back in the States, we were not expecting. It’s a little insane.’ Venturini added that ‘the one thing our success has brought us is pressure. Every production feels the pressure of living up to those expectations. So we don’t take that lightly, we work very hard to keep making successful films that audiences will love. But the one thing that we get from that is trust from our audience; they trust, from our past successes, that what we do next will be worth their time. It allows us to use that trust to do things that are unconventional, like making a movie where your main character is an old man. That’s a hard pitch for an audience, but that trust allows us to go there.’
Podesta and Venturini were an interesting pair to chat to; they both had that incredible enthusiasm and ability to perfectly articulate the ‘Pixar perspective’ that seems to be ingrained in every member of the company, but I could definitely tell that they were each approaching the Festival experience very differently. Podesta seemed to be happy to be here in a work capacity, answering my questions concisely and informatively, whereas Venturini was a motor-mouth, powering on about any and every subject, and clearly loving being in Edinburgh. He got particularly animated (boom boom - ithankyou) when talking about the next film he’s working on, the Scottish-set fantasy Brave, due to hit screens in exactly two years time: ‘It’s set in the Scottish Highlands, and we’re a couple of years in, with a couple of years to go. During Wall-E the art team came out and spent some time travelling through the Highlands doing drawings and reference materials. Just seeing the development on it is pretty exciting: it’s set in the past, it’s human characters and it’s got a whole magical thing going on. A little bit closer to the sensibility you saw in The Incredibles, with humans and a more ‘realistic’ world. It also has Billy Connolly doing one of the voices, which is just a perfect fit!’
As chance would have it, I bumped into Venturini much later that night just as he was leaving the Runaways party (where the promised Joan Jett was sadly not in attendance). He decided that hanging out with The List would be a better option than calling it a night, and after a couple of whiskeys we ended up discussing the all-important issue of accents in movies, something that Brave will be particularly scrutinized for here in Scotland. ‘We know that if we don’t get it right you guys are gonna kill us over it, so we’ve got the dialogue coaches in right now!’ After the recent drubbing received by Russell Crowe for his ‘Irish’ Robin Hood, I can only hope Brave’s leading lady Reese Witherspoon does her homework. Venturini also revealed that a certain Oscar-winning actor had been the original choice to voice the fantastic stoner turtle in Finding Nemo (based on an iconic stoner role this actor played many years ago), but no matter how hard Pixar tried, he wouldn’t go for it; too serious for that kind of thing these days. Mentioning no names, this just confirmed every other story I’ve heard about this star’s infamous lack of a sense of humour. I mean, who in their right mind passes up the chance to be in a Pixar movie? Guys, if you’re reading this, call me – I have no qualms about such things, and I can even do accents!