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Interview: Pete Docter

3-D or not 3-D? That is the first question . . .
By BRETT MICHEL  |  May 21, 2009

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Pete Docter was only the third animator to come aboard Pixar when he joined up in 1990, and he's had a lasting effect at the computer-animation powerhouse. Alongside John Lasseter (the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios) and Andrew Stanton (director of last year's Oscar-winning WALL•E), Docter developed the story and characters for Toy Story, Pixar's groundbreaking inaugural feature, which ushered in the era of digital animation back in 1995. Six years later, he made his directing debut with Monsters, Inc., which earned him his second of four Oscar nominations. Up, his sophomore directorial effort, tells the, uh, uplifting tale of septuagenarian balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), who escapes forcible relocation to a nursing home by tying thousands of candy-colored balloons to his house and fulfilling a lifelong dream of relocating to the wilds of South America. But an unexpected stowaway, eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer Russell (non-professional newcomer Jordan Nagai), threatens to deflate his plans. I sat down with Docter at the Four Seasons in Boston to discuss Pixar's 10th film, and the first to be presented in Disney Digital 3-D.

Was the movie designed for 3-D from its inception?
We developed the story. . . .  we were kind of in progress on it, when John Lasseter came and said, “We’d love to do it in 3-D.” So, we came up with a team that followed along with the film as it was being made. We tried to use it as just another tool to tell the story.

Considering the unparalleled visuals that Pixar produces, I'd personally prefer to see it in 2-D, so I can choose what to look at within the frame, rather than have the focal point chosen for me. Would you recommend one version over the other?
My thinking was that 90-some percent of the viewing was going to be in regular flat, once we get to video and everything — it won’t be 3-D — so I wanted to make sure that it worked in 2-D, first and foremost. And then, 3-D is like an added bonus. Bob Whitehill and his group did a really great job with the 3-D. It’s as good as it gets, so it’s up to you, the viewer!

So it's really a separate team directing the 3-D, then?
They kind of followed along. In the making of the film, we do a color-script, which you’ve probably seen pictures of, where we kind of plan out everything.

Oh, yeah. Ralph Eggleston was obviously working on this picture.
Yeah. He came on late . . .

Well, I noticed one painting in the film — of Paradise Falls. It must be his . . .
Which one? The etching?

Ellie's painting, with the house . . .
Oh, yeah! That was actually Lou Romano.

Really? The Lou Romano who voiced Linguini in Ratatouille?
Yeah. One and the same.

Pixar has a history of using people from within the company for voices, like Lou Romano and this film's co-writer, Bob Peterson, who plays Alpha. . . .  
Yeah, Bob is both Alpha and Dug. And he was, of course, Roz in Monsters, Inc., the slug that says “Don’t forget to file your paperwork.” And Mr. Ray, from Finding Nemo. He’s just a really funny guy who does good voices.

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  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Carl Fredricksen, Jordan Nagai,  More more >
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