Producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins Interview – WALL-E

     November 17, 2008

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

With “Wall-e” arriving on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, it’s time for me to post new interviews with the creative people behind one of the best films of the year. Here’s the new interview with director Andrew Stanton, and below is a new interview with Producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins.

But before jumping into the interview, here’s Cal’s review of the “Wall-e” DVD and Dellamorte’s review of the Blu-ray. Both really loved the movie and they each have a lot to say.

Anyway, the interview you’re about to read was done at the end of September when I got to visit the Pixar campus in Emeryville, CA. Later tonight I’m going to post a full recap of what it was like to go there and I even have some video for you all to watch… so check back later….

But as you might imagine, going to Pixar was like visiting Santa’s workshop. Everyone there seemed in great spirits and I got the sense they all know how special it is to work there. We got to see the entire campus, we took a tour of the indoor facilities, and we got to watch an amazing Ben Burtt presentation on how he made the sounds of “Wall-e”. I actually posted a video of the presentation so if you missed it click here.

Anyhow, about the interview with Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins…

During our time we talked about all the normal things that go into a Blu-ray and what it’s like at Pixar….but some of the highlights of the interview were talking about why “Cars 2” is coming out before “Newt” and when other Pixar Blu-rays might be coming. While it’s always good to talk to a director or an actor…talking with Producers always gives you great, new information. And like I always do, if you’d rather listen to the interview you can click here for the audio.

And one last thing before the interview. While I promote a lot of movies on Collider, “Wall-e” is one of those films that’s so good that you really have to see it. I know you hear that all the time….but this one is another level of awesome. Seriously. One of the best films this year. Go buy it tomorrow when it gets released on home video…

Look for Pixar stuff later tonight.

Question: Since we’re here for home video stuff, I’ll just start with what was the process like bringing “Wall-e” to Blu-ray, DVD, and did you feel like…because the short release span between theatrical and Blu-ray makes it difficult with time. Were there things you wanted to put on that you ran out of time on? Could you talk about what fans can look forward to?

Jim: Well first of all, the really cool thing about the Blu-ray is that everybody can see the film in almost the full resolution it was originally made, so we’re actually amazed when we watch it and say oh, yeah. Look at that detail we paid for to put into that movie. But there’s a bunch of other things on the Blu-ray in particular. There’s a feature that I think Cin-explore?

Lindsay: Cinamexplore.

Jim: Cinamexplore which is something that…just a name Disney’s using for a particular thing that is kind of like the hot-rodded narration track by the director or others where in addition to hearing the comments and so forth about the film and the thoughts of the director, you’re able to pull up images that relate to that. So if they’re talking about a design problem with a particular scene, concept art can pop up and you can kind of get a view into that process and so forth. So for the people that are cinema buffs and so forth, I think it’s really cool stuff and I’m one of those people. The other thing I like about the Blu-ray is the capacity for games on it. And particularly on “Wall-e” we have Pong in “Wall-e”. There’s a little scene in the film. So a lot of us were inspired by those games in our younger years and there’s a lot of kind of 8-bit game looking stuff. I think there’s what…3 games that we had?

Lindsay: Four, I think.

Jim: Four? They’re very reminiscent of Frogger.

Lindsay: Like “Wall-e’s” version of Donkey Kong.

Jim: Donkey Kong and so forth. So they’re actually…

Lindsay: They’re games we can play, that’s why we like them.

Jim: They’re simple enough when I try to…

Lindsay: I get this one. This one I know how to do, yeah.

Jim: So those were a couple of the things that I liked about the Blu-ray.

Lindsay: But to answer your question, yes it’s really difficult given the release slate of how quickly these things can come out and how long they take to get done. We literally have to deliver the DVD material and the Blu-ray material on the day the movie releases. It’s like literally that tight, so I mean you have Andrew, for instance, who was up doing post at Skywalker on the film who while they were mixing, before they were ready to play it back for him, was in another room recording commentary for the DVD, so it’s crazy. They’re right on top of each other.

Jim: They’re basically for all practical purposes delivered at the same time.

Lindsay: In a way it’s still fresh which is good. I mean you actually get to capitalize off of a production team and then a creative team that’s still at that high powered gear. I mean we haven’t ramped down and have to ramp back up for the DVD, so you get to capitalize on that but it is a tight, tight schedule.

Did you choose the extras for the Blu-ray? Did you have to plan it?

Lindsay: Yeah we have a whole team actually.

Jim: We have a producer here who runs a team and starting about a year from when we complete the film—even before then—we start talking about potential features and bonus material and things so we can start collecting or creating them if they need to be and it’s a production. I mean, it’s a little mini-production underneath the production.

Lindsay: It’s funny, it’s like they were sending out mail to our team like fun facts. Like can you guys think of anything that’s fun? They’re like there’s nothing fun right now! Nothing’s fun! And they’re like okay we’ll ask again in a couple weeks. Just keep it in mind.

Jim: We’ll come back.

You’re planning those at the same time you’re producing right?

Jim: There’s no way around it now you know because the time horizon’s so short between when….well when the material has to be submitted. I mean it’s several months after when the DVD’s or the Blu-ray come out but it takes them awhile to do the mastering and the authoring stuff they have to do.

There’s other Pixar movies that have yet to be released on Blu-ray, and for fans, when can they look forward to seeing “The Incredibles” or “Finding Nemo”?

Lindsay: Soon. They’re working on it.

Jim: They’ve got a timeline for putting those together and I’m not holding back anything, I don’t know specifically.

Lindsay: There are dates and schedules and release that they’re wanting to just as much as you guys, we’re wanting to get them onto DVD.

Jim: And creatively I know they’ve presented at least several of those to John Lasseter and others here—the original directors to kind of go over additional features and so forth that the Blu-ray would have, so all of that stuff is in the works. You know, Disney, aside from our desire to have Blu-ray’s out there to be kind of the record that people have of the movie because it does have such a better viewing experience and so forth. Disney and other companies of course now are trying to get more toe hold with Blu-ray out there. So they’re anxious to bring these titles out and give people an extra motivation for getting into the Blu-ray and Hi-Def world.

Is the Blu-ray release going to be 3-discs? Is there a 3-disc special edition and if so what…?

Lindsay: I think it’s 2 disc isn’t it?

Jim: It’s 2 discs I think.

Is there any interactive stuff on there?

Lindsay: Yes. BD-Live. We’re as intrigued by BD-Live as you guys are in the sense that I think this is our first title that has it and so we haven’t actually had a chance to mess with it yet because we don’t have the DVD yet, but we’re been hearing….they’ve been talking to us about kind of what the capabilities are and it sounds pretty cool that you can actually schedule kind of viewing parties with your friends from around the globe and sync it up and then chat with each other about it and send mail and all that kind of stuff, so it seems like a pretty cool thing.

Jim: Yeah, but I fear it. I just feel it’ll be another black hole you get sucked into like all our other communication devices. No, it’s good especially for people who are into movies and have friends and families in kind of remote locations and can kind of share those experiences.

Lindsay: Sync it up to Darkside of the Moon and turn off the audio track. Actually one of the cool things apparently is you’ll be able to download actually is a sound-effects only track eventually which is a Ben Burtt track only and if you do BD-Live you can download it onto your player and just play it that way.

Jim: And they can continue to add those features to it. That’s sort of the thing, I guess you get to become a member for life or something.

Lindsay: Yeah, pretty soon you’ll have the cafeteria staff. It’s like hi, I’m here to talk to you about my contributions in “Wall-e” like downloaded about a year from now. Everybody will have their track.

You guys, being the producers of the film, certain producers in the Hollywood system

will be multi-tasking and working on 5 different projects. Are you guys, you know, day to day on one project at a time.

Lindsay: Jim is, that’s just because he has another job.

Jim: Well, yeah. I was in particular on this film because I was overseeing the other films as well as a production executive. But we are also helping Andrew with his future projects—Lindsay is—and you know there’s at Pixar…Lindsay jumps in on other people’s projects to help out and I oversee other projects and then we’ve got our projects so to speak that we’re working on. So there’s a lot of stuff always kind of going on and Lindsay’s helping out with a couple projects that are in production or going into production here as well. So there’s always a lot of stuff on the plate.

Lindsay: Only because people that are going to be working on them are busy working on other things, I mean you know it’s a collaborative to the nth degree. I mean, it’s literally like who’s got a second? You know?

Is a lot of it just because these take so long to come out and to actually make these things like 3 or 4 years?

Lindsay: Yeah, because these guys just keep wanting to do more and more, you know. I mean it’s like we have more and more stuff going on. I mean we have theme park stuff happening. We have DVD stuff happening.

Jim: We have a movie a year to begin with but when you think about what that means is something you have a movie a year and then a DVD a year and a Blu-ray a year for that, oh yeah and then there’s the library stuff that we need to start working on and there’s theme park stuff and there’s little other types of short films that we’re making and promo stuff. We’ve made a whole lot of little sort of short vignettes of “Wall-e” and some of the other characters that were used to promote the film. Oh, they’re on the DVD and Blu-ray as well. There’s just a whole bunch of stuff going on so we try to load balance as best we can.

I love a lot of the shorts, too. Has there been any talk about turning any of those into full-length like Lifted or any of those?

Jim: I’m trying to think. None of the ones at the moment have been talked about. You know, they tend to be more of a launching platform for the director’s who make those to go on and pitch other ideas. I can’t think of any that have that. It’s certainly a possibility.

Yesterday there was an announcement that “Cars 2” bumped up a year. How does that impact everyone at Pixar when you all of a sudden changed a year?

Lindsay: It’s fun.

Jim: We drink a lot more.

Lindsay: It was really early. I mean the nice thing is because these take a while to make that there are several shows right now that are in that really early stage of getting the story together and developing and stuff like that and getting the script and showing their first set of reels or something. It allows…especially at that point, that’s really our only time for flexibility. Kind of once you start really getting into the production pace it’s like you’re basically running for the finish line, so at that stage I think “Cars 2” and Gary’s project, it’s like one of those like okay, who feels ready to go on “Cars 2”? And they’re like we’re ready, we’re gone. Let’s do it.

Jim: We have a number of projects that are sort of in development phase and as they move along one will creep ahead of another, you know, just kind of naturally in terms of where they feel their story is and that sort of thing, so a couple of the movies in that group were Newt and Cars 2 and they basically just inverted their release dates but in a way the impact is not all that great on the studio because we were already planning to be making a movie at that point in time.

Lindsay: And the crews are so small right now that it’s just a matter of who do you stack up first.

Jim: Yeah, who’s looking…because these movies—one of the things we do here is try to take the time to make sure the movie’s what it should be and some of them fall into place quickly and others like “Wall-e” for example, you know, as kicking around for years until it actually got the right shape and we really greenlit it and moved it forward.

Lindsay: And also to be honest, one of the hardest things about writing these stories is coming up with the characters and making sure they’re lovable in designing them and it’s something that a sequel has, you know, advantage over an original film is that you actually know the characters, at least the main ones…and the universe you’re in so it actually takes….so much of what’s difficult about that first year- year and a half is fine-tuning that and figuring out what the look of your film is and how…

Jim: What the rules of your universe are and those kinds of things.

Lindsay: It allows them…it gets them a little further ahead.

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When are you writing the sequel then for “Finding Nemo”? Does it have a sequel?

Jim: You know whether we make a sequel or not here is really in the hands of the film makers and Andrew, who made “Finding Nemo” originally had other ideas he wanted to do and was not as anxious to move into doing sequels. Although he has been a key player in terms of the “Toy Story” sequels. John Lasseter, by comparison, once he sort of creates a universe, he loves the idea of exploring more and doing more with those characters, so Cars is sort of his movie. He’s not directing this film but he’s playing a heavy creative directing role in it. Brad Lewis is actually the director of the movie and Lee Unkrich is doing “Toy Story” but John likes to sort of extend the storytelling within those worlds. Andrew likes to explore new ideas so we get this different…the same’s true with Pete Doctor who made “Monsters Inc”. He…and there will probably be because he’s receptive to doing a sequel to that at some point, but he really wanted to do this movie “Up” which comes out next summer. Different movie and he has another original one after that. So some of it’s the artist’s temperament and whether they want to stay and explore one world or whether they want to try some new places out.

I was going to ask provided the gestation period for each film and each project—this might seem a little granious but are there things that you notice as producers about the evolution of Pixar or are you kind of really immersed in process for the singular project at the time?

Lindsay: You know it’s funny because it’s a studio that’s so close knit and it’s got thank God such a great reputation and everybody thinks like oh, these are Pixar films and stuff. That’s all true. I think that the flip side of that is that we have these great directors here and it’s more like t’s like Andrew Stanton has his films and Pete Doctor has his films and John Lassiter has his films and those seem to feel similar one to the next. You see an evolution if you will as a director, I think, more than you necessarily as a studio because I think they come from such a diverse kind of places with different ideas and different stories they want to tell and you have new ones coming up and more experienced ones that people ask if there’s sort of a global evolution of Pixar and I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s ever been the goal nor do I think it’s actually what the reality is. I think the reality is more that you see evolutions of filmmakers here both new ones coming up through the ranks and ones that are kind of doing 2, 3, 4 films here at Pixar and you kind of can track that better than you can necessarily can track an evolution for Pixar as a whole.

There’s been a lot of talk about you guys retro-fitting older movies like “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” into 3D. And I wanted to know if you’ve seen any of the footage and what does it look like?

Jim: I have. It looks great and one of the reasons it looks great is actually our renderers are much better now than when we made the movie’s originally, so they actually have a higher level of detail to them and so forth. Just the shaders and the way they render. Look, those movies weren’t originally 3D movies, of course, so to an extent we’re taking the opportunity of 3D to get them back out in theatres so people can see them and so forth. So in those particular movies we’re not exploring the aesthetic challenges of 3D or anything. We’re making…we’re sort of dimentionalizing those movies so they’re entertaining.

I have to ask you, George Lucas is famous for going in and completely changing and fixing things.

Jim: Not a thing. We’re not changing a thing in the movies. We’re not changing the timing, story, pacing, the shots, anything and so what we’re doing is going in an making a 3D version because you can set the conversions and the ocular offset and there are a number of things in making a 3D version. We’re doing it that completely preserves the original movie in terms of everything about the story. There’s no new shots. There’s no new nothing. It’s exactly the same movie you saw before.

If I can ask one more thing? IMAX became a big thing after “The Dark Knight” this summer and really revolutionized what cinema going can be. Is there any thoughts at Pixar to incorporating the IMAX format into your movies, 3D all that other stuff in the future?

Jim: Well, we’ve always talked about doing an IMAX stuff and never had it come quite to fruition. We’ve haven’t found the right thing. We’re not specifically talking about an IMAX release at this point in time but we would certainly agree with you that “The Dark Knight” stuff was really…great and innovative in that direction. 3D, you know “UP” is coming out as our first 3D film and is the first one to try to make I guess I’d say more aesthetic use of the stereo as opposed to…

Lindsay: And “Toy Story 3”.

Jim: Yeah and “Toy Story 3”.

So “Toy Story 3” is definitely 3D?

Jim: Oh yeah.

Lindsay: Both. I mean “Toy Story 1” and “2” are being re-released only in 3D. But “Toy Story 3” is being released both in standard def and 3D.

Jim: Unless there happened to be 6,000 screens by that time.

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