Pixar’s UP sneak previewed

Larry at The Fire Wire blog attended a screening of Pixar’s next feature, Up, and tells all about it right here.


  • Sam Filstrup

    After the mixed feelings from the last time this was shown I’m happy to see it’s getting some praise. I can’t wait to see this even more so then before.

  • Why

    I was dissapointed when he said, “…After the movie, we were part of a 20 person focus group that provided commentary on our likes and dislikes, highlights and low points. It will be interesting to see if any of our input will alter the finished product…”

    Sure the finished product maybe good but filmmaking by committee?

    I am not really interested in my own view of the world but in YOUR view of the world. Seriously. But then when you bring a focus group to say stuff and influence decisions so early: They still had storyboards in the films: its just bad.

    Film maybe collaborative art but too many cooks in the kitchen is never good. Besides, films that are made to please an audience generally are not as good as films that are made for “ourselves”.
    Sure we have to make money but a focus group is not the way to go.

    Anyway, “Up” sounds like a story i would really love. The focus group will just kill its soul, that’s all.

  • http://none Zack Mays

    Wow, can’t wait till May 24 2009 !!!

  • Bobby D.

    Quick “focus group” story.

    We had a dial session followed by a focus group, for a sitcom we wrote and produced. In one of the focus groups, an irritated guy interrupted the general praise most of the group were heaping on the project. He was convinced that the show would be a lot funnier, if the main family had a “goofy dog”. Keep in mind we were trying to keep in that Seinfeld/Friends “witty banter type show.

    But, don’t think for a second that the suits didn’t try and shove that suggestion down our throats!

    Beware of giving people the power of “plussing”. But, I’m sure Pixar dudes know when to toss-out the “I want to add my two-cents because I can”, crowd.

  • Henry

    “Sure the finished product maybe good but filmmaking by committee?”

    It’s not “film making by committee.” It’s making sure the film you’ve spent a lot on is clear to the audience. Sure, it’s been misused and abused now and again–but it’s mostly a useful tool.

    Also, remember, this kind of preview has been around since the very earliest days of film. It’s incredibly common–especially for distributers and studios. Knowing how to utilize the information gathered is an art, but mostly it’s used to garner information so as to better position the marketing of the film–a very important consideration.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    Focus groups and advanced screenings are par for the course now. Yes, you need to balance things out, but when you’re spending a lot of money to make a lot more money, you need to make sure you have a solid piece the audience will like.

    Diego (the saber tooth tiger) from “Ice Age” was supposed to die in the first film. I’m not talking Bambi’s mother’s offscreen death, but actually dying on screen. It was super powerful and would have gotten tears for sure. It was animated and everything.

    A focus group decided they wanted to see him live (which killed the arc of the character in my opinion), so Fox had us add the “Nine lives, baby” scene where Diego hobbles over the hill. Was it the right decision? Maybe it was, and maybe not, but without the focus group process, Diego wouldn’t have been in the sequel.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Glad to se Hollywood including elderly characters in their films. One of my all time favorites is Cocoon.

  • VT

    I think test audiences are absolutely neccesary for the the all important “clarity” factor.

    After that, their suggestions should be taken as just that -suggestions-

  • Why

    You know i guess all is well.

    But from Floyd Bishop’s story about “Ice Age” and even though “Focus Groups” have been around for all time. I still have to say this: I am NOT at all interested in my own view of the world but in YOUR view of the world. Why should i be. I go to movies to see through the eyes of david lynch. imagine if he had a focus group. making a movie with a commitee?

    In the end we’re not telling stories that are our own now, are we? You could really tell when a movie is “concerned” about pleasing its “audience”. it’s either the movie is weak intellectually or it sounds like a desperate standup comic who would do anything for a laugh.

    I think its time for independent animatots to rise. Really.

  • Rio

    Look, if Pixar puts out a bomb, it will hurt the industry and Pixar for sure. If you had 200 million on the line, wouldn’t you want to hedge your bets if you could?

    Pixar must present their brand in the best light and they want to put the best product in the theater. You don’t want to find out on opening weekend that your movie isn’t striking a chord with movie-goers. That’s disaster.

    The director Wes Anderson does not compromise his vision for his films. It’s probably why his films don’t make any money either.

  • Killroy McFate

    If you’re working in a mass-entertainment medium, finding out which gags are landing and which ones are greeted with crickets can be invaluable.

  • The Obvious

    I’m glad they are doing test screenings.

    Wall-e had an unintentional condescending quality to its message that was clearly missed by the creators. While the employees of Pixar are brilliant, there is a real risk in them becoming an insulated culture that loses its personal relationship with the audience and starts speaking largely to critics and connoisseurs.

  • Saturnome

    While I’m all for the independent auteur with his vision, knowing how people may react is nice too, isn’t it? The Ice Age bit of trivia is very interesting; it’s maybe sad if the producers pushed the filmmakers to change the story and they didn’t liked it, but it’s a great thing if the filmmakers actually thought it was a good thing to do and helped the film.

    So, as long Pixar know their stuff, nothing is wrong. And I can’t wait to see Up!

  • http://Mr.FunsBlog Floyd Norman

    Oh hell, we had test screenings of our Disney features back in the sixties. Why is everyone acting like this stuff is new?

    By the way, I saw the film about six months ago. I like it.

  • Frank

    “The director Wes Anderson does not compromise his vision for his films. It’s probably why his films don’t make any money either.”

    But his films ARE test marketed. Whether or not changes were asked for by the financiers and whether or not Anderson agreed and made them is a private matter. If it helps the director make a better film, more power to the process!

    And no one is pretending these test screenings are new. It’s common knowledge they’ve been conducted since the 1930′s–and even earlier–especially for larger profile films. Iriving Thalberg was not above demanding 80% reshoots if it wasn’t working.

  • Why

    did ya’ll read the blog post?

    There we’re storyboards in the film, there were rough unfinished animation still in there.

    A test screen is when a movie is basically done. then you decide on which stuff to cut out. or to clarify certain points.

    Its rare to go to a test screening were they still had storyboards. its too early to let people in.

    Test screening happens all the time, cool, i like test screenings and you like tests screenings too. great, but not when there’s still storyboards in shots or rough animation. Hell no. that’s not a test screening. Someone is having a panic attack.

    its too early.

  • Mr. Semaj

    This sounds like it’s going to be a fun and important film.

    Can’t wait to see it.

  • Harry

    “Its rare to go to a test screening were they still had storyboards. its too early to let people in.”

    Baloney. It’s most certainly a test screening. Animation is too expensive to cut finished stuff too late in the game (although it’s happened plenty). All major animation studios regularly test screen–often with the story reels HALF in storyboard form (and if you read the reviews of the test screening of Wall-e MORE than half), or in some rough layout or animation phase. It’s more common than not–mainly because animation films tend to come together very, very late in the process.

  • Why

    “Baloney. It’s most certainly a test screening. Animation is too expensive to cut finished stuff too late in the game (although it’s happened plenty)”

    then i guess i am in the wrong business. or aleast i need to rethink my possessiveness and work on trusting an audience.

  • Brad Bird

    Ditto Floyd Norman.

    (sometimes these talkbacks drive me crazy)

    They ALWAYS do these little Q’s and A’s, but only the cowardly or the clueless would ever put the post-screening test group quiz over the filmmaker’s instincts.

    The REAL learning comes from sitting with the audience and feeling when they’re with you, when they’re confused, when they’re moved, etc. That’s what you pay attention to. The companies that the studio’s hire to handle these test screenings (and they have to be handled carefully) charge like a thousand bucks extra to do these Q & A’s.

    Every studio goes for the post-screening Q & A, because the cost is negligible, and they can use it to measure against responses to previous movies. But only the insecure use the group Q & A as some sort of directive on how to finish the film.

    The spontaneous live audience response is the key. It’s the most useful part of that nerve-wracking part of the process.

    That said, it isn’t EVERYTHING. Billy Wilder had a DISASTROUS sneak of SOME LIKE IT HOT in Santa Barbara and the studio was raining flop sweat. Wilder kept his cool, made a tiny trim of something that bothered him and sent it out into the world.

    That film turned out pretty well, I think.

  • Brad Bird

    …and by the way, “Why”–

    –every single first public screening of each film I’ve made had boards in them, LOTS of boards.

  • Harry

    “then i guess i am in the wrong business. or aleast i need to rethink my possessiveness and work on trusting an audience.”

    Yes. I admire you for your honesty.