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On September 17, 2002 Pixar’s highly successful film Monsters, Inc. made its home entertainment debut on DVD and video. Besides including last year’s Academy Award® winning short For The Birds as one of the DVD extras, a new short called Mike's New Car was specially created by Pixar’s shorts department for the film's home entertainment debut. Taken from an idea co-director Pete Doctor sketched seven years earlier, Mike’s New Car picks up after the events in Monsters, Inc. and extends the world of MIke and Sully.
It also answers the question -- what if Mike Wazowski bought a car that was too much car for Mike?
Co-director of Mike's New Car
Creative Director of Shorts Department / Pixar
When we started to talk about doing something special for the home video release [of Monster's Inc.], we thought the world of Mike and Sully and Monstropolis are so complete, as characters are so full in our heads. So, let’s pick another moment, a next day sort of moment and keep telling their story.
We talked about all different kinds of things, and then this idea from Pete Doctor came up, from these thumbnails he made seven years ago about this one guy who was struggling to start his brand new car. That really became the core of the idea.
Then we took Mike, who is such a great character, full with bravado and always tripping himself up, and we thought -- let’s give Mike a new car. He and Sully really turned Monsters, Inc. around and made it into a huge success. Maybe Mike got a bonus and bought this crazy SVU sort of six wheel car.
With that, the car itself became the centerpiece. By itself, if this were a live action film about two guys in a car, you could do some pretty silly things with the car. But a car in the monster world has greater room for exaggeration.
A car seat in the real world -- you can adjust it vertically a couple of inches up or down, but because monsters come in so many shapes and sizes, a monster car would have to be able to have a hydraulic lift that could raise or lower the seat five or six feet within the space of the car. Those were the kinds of things we could go berserk with when the car started to go crazy and MIke and Sully started to get slammed around inside it.
Another important element is that Mike and Sully really are a great comedy duo -- like Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. We really wanted to make a film that was like one of those silent shorts. Even back when we first started boarding, we thought that maybe there would be no dialogue at all, even though we found great opportunities for a little of it. What we really wanted to do was style it like an old fashioned, simple, comedic routine. Take the personalities you know, Mike and Sully, and play it up to the extreme.
Mike Wazowski showing off his new car from the 2002 Pixar short Mike's New Car.
All images are © Disney Enterprises Inc.
The author would like to thank Karen Hartquist, Howard Green, Ray Morton and Dave Koch for their help.
This article and interview is owned by © Ron Barbagallo.
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ARTICLES ON AESTHETICS IN ANIMATION
BY RON BARBAGALLO:
The Art of Making Pixar's Ratatouille is revealed by way of an introductory article followed by interviews with production designer Harley Jessup, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan and the film's writer/director Brad Bird.
Design with a Purpose, an interview with Ralph Eggleston uses production art from Wall-E to illustrate the production design of Pixar's cautionary tale of a robot on a futuristic Earth.
Shedding Light on the Little Matchgirl traces the path director Roger Allers and the Disney Studio took in adapting the Hans Christian Andersen story to animation.
The Destiny of Dalí's Destino, in 1946, Walt Disney invited Salvador Dalí to create an animated short based upon his surrealist art. This writing illustrates how this short got started and tells the story of the film's aesthetic.
A Blade Of Grass is a tour through the aesthetics of 2D background painting at the Disney Studio from 1928 through 1942.
Lorenzo, director / production designer Mike Gabriel created a visual tour de force in this Academy Award® nominated Disney short. This article chronicles how the short was made and includes an interview with Mike Gabriel.
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an interview with Graham G. Maiden's narrates the process involved with taking Tim Burton's concept art and translating Tim's sketches and paintings into fully articulated stop motion puppets.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, in an interview exclusive to this web site, Nick Park speaks about his influences, on how he uses drawing to tell a story and tells us what it was like to bring Wallace and Gromit to the big screen.
For a complete list of PUBLISHED WORK AND WRITINGS by Ron Barbagallo,
click on the link above and scroll down.
BUILDING MIKE'S NEW CAR
© 2002 Ron Barbagallo
Story Artist on Mike's New Car
Story Artist / Pixar
One thing that is great about Mike is that you can’t hurt him too much. While working on the short we found it started to get more entertaining the more we hurt Mike. We had him fall out of the car, then had his fingers get slammed in the hood of the car. I remember doing some drawings of the engine when the hood is open, to play the scene up a bit I made the engine more intimidating by adding more gears to make it look like it is going to be painful. You know, if you leave a couple of board artists in a room too long by themselves without supervision, it can be dangerous.
At first, we were only going to do about a one-minute short. That was one of our biggest limitations because it really can take about that long to set up a situation. I think it is now about three minutes long. We were able to go from something a lot shorter and having them give us more time to play really helped out.
We could really get going on things like Sullivan's seat adjusting. It starts out very subtly, having the time to play with Sullivan going back and forth and up and down in the seat, and then building it, and escalating it to where everything is going really fast. The timing on it was great -- being able to build from "it’s kind of bad, but not too bad" to where Mike gets a little bit frustrated and screams “Get out of my car!” You know, the scene when Sullivan breaks off the rear view mirror. So, I think the build we were able to establish was very effective.
We also had fun playing Mike and Sullivan as opposites. Playing Sully as more of the straight man and really really hurting Mike as much as we could without it being too violent. Their characters were already developed and we felt like we knew them already. When you take someone you know and you put them into a situation it is a lot easier to kind of come up with ideas.
Story Artist on Mike's New Car
Story Artist / Pixar
Mike is a very aggressive character. He tends to be a gag magnet. We were always working hard to make sure Sully got equal time and had some good moments. Sully has always been a little more mellow and passive. Mike is so volatile. He can get so visually frustrated that he was a natural to win the car and have a lot of things happen to him. In many ways, it's a study of the contrast of their characters -- put them into a simple situation and just let them go. Maybe that's why they're so fun to watch.
I really feel the short looks beautiful -- the animation, the renderings, everything. Pictorially it is lovely, but I think the animation was really given a chance to shine and, because the film is so pantomime heavy. Because of that, overall, I think the animation really became the highlight.
I like the builds, I like the quite reactions. I like the explosions in terms of characters getting frustrated or something. I like it all. Getting thumped around in those seats is really very funny. The animation really took the boards to a place where it was more than we described.
I mean, we really worked the gags out in the boards as carefully as possible. From there, things opened up when it went to animation. The animators would add a movement or a gesture or a pause. They brought a lot to the party because with this type of short. There’s a lot of very subtle things, lots of pantomime, and lots of facial reactions, which are very funny. You can draw them in a board, but there is something about animation that really brings it to where it should be. There were a lot of those opportunities in this film. Especially with Sully, where his stuff was quieter, subtler and harder to make entertaining in the boards.
Story art panels from MIke's New Car: 47213, 47215, 47217 and 47219.
The artist on all these panels is Jeff Pidgeon.
Hand drawn story panels flesh out plot points, character poses and expressions.
These drawings are used by the CGI animators as they bring the world of Mike and Sully to life.